Towns hold line on taxes in 2014 budgets
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Some Suffolk County town supervisors kept tax rates flat in their proposed 2014 budgets, as others tried to cast increases in the best possible light.
And some of them found wiggle room to keep under the state's 1.66 percent tax cap, with whole chunks of spending for retirement excluded, or credits from last year used to balance spending for next year.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, for example, has proposed a $46,327,350 general fund budget that is 3.23 percent higher than the current budget, but because of the availability of nontax revenue, it carries an effective tax increase of 2.2 percent and will not pierce the state tax-cap limit when other exclusions are calculated.
"Everything is trending in the right direction," Walter said Monday.
Riverhead's total operating budget is nearly $92 million, but about half of that comes from special districts for which most town taxpayers pay nothing, such as the downtown business improvement district, often funded by state or federal funds or special-use fees.
The proposed $46.3 million budget uses $3,570,500 from town reserve funds to hold down the tax rate.
In East Hampton, outgoing Supervisor Bill Wilkinson filed his fourth and final budget, which at $69,956,984 is 2.46 percent lower than one he inherited. Still, it took a police retirement exclusion of $83,964 and a carry-over credit of $277,585 to get the budget $66,175 under what the state cap allows. It is $882,173 higher than this year's budget.
For most residents, the tax rate will increase by 2.762 percent. Those living in East Hampton Village -- which has its own police department and provides other services -- will see a tax hike of 1.809 percent.
Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said her tentative budget of $80,743,759 calls for no increase in the tax rate of $0.3985 per $1,000 of assessed value, or just under $240 for a home worth $600,000.
Huntington's preliminary $185.2 million 2014 operating budget unveiled Monday calls for a net zero increase across the town's 14 taxing funds. But there will be hikes in two of the top three funds. The general fund will see an increase of 3.6 percent and there will be a 1.7 percent rise for the Consolidated Refuse Fund.
The Highway Fund will see a decrease of 4.65 percent. The budget calls for no reduction in services or layoffs, and raises will go only to those under a collective bargaining unit contract.
Spending is up 2.2 percent, but the amount to be raised by taxes stays at the same level as last year -- $109,686,705.
Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, also the town's chief financial officer, said, "We held the line on taxes" and debt was retired.
He also unveiled an $8.8 million capital budget.
With David M. Schwartz