April 05, 2006

In Southampton: Capital Budget Shows Decline From Previous Year

The Southampton Town Board adopted its amended 2006-2015 capital budget at a special meeting last Friday, following a public hearing on March 14 — it shows an almost $2.5 million decrease from last year's budget.

Essentially a governmental wish list of projects or major equipment the town hopes to fund or purchase, the capital budget was submitted with the operating budget last September.

The town board agreed to adopt the capital budget separately, in April, to eliminate what they called a "crystal ball approach," to estimating future surpluses and mortgage tax revenues.

This year's budget is $20,514,411, down $2,469,589 from last year's budget.

Among the projects slated for funding are the North Sea Park and Tiana Beach improvements, the building of a Westhampton RECenter and a new Westhampton Community Center with a hamlet green, and redeveloping Conscience Point to include a restaurant. The fact that a project makes the list does not guarantee it will be completed.

Deleted from the budget were the Hampton House Park Development, the Town Bicycle Route and Paths, and Portable Buildings for town facilities.

Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes suggested the board consider establishing a new policy for funding capital programs. "Instead of always using bonds to fund capital projects, you establish reserves where you put money into a reserve either to build a new facility or replace those items," he said after the meeting. "I'm talking about taking revenues versus tax dollars and putting them into a capital reserve fund so that monies are there to purchase or support the purchase of these buildings or equipment."

Blowes, who is overseeing the Jackson Avenue redevelopment project in Hampton Bays, suggested the board use mortgage tax revenue to fund the project.

The town has allocated $40 million over a 10-year period to fund the phased redevelopment project — $4 million has been budgeted for this year and $8 million for 2007. But a bulk of the costs associated with the project are in the first three years, which involve the building of the justice court and the cleanup of the public works and sanitation area.

"That $12 million in the next two years is really not going to be sufficient if we want to expedite the construction of the court," he said, which is why he wants to start building the reserve fund now.

The Jackson Avenue site is home to the town police station, animal control center, the fire training facility and the fire marshal, as well as the administrative buildings of the highway department, Department of Public Works, and code enforcement.

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