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Southold passes budget amid union impasse

Southold Town Hall is at 53095 Route 25,

Southold Town Hall is at 53095 Route 25, seen here on April 1, 2012. Credit: Ursula Moore

Southold passed a town budget for next year Tuesday that does not pierce the state's tax cap, but labor strife with its largest union could lead to higher personnel costs in future years.

Supervisor Scott Russell said the town's budget "is lean and mean. We kept the tax rate as low as we could."

But the single largest driver of the town's budget is employee costs.

Given anticipated costs down the line, it's important for the town to budget conservatively, Russell said.

The contract with the town's 160-member labor union, a part of the Civil Service Employees Association, expired in January. The town declared an impasse in September.

Thomas Skabry, unit president of the union, asked during the public comment portion of the meeting that town board members sit in on the next negotiation, on Dec. 11. Town officials indicated they planned to continue using a negotiator.

Skabry described the union's most recent offer as a "bottom offer."

Russell said he could not comment on the specifics of ongoing labor talks.

About 25 town employees attended the town board meeting, many wearing circular red stickers saying "We are Southold."

Skabry said the unit's offer has a "fair" wage increase each year over the next 3 years "that reflects the cost of living on the East End."

The town's $41.5 million budget for 2014 includes a tax rate increase of 1.33 percent.

The town's budget includes $750,000 for a new grinder -- a 40-ton, 660-horsepower wood chipper -- which Jim Bunchuck, solid-waste coordinator for the town, said would only be bought if the old one fails.

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