The East Hampton Village Board voted unanimously last week to pierce the New York State cap on tax levy increases with its 2014-15 budget.
The board adopted a local law on Thursday, May 1, that would allow it to exceed the 1.46-percent cap on tax levy increases and move forward with a $20,283,054 proposed budget for next year. The proposed budget represents a 2.75-percent increase in spending, but is almost a half-percent decrease from the prior two fiscal years, according to a press release by Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. The tax rate increase will be 2.2 percent.
“The budget is fluid at this point,” said Mayor Rickenbach during a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “It’s in keeping with how the village has tried to maintain its fiscal footing.”
The board’s reasoning for presenting an over-the-cap budget deals directly with its plan to instate a paid ambulance first-responder program, as well as a deer sterilization plan. According to Mayor Rickenbach, $30,000 has been budgeted for deer management and $100,000 has been allocated for the paid emergency services program.
“We fully support our volunteers,” said Mayor Rickenbach of the volunteer first-responders program. “They do an incredible job, but it’s to the point in time where in the middle of the day, it’s difficult to get a squad together. We have an underlying responsibility to our residents and the contractual districts we serve.”
Amagansett and Montauk have also adopted paid first-responder programs.
As for the deer sterilization program, Mayor Rickenbach said the overpopulation is a “health and quality of life issue,” but selective culling is not off the table as an option. “There may be a degree of selective culling in conjunction with the sterilization,” he added.
Village Preservation Society’s Executive Director Kathy Cunningham introduced the concept of deer sterilization to the board after the organization met last summer with Tony DeNicola of White Buffalo Inc., an organization that specializes in deer sterilization. “It’s really deer spaying,” said Ms. Cunningham in a phone interview. “It’s like … what you’d do to a dog or a cat.”
In previous meetings, Mayor Rickenbach had proposed delegating $15,000 to the sterilization program. And while the number has doubled, the $30,000 is seemingly “arbitrary,” said Ms. Cunningham.
“It’s something like $1,200 for each deer,” Ms. Cunningham said. “While it’s twice as much money as the last time we talked, and it’s clearly an improvement, we’re talking about a total of, like, 25 deer. I don’t really get where that number is coming from. I think it’s underfunded, and I’d love to know what has guided their decision to make it $30,000.”
The Village Preservation Society has pledged to donate $5,000 to the deer sterilization program.
The board’s proposed budget also allocates more money for snow removal given this winter’s severe weather. It also includes the purchasing of “infrastructure equipment” to repair the roofs of municipal-owned buildings, and a decrease in the State Retirement System and its debt service.
The board plans to hold a public hearing and a vote on the budget at its June 20 meeting.