Who benefits?

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I have always appreciated Tom Clavin’s column because he often looks behind the facade of a situation. Unfortunately, in his column of December 17, I fear he has been taken in by the East Hampton Town Board’s accounting charade concerning the parking sticker fee [“Let me get this straight,” Farther East]. The fee is really a general tax masquerading as a user fee. The proceeds of this fee do not benefit our beaches or the parking areas that serve the beaches.

The 2009 budget assumes that $250,000 will be collected, and it is put into the budget as general revenue of the whole town fund. It is not added to the beaches department, which actually sees about a 10-percent reduction from $615,100 in the 2008 budget to $559,500 in 2009. None of the money goes to improve parking at the approximately 35 places that require parking stickers because the Highway Department runs its own budget line and does not receive money from the whole town fund.

The $250,000 will be distributed exactly in the same way as would any $250,000 raised by the tax levy via property taxes, and is about .81 percent of the entire whole town fund of $30,801,961. If we multiply each listed use of the whole town fund by .0081, we find that the beaches department receives only $4,541 of the $250,000 supposed fee. But the combined Town Board offices, including the supervisor, receive $6,018. Even the justice court, which receives $5,386, gets more than beaches from the beach fee.

The biggest shock is where most of the money goes: $47,931, or more than 19 percent of the $250,000, will go to employee health benefits. And, $62,072, or almost 25 percent, will go to debt service. So, about 44 percent of the supposed beach parking permit fee will go to servicing budget lines that have grossly increased in the last few years.

If the money was raised as a general tax, as it should be given its uses, it would add about $10 to the average tax bill; and the majority of the tax bills would only see an increase of $8 or less. Instead, we will get to stand in line this May to pay three times that amount.

ZACHARY COHENEast Hampton

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