How will East Hampton Town manage the 205 parcels it's purchased through the Community Preservation Fund? In the wake of a scandal in East Hampton that rocked the program several years ago, state lawmakers adopted an amendment to CPF law requiring each municipality to adopt a plan detailing how so called management and stewardship monies will be spent each year.
Red flags began to wave in East Hampton back in 2007, when then supervisor Bill McGintee called for the use of M&S money for a slew of town operational costs. Per legal mandate, a municipality may spend up to 10 percent of its annual CPF revenue on management and stewardship. McGintee called for using the entire 10 percent, which no town had ever done before, and promised a detailed breakdown of how it would be spent. When it finally came, the breakdown precipitated an avalanche of drama that culminated in McGintee's resignation in 2009.
The scandal gave birth to the new amendment designed to tighten controls on how the money may be spent. Approved by voters in the five East End towns in 1998, the CPF derives revenue from a two-percent tax on most real estate transfers. A dedicated fund, the CPF may only be used for the purchase of open space, farmland and historic properties. Since the money began being collected in 1999, the CPF has generated $711.82 million, with between $55 million and $60 million expected to be collected this year.
Subject to the vicissitudes of the national and local economy, revenue totals have dipped in recent years, but appear to be evening out. Across the entire East End, revenues are expected to just about match those from 2010 by the end of this year, according to figures complied by Assemblyman Fred Thiele. In East Hampton, however, they dropped by just over 27 percent, while in Southampton; they were up almost 19 percent.
Last Thursday night, director of land management Scott Wilson offered an overview of East Hampton's proposed management and stewardship plan for 2012 during a legally required hearing on the draft document.
To develop the plan, officials attempt to predict how much revenue will come in, then carve out no more than 10 percent for stewardship and management. Wilson reported the total budget used to craft the plan is $827,000. He's asked the board to consider setting aside $300,000 in reserve to help cover management costs when the CPF program sunsets in 2030.
Only one speaker, board regular David Buda weighed in on the plan, with questions about the reserve fund. Buda noted last year's M&S plan also called for $300K, but the money wasn't set aside. Wilson explained that the town needs state legislative approval to create the reserve and that hasn't happened yet.
After the reserve is set aside, town officials are left with a working budget of $527,000. The bulk of the money will be used for three projects: restoration of the interior of the Labrozzi property on Cedar Street for the creation of a farm museum, the demolition of 17 structures at Boys and Girls Harbor on Springy Banks Road, both in East Hampton, and the construction of a parking area and walkway at Amsterdam Beach in Montauk. The remaining money will be used for such annual expenses as signage, revegetation, invasive species removal and salaries.
The full plan is available on the town's website, though Buda complained it wasn't very easy to find.