Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman prides himself on holding the line on property taxes, and he’s cut them for the third year in a row with his tentative $102.7 million 2019 budget.
The overall tax rate of the town has decreased 3.2 percent over the last five years, dropping a projected 1 percent from this year to next. The current tax rate is $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and Schneiderman is proposing to drop it to $1.38 per $1,000.
“We’re moving in the right direction — this is relief for all of our taxpayers,” Schneiderman said as he presented Southampton’s tentative budget during a special town board meeting September 27. “I work really hard to try to put together a budget that does not raise property taxes while meeting the town’s growing needs.”
Outstanding debt is being reduced by an estimated $23 million in 2019, with a majority being retired from the Community Preservation Fund, while the long-term debt has dropped 40 percent since 2014.
“The comptroller and I and the others involved try to use very conservative assumptions,” Schneiderman said. “We don’t want to artificially overproject the revenues that we’re going to see from, say, beach fees or permits, and we don’t want to underproject our expenses, because then we’re creating a problem. I’d rather err on the side of caution.”
Funding will increase — from $99.4 million to $102.7 million — to support several large capital projects, including improvements to Ponquogue Beach Pavilion, Hot Dog Beach, Ludlam Park, Good Ground Park, and the Shinnecock Maritime Park, among others. The budget also includes funds to purchase the Hampton Bays Community Center, which Schneiderman said will be cost-effective in comparison to the rent the town currently pays to host meetings there, and replace the heating and ventilation system in Town Hall.
“We have infrastructure problems — some long overdue — that have to be addressed, and if you don’t take care of it, it’s like the leaky roof scenario, where the costs later on are significantly higher,” the supervisor said. “People want to live in a community like this because of our attention to infrastructure and our parks. It’s where they want to invest their life savings, it’s where they want to retire, it’s where they want to stay. You see property values increasing across
the board and the decisions we make as a board I think underscore that.”
Assessed value has increased approximately 22 percent since 2013, and is expected to rise five percent from this year, to $67 billion in 2019. Also in the budget is more available funds for the highway department through a reallocation of funds, a $1 million rise in the “pay as you go” fund, and the addition of four new staff positions. The town will be hiring a full-time police officer, an assistant town engineer for municipal works, a senior administrative assistant for the parks department, and a part-time office assistant in the assessor’s office will be made a full-time employee.
Schneiderman is also the town on working toward the town’s green goal, investing in cost-saving items like LED lightbulbs, battery-operated leaf blowers, and electric cars.
“We’re looking to making the town as efficient as possible,” he said, thanking those in attendance, including Town Comptroller Len Marchese and his department for assistance in preparing the tentative 2019 budget.
“The Town of Southampton, under the leadership of Supervisor Schneiderman and the members of the town board, continues to remain on strong financial footing,” Marchese said.
The board will discuss the budget and any potential amendments to it during a special town board meeting October 4 at 11 AM, leading up to two public hearings October 23, at 6 PM, and November 13, at 1 PM. The budget adoption is scheduled for November 20, at 11 AM.