East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc has presented a tentative $80.7 million budget for 2019 that stays under a state-mandated tax cap while raising pay grades as an incentive to work in a town where high real estate prices often result in lengthy commutes.
Fifteen positions, including auto mechanics, tech support and environmental analysts, would be regraded in 2019 to salary rates that pay an additional $2,159 to $6,588 a year. The upgrades would add $71,924.30 to the town budget.
The town recently launched a “Live Here, Work Here” recruitment initiative with information on Civil Service requirements and the types of jobs available. East Hampton also regraded 21 positions from 2016 to 2018 to stay competitive with neighboring municipalities.
“When your starting salary is $10,000 less than everyone else, there really is no incentive for someone to sit in two hours of traffic every day to work,” said Charlene Kagel, the town’s chief auditor, during an Oct. 9 town board work session.
The $80,717,380 budget raises spending by $2,959,853 over the previous year. The tax levy would increase to $52,900,327, up $1,549,930 or 3.02 percent, from 2018. The tax rate would rise 2.334 percent for residents outside of East Hampton Village and 3.297 percent for those within it, raising annual taxes for a home assessed at $1,205,000 by $49.28 and $26.39, respectively.
That boost is allowed under the state’s 2 percent tax cap because the formula accounts for growth in the tax base, largely attributed to new construction in the town, and factors like staying under the cap the previous year, Kagel said.
About 74 percent of the spending increase can be attributed to contractual salary obligations, benefits and debt service, town budget officer Len Bernard said during the work session.
About 20 percent, or $605,428, of the budget spending increase is for buying aviation fuel, which the town sells for a profit at East Hampton Airport. Other increases are $125,000 more for the town attorney’s office to pay for outside counsel and $109,145 for software maintenance contracts.
Debt service will also increase from $13.3 million in 2018 to $14.1 million in 2019 to cover the cost of new borrowing in 2018 for projects including $8.3 million for a new emergency communications system and $1.425 million to digitize town records.
The plan also anticipates about $25 million in other revenues and calls for using almost $1.6 million in surplus and $820,971 from applied reserves.
Bernard stressed the importance of carrying reserves, which last year funded initiatives to replenish sand on Montauk beaches and provide bottled water to Wainscott residents after perfluorinated compounds were detected in private wells.
A public hearing on the budget will be held Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at East Hampton Town Hall. The spending plan must be adopted by Nov. 29, but Bernard said the board plans to adopt it on Nov. 15.