The town board will discuss the proposed budget, an $882,173 increase over the adopted 2013 budget of $69.1 million, during work sessions over the next month and a half. When factoring in the water and fire protection districts, the budget increases another $20,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.
The supervisor's proposal keeps the budget under the state mandated tax levy cap.
The budget increase of approximately 1.3 percent does translate to a tax rate increase for residents. Those residing in the Village of East Hampton, where properties are assessed higher on average, are looking at a 1.81 percent tax rate rise, while those living outside the village are projected to see a 2.76 percent increase.
Since Wilkinson took office, the budget has decreased $1.76 million, or 2.46 percent, he said. The budget he inherited in 2010 was set at $71.7 million, and a $27 million 2009 general fund deficit.
Wilkinson explained that the town absorbed over $22 million in deficit financing while lowering its budgets and tax rates, which includes the debt service on the deficit borrowing. Another $11.5 million is scheduled to be paid down next year, he said.
"My four budgets culminate with a 2014 Tentative Budget that delivers government and services to the people of East Hampton at a cheaper rate than they were charged when we came into office four years earlier," Wilkinson said in his budget message. "If we take the 2010 budget presented to us from the prior administration; adjust by inflation for years 2011 through 2014; and then factor the effect of our financial efforts over that same period of time, our performance has led to $50 million dollars of tax savings for the East Hampton taxpayers."
While Wilkinson has not changed his mind about the Scavenger Waste plant, the board's decision not to sell or lease the facility led to an appropriation of $862,000 to run the plant as a transfer station in 2014.
"I am projecting a deficit of at least $500,000 by the end of 2013," he said, explaining that the 2013 adopted budget included money to pay back funds borrowed by the Scavenger Waste Fund during 2012 to operate the plant as a transfer station. In 2011, the board voted unanimously to sell or lease the plant by the end of the first quarter in 2012. After new board members took office in January, the board could not come to an agreement and the project stalled.
The 2013 budget also included appropriations to operate the plant as a transfer station for the first three months of 2013, in hopes that a final decision could be reached.
"As a result of the board decision in February to not sell or lease the plant, we were forced to levy more than $700,000 in property taxes on residents that I believe would have not been necessary if the previous Town Board’s decision of 2011 was implemented in 2012," he said. "Now, with the decision still not being made, the cost to our residents in additional property taxes aggregates to well over $1,500,000."
Employee salaries and benefits still makeup the biggest chunk of the budget. At $41.27 million, it's 58.99 percent of the proposed 2014 budget. Debt service comprises 17.79 percent at $12.45 million.
The board will discuss the budget during Oct. 8 and 15 work sessions, the first of which will be held at the Montauk firehouse. A public hearing will be held at Town Hall on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.