A $2 billion jump in the assessed value of land in Southampton Town will allow officials to hire four employees, including two police officers, next year without raising the tax rate, according to the supervisor's spending plan.
The 3.5 percent bump in the assessed value, to $57.7 billion, is the result of a continuing real-estate boom on the South Fork. The increase means town officials can raise $1.8 million in tax revenue next year while keeping the same tax rate of $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst's proposed budget.
Throne-Holst said her 2016 proposal -- her last before she departs at year's end to run for Congress -- is a sharp contrast from her first budget in 2010, when town officials were grappling with a recession and multimillion-dollar deficits.
"Today, our economy has new life, a vibrancy many hoped for," Throne-Holst said in a Sept. 22 budget presentation before the town board. "And while we now have the good fortune to meaningfully invest in our future, we must remain prepared for a change in times, and continue to work hard to protect the precious nature of our town from the pressures of change that can come with success."
The $91 million proposal would increase the town's workforce to 496 employees. Besides the officers, the other hires will include an environmental analyst and a mechanic for the Hampton Bays Water District.
"Our town has and is growing, and the need to address the demands that such growth places on the town is critical," Throne-Holst said in her presentation. Southampton's staffing peaked in 2008 with 554 employees, she added.
Other town board members did not comment on the proposal after the presentation. An Oct. 8 meeting has been scheduled for officials to offer amendments to the budget, which is set to be adopted on Nov. 20.
Spending in the supervisor's proposal would rise 2.3 percent over this year's $89 million budget. The tax levy would increase 3.1 percent to $59.3 million -- below the state-mandated tax cap, Throne-Holst said. Annual property taxes on a home assessed at $500,000 would remain at the current level, $710, she said.
Capital projects in the proposal specify more than $3 million for road improvements, including $1 million toward elevating a frequently-flooded portion of Dune Road.
Throne-Holst also said officials are awaiting an engineering report that will help determine whether it is cost-effective to significantly upgrade or even relocate Town Hall.
Throne-Holst's term expires at the end of the year. She is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in 2016. Also seeking the nomination is Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman David Calone.
Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Southampton) and Southampton Village trustee Richard Yastrzemski are running to succeed Throne-Holst.