East Hampton Town Board Tables Retiree Benefits Change, Still Figuring Out Tax Bill Snafu

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A resolution to change eligibility requirements for retiree health benefits for East Hampton Town employees was tabled at last Thursday’s Town Board meeting.

David Buda, a board watcher from Springs, asked council members what the financial impact would be on town finances if the resolution were passed. With no way to answer, Supervisor Larry Cantwell moved to table the resolution until the impact is known.

The change would allow those who have been employees for 10 years or more in total to be eligible for retiree benefits, rather than only those with at least 10 consecutive years of employment.

Mr. Buda requested that the town include a fiscal statement of impact so taxpayers could see whether the change would be projected to cost more money or would save money.

According to Mr. Cantwell, the requirements would be changed for clarity’s sake.

“I understand there has been some confusion in the past regarding retiring employees and the health benefits received, so this was intended to make the policy consistent with past practice,” he said on Monday. “Until we clarify how other municipalities restrict this benefit and understand any financial impacts, the resolution is tabled.”

Just a week after news broke that East Hampton Town had replaced its tax receiver, because some tax bills had not been sent out for two years in a row, Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance asked for a more detailed explanation of what happened.

When Mr. Cantwell announced the situation last week, he said he was limited in what he could say except that a significant number of bills were not sent out.

“We’d like to ask that that information be made public,” Ms. Turner said. “Hopefully you’re looking into the entire procedure, how the process is done, where the breakdown happened, who was responsible for what—I’m sure you’ll find a little bit of everybody, whether in design and distribution, in the communication between county and town personnel to a computer glitch, we don’t know—we would like to hear what preventative steps you’re taking to keep this from happening in the future.”

She added that she knows members of the alliance who had even received tax bills from properties they sold last year.

Mr. Cantwell assured her that the town is handling the situation.

“Obviously as the finance department gets their hands around this, I’m learning some of the answers to some of the questions being raised, but I am reluctant to discuss it until I know what all the facts are,” he said. “We will get to the bottom of this and fix it. Once we know exactly what happened and how it can be corrected, then we will certainly report that publicly and we would be happy to do that.”

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