East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson gave New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales an overview of the town's economic recovery plan, the reason the state is rewarding the town to the tune of $500,000.
"I’m delighted to be here to recognize the extraordinary work that this town has done in terms of restructuring and improving the efficiency of government," Perales said, adding that he was impressed with the efforts the town supervisor and board had undertaken in the past four years after a $27 million deficit was realized.
"I’m going to go around the state telling other towns and villages, East Hampton has done it you can do it as well," Perales said.
In June, the New York Department of State awarded the town $536,425, under the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program grant assistance program, as par of Governor Andrew Cuomo's efforts to improve efficiency and reduce costs of government.
East Hampton will receive the half-million dollars over three years, and the funds are earmarked for a state-of-the-art, open-floor-plan workspace proposed for the old Town Hall building. Though he didn't bring a check with him, he joked that it's in the mail.
After Wilkinson gave Perales a status report on the town's restructuring, Perales toured the old Town Hall building to see where the money will be used. "With the award we’re getting, it gets us a leg up on the new work place and I’m very, very thankful for that," Wilkinson said.
The results were a reduction in the tax levy by over $4 million, and a significant decline in tax rates.
"There are savings that can be made at all levels of government including local government," Perales said, adding that it should run as efficiently as a business. "We want to tell the rest of the world that there are local governments that can look at themselves and say ‘Look, we can save money' . . . and make a difference for the taxpayers for he community. That’s exactly what was done here."
Wilkinson thanked state officials who helped "provide town with additional tools it needed in time of crisis" with state legislation for deficit financing and retirement incentives. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., and Drew Biondo, a representative of Sen. Ken LaValle's office attended the gathering.
"We need to remember what it is was like —the finances of the town — just four years ago," Thiele said.
The town's bond rating recently increased, and he said the town's financial future is now bright. He also recognized the town's "crack financial staff" of Len Bernard, the budget officer, and Charlene Kagel, the chief auditor.
He said the town board found a way to put party politics aside. "They don’t always agree on everything — I read the papers — but when it came to getting the Town of East Hampton back on its feet, they all work together," he said.