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Peconic Bay preservation collections drop

An East End land conservation fund saw its collections drop by 6 percent in the first half of the year, despite a surge in 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, said Assemb. Fred W. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).The fund generates revenues from a 2 percent tax on real estate transactions; the first $250,000 is excluded.

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 Preservation 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 1999 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.

Throughout the East End, 3,051 sales were 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, mainly by purchasing land or development rights.

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