East Hampton Village Closes Budget Hearing, Mulls Over Traffic Plans And Bike Lanes

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The East Hampton Village Board closed a public hearing for its proposed $19.7 million operating budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. According to Village Administrator Larry Cantwell, the spending plan is a $714,394 increase from the current budget of $19 million.

The village will collect $11.986 million through property taxes—a 1.9-percent increase over this year’s tax levy.

The Board is expected to vote on the proposed spending plan at its next meeting on Friday, June 21, at 11 a.m.

Under the plan, the village tax rate would increase from $27 to $27.62 per $100 of assessed value, a 2.29-percent jump. An average taxpayer, living in a house valued at $1 million, with an assessed valuation of $10,000, would see a tax bill increase of $62, from $2,700 to $2,762.

According to Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., the biggest expenditure increases stem from New York State retirement and health insurance. The spending plan would make way for $5.4 million in employee benefits, including $1.9 million in state retirement and $2.3 million in health insurance.

Debt service has also increased—the proposed budget calls for $1.3 million in serial bonds and bond anticipation notes, up from $975,965 in the current year.

The mayor said he believes the spending plan is a responsible one.

“I think we’re presenting a valid budget and trying to give back to the taxpayers in the village the very best bang for the buck they can get,” he said.

Mr. Cantwell said on Tuesday this year has been a good one and he’s looking forward to having a balanced budget at the end of this fiscal year.

He said the increase in non-tax revenue, which includes things like building permits, mortgage tax, beach parking permits and other fees, helped offset the budget increase and helped the village stay within the two-percent tax levy cap.

Village Rethinks IntersectionThe East Hampton Village Board last Thursday discussed different ways to alleviate traffic at the H-shaped intersection of Route 114, Montauk Highway, James Lane and Dunemere Lane.

Drew Bennett, the village’s consulting engineer, said that closing the northbound connection between Dunemere Lane and Montauk Highway on a more permanent basis would be the most effective option. There are still concerns, however, about what to block the intersection with and the impact that may be had on other side streets.

To test the waters, the village is taking traffic counts with and without a closure this summer to measure its effect. Beginning July 1, the connection between Dunemere Lane and Montauk Highway will be closed off with cones for the summer, as it has been for the past several summer seasons.

Additionally, Mr. Bennett suggested improving the Woods Lane and Ocean Avenue intersection by either expanding the turning radius for cars turning right onto Ocean Avenue or by adding a new one-way access road from James Lane to Woods Lane.

Members of the Village Board said that safety was their primary concern and they were open to suggestions because the intersections are difficult locations.

Mr. Bennett will report the results of the traffic counts to the board in September.

Bike Lanes In The Future?An informal committee advocating for bike lanes within village limits presented bike lane guidelines at Thursday’s meeting, hoping Village Board members adopt them.

According to committee member Paul Fiondella, once the principles are codified, the village can begin working on a long-term comprehensive plan for safer streets.

He said the general idea was to keep bicyclists and motorists separate and at the same time create bike lanes that are consistent with the principles of the village and that are aesthetically acceptable.

He continued, saying the addition of bike lanes would make the village safer, add to the village economy by bringing in more bicyclists, and would set an example for other villages.

The board decided to mull over Mr. Fiondella’s presentation and agreed to look for funding so that a study could be done on the feasibility of bike lanes in the village and any impact they might have on traffic.

“We’d like to move ahead slowly,” Mr. Rickenbach said.

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