Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, keeping a campaign promise, unveiled a tentative 2013 budget that holds the line on property taxes.
"I promised our residents I would present a structured, balanced, fair, and realistic budget that protects them from increased taxes, as well as protects the services they expect. In presenting this tentative budget, I am, again, honoring that promise," she said.
The $82 million budget carries a $57 million tax levy. Throne-Holst acknowledged the town will cut staff and some departments will be restructured. "We have a spike in our debt service coming up in 2013 and 2014 due to borrowing by prior administrations," the supervisor said. There are also escalating mandatory costs, which include insurance premiums, retirement contributions, workers compensation costs, legal fees, and contractual expenditures, Throne-Holst said.
To offset those increased expenses the town has reduced staffing levels through retirement incentives, attrition, and minimal layoffs, and has capped capital spending at $3 million, down from as much as $10 million. Road paving costs and other cuts to the highway department have its superintendent, Alex Gregor, seeing red. That story is covered elsewhere in this issue.
Throne-Holst said the town has eliminated approximately $7 million in deficits in less than three years while maintaining a zero percent increase in the tax levy.
Throne-Holst presented her budget to the town board on September 25, five days earlier than the state mandated deadline. "We are now budgeting from a position of financial strength and stability, rather than from one of weakness and uncertainty," she said, though acknowledging the economic climate has been flat. However, there have been encouraging signs of late, the supervisor said. Southampton has the highest assessed value of any town in Suffolk County, with a value base of $5.5 billion.
Moving forward the town wants to consolidate three departments – code, fire, and bay constables, under the umbrella of the Town Attorney's office and to relocate both Code Enforcement and Public Safety (Fire Marshal) to Town Hall. "This restructuring will go a long way to organizing and implementing strategic, targeted enforcement actions and maximizing the effectiveness of our personnel in all of these divisions," Throne-Holst.