Shelter Island officials are about halfway through reviewing Supervisor Jim Dougherty's proposed budget for next year, and one thing has become clear -- no matter what happens, it is likely to be higher than allowed under the state's tax cap.
So, the town board has set a public hearing for Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. on a resolution that would give it the authority to override the 2 percent cap on property tax increases.
In one way, it's just a symbolic effort. The cap can be overridden by a 60 percent majority of the board, which works out to the same three votes required to adopt a budget with the normal simple majority vote.
But, the cap does provide the town -- by far the smallest on Long Island -- with a chance to focus on what people really need, what really has to be done, and which resources they have to do it, officials said.
Shelter Island's current town budget is less than $10 million, with nearly $7 million raised from local taxes. In contrast, Brookhaven -- Suffolk's biggest town -- cut more than $20 million last year when it adopted its 2013 budget.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty said overriding the tax cap would "remove the discipline" to hold down costs. But, he added, "this year, unfortunately, there is no question that we're going to pierce the tax cap . . . we're doing the best we can."
For several years, the town has put off purchasing new trucks for the highway department and cut back on road resurfacing. Councilman Peter Reich noted that with ticks and Lyme disease considered a major problem, town residents are "demanding more four posters" -- machines that kill ticks on deer. That would add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the budget.
No tax rate has been projected for 2014.