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East End land preservation fund reported down 6%

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said that

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said that since authorized by the State Legislature and passed by voters in 1998, the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has raised $800 million for . (May 20, 2010) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

An East End land conservation fund saw its collections drop by 6 percent in the first half of the year, despite a surge of revenues in East Hampton, according to the state legislator who monitors the fund.

The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund added $29.6 million to its coffers from January through June, compared to $31.5 million during the same period last year, Assemb. Fred W. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said.

Given the stratospheric prices in some East End towns, a few sales can skew the numbers, Thiele said. “You have not that many transactions and you have high prices on the homes that get sold, so that may be the difference between a handful of sales,” he said. “The 6 percent is just not a big amount, and next month there could be a decent month and it will wipe that out.”

East Hampton’s share of the fund rose by nearly 27 percent, to $9 million, in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2011. Shelter Island’s revenues dropped by nearly 24 percent, to about $380,000. Collections also fell in Riverhead, Southampton and Southold.

The rise in East Hampton’s revenues may be a sign that the town is starting to recover from the fiscal troubles that plagued it for several years, Thiele said. A town supervisor resigned in 2009 amid ballooning deficits and probes into alleged misuse of town funds.

“That might have had a chilling effect on the real estate market, and now it’s kind of bounced back,” Thiele said.

The fund generates revenues from a 2 percent tax on real estate transactions; the first $250,000 is excluded. Throughout the East End, there were 3,051 sales subject to the tax in the first six months of the year, a 6 percent increase over last year. The fund was started in 1999, after a referendum vote. It has preserved more than 6,000 acres of open space, farmland and historic sites.

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