East Hampton Town Finances Looking Good

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East Hampton Town hit a significant financial milestone at the end of last year: the full restoration, after three years, of nearly $10 million the town owed to its Community Preservation Fund.

Town Budget Officer Len Bernard delivered the positive financial news to the Town Board at a work session last week, touting various other financial high notes: healthy fund balances across the budget, a drop in total town indebtedness and revenues that exceeded projections.

“We have now paid back the CPF everything it’s owed, including interest,” Mr. Bernard said on Tuesday. He had prepared a financial report of the town’s final fiscal quarter of 2012, and the first quarter of this year.

When Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was elected in 2009, the town was in financial shambles. The administration was dealing with a $27.2 million deficit that had been run up between 2004 and 2008. Part of the mess involved the co-mingling of the town’s CPF and capital funds, both of which were being inappropriately drawn from to pay for expenditures in other funds, including the general fund.

Paying back the CPF marks the final cleanup of a lingering financial mess.

“We were elected to do that, we did it and I’m glad we did it,” said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley. “I’d caution that, quite frankly, all we did was the result of procedural errors and procedural inconsistencies and processes that need review, and I would say that we haven’t finished and hardly tapped the surface of processes in town. And I don’t mean strictly in the Finance Department. It’s processes all over the place that costs the taxpayers tons, by simply a lack of process.”

In other financial news, Mr. Bernard said the town received mortgage tax revenues in excess of its projections last year. The town ended the year with about $3.8 million in mortgage tax revenue, $950,000 above its projection of $2,850,000. Town officials expect to see that trend continue this year.

Overall, the town’s fund balances at the year’s end finished at about 22 percent, a stark contrast from the negative 30-percent level of fund balances in 2009, according to Mr. Bernard’s report. The town’s indebtedness decreased from $141 million in 2009 to about $123.9 million at the end of last year, Mr. Bernard said.

And with the current $10.8 million three-year capital plan that was just recently adopted, total indebtedness should continue to decrease over the years to just below $100 million at the end of 2015.

The only area that ended the year in the red was the scavenger waste fund, which carried a deficit of $570,000 at the end of 2012, said Mr. Bernard.

Mr. Bernard also offered some information about the Community Preservation Fund. The CPF had revenues of about $22.2 million in 2012, and spent about $13.5 million on acquisitions. Of the acres acquired, about half were in Springs. Springs purchases also accounted for about 42.5 percent of the revenues spent in 2012, and the largest number of acquisitions of any other hamlet—with a total of six individual parcels purchased.

Mr. Bernard also said the town just received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the first segment of Hurricane Sandy-related reimbursements, totaling $472,000. That includes cleanup work.

Mr. Bernard said he’s pleased with the current financial state of the town.

“I think the town is in good financial condition right now and obviously we just got to stay on track,” he said. “We’ve got a good financial team. Hopefully that team will stay in place into the future.”

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