East Hampton Village residents could see no increase in taxes in the coming year.
At Thursday's East Hampton Village board work session, Mayor Paul Rickenbach unveiled the tentative 2011-2012 budget, which he said reflects no increase in taxes.
The $18.3 million budget for the coming year has a spending increase of less than one percent and a non-tax revenue increase of two percent, leaving taxes unchanged.
Rickenbach added that the taxable value or tax base of the village "remains flat," with no net increase in assessed value.
"From the outset it was indicated that we did not want to have a tax increase. We have tentatively achieved that," Rickenbach said. "The biggest single factor impacting the budget is the extraordinary increase, $531,750 in contributions to the New York State retirement system. The pension rate increases are being felt by every local government in the state."
Village board member Barbara Borsack agreed, saying that despite salaries being down, pension costs have risen dramatically. "That's the most telling thing," she said.
To counter the sharp spike, Richenbach said the board is "doing what is prudent locally to control personnel costs by reducing our employee count," down five percent from last year. Total salaries, he said, will also be less in the coming year's budget. The board opted not to fill some slots left open by employees who availed themselves of the state's early retirement incentive.
"We tried to manage the budget the way we do our household budget," he said. "You have to balance the checkbook at the end of the month. We're very sensitive to that."
Faced with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed two percent tax cap, Rickenbach said something's got to give. "The Legislature has to get their act together and come up with some mandate relief."
Cuts to the tune of $400,000 come largely from the "largest portion" of the budget, the police and the department of public works, which total 50 percent of the budget, the mayor added.
Richenbach reached out to department heads for their thoughts on where to make cuts. "Pretty much every department's budget will be cut this year," he said. "Even with these cutbacks I am confident that the essential services we provide and the quality of effort we make in every area of village government will be maintained."
Critical infrastructure issues such as road repair must still be addressed, and fire and ambulance services were not diminished, Rickenbach said.
The mayor reminded that despite challenging financial and economic conditions over the past three years, the budget and tax rate in the village have increased by less than one percent each year, and an adequate fund balance has been maintained.
"We feel very content that we are giving our tax base the very best bang for their buck," Rickenbach said.
No date for a public hearing has been set, but Rickenbach expects the hearing will be held in early June.