It's that time of year again . . .
This week Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst presented the 2014 tentative budget, proposing to freeze the town tax levy for the fourth year in a row.
"After navigating the worst economic downturn experienced in decades, weathering three major storms in Irene, Sandy and Nemo, and working to correct years of fiscal mismanagement, I am extremely proud to say the Town's financial health has been restored, and to offer residents a fourth consecutive budget that is responsible, intelligent, and holds the line on Town taxes," she said.
The proposed tentative budget absorbs more than $2 million in increased fixed costs caused by increasing pension and health care costs, to name a few. It also removes two funded, yet vacant, positions: civil engineer and deputy assessor. Four new positions are included in the proposed tentative budget: heavy equipment operator, two maintenance mechanics, and a groundskeeper.
A two percent raise for non-union employees exclusive of elected officials and appointed boards was also included as was minor promotions and adjustments for key staff in several divisions.
"Four years ago I committed to restoring the Town's fiscal health and achieving better value for tax dollars by re-organizing government to run more efficiently," Throne-Holst said. "And I have done just that."
Last year, the town finished with a surplus of $3.9 million across its five major operating funds (general, police district, town outside village, highway and public safety communications), according to a press release Monday afternoon.
Residents can expect to pay $239.10 in town taxes for a home valued at $600,000. Debt service appropriations would be reduced as a result of effective refunding, amounting to a savings of $192,000 in 2014 and continued restricted borrowing savings of $575,000. Also, the town's outstanding debt dips from its all time high of $73 million in 2009 and is projected to decrease 30 percent by 2016.
In June, Standard & Poor upgraded Southampton's credit rating from AA to AA+, stating, "In our view Southampton has substantially stabilized and rebalanced its financial position since 2009. Officials have also implemented several reforms to manage the town's finances, including codifying its fund balance policy into law; centralizing purchasing; new budget and purchasing software; adopting a capital spending cap; two-year budgeting; and revising the town code for capital budgeting. We believe these reforms should allow the town to maintain a higher degree of control over its expenditures, which should lead to more stable finances."
Throne-Holst said her proposed budget and the current financial condition prepares the town for any number of challenges that may lie ahead.
"This is the end of my second term as supervisor," she said, "and regardless of what happens on Election Day I am confident the Town is in excellent shape and on a financially sustainable course."