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Southold’s proposed $44M budget has a date with the public

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at Southold Town

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at Southold Town Hall in a Feb. 25, 2016, file photo. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The Southold Town Board will let residents sound off on the town’s proposed $44.1 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year — which calls for a 7.63 percent tax levy increase — when the budget comes up for discussion at a public hearing in November.

The board voted 5-0 last week at a sparsely attended public hearing to approve Supervisor Scott Russell’s proposed 2017 spending plan. The board scheduled another public hearing on the budget for Nov. 9.

The budget calls for a tax rate increase of 7.63 percent from the previous year and would pierce New York State’s tax levy cap. The tax levy proposal states that while town officials have made “significant efforts” to cut spending to avoid piercing the tax levy limit, a levy hike was needed “in order to account for the increase in costs to provide town services and fund town operations for 2017” while maintaining the town’s general fund reserves and avoiding damage to its credit rating.

The budget also calls for an estimated $2.4 million set aside for road resurfacing and drainage projects, which Russell said would allow the department to take on “a more aggressive” road reconstruction program.

The town’s medical costs are expected to increase more than 12 percent from $5.6 million in 2016 to $6.3 million next year.

No new positions were created or funded in the proposed budget, and Russell, in his statement attached to the budget, advised the town board to “carefully evaluate” the town’s staffing needs, suggesting that it might be “essential” to cut staff in the future.

Russell’s budget statement said the spending plan provides “realistic” revenue estimates for 2017 and allows enough appropriations to “ensure the levels of service the public has come to expect from Town Hall.”

“This budget is no frills, has no gimmicks and contains no one-shot wonders,” Russell’s statement read. “It meets the town’s financial obligations, ensures continuation of public services and demonstrates fiscal restraint.”

The public hearing is at 4 p.m. at Town Hall.

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