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Town Board hammering out 2018 budget

JULIE LANE PHOTO Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and secretary Debra Speeches presented their 2018 budget request to the Town Board this week.

Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and secretary Debra Speeches presented their 2018 budget request to the Town Board this week.

With hearings on the 2018  budget under way at Town Hall, numbers have not yet been totaled, but if every request from town entities are granted, spending will rise considerably.

Still outstanding is an expected steep hike in premiums for health insurance costs for town employees, one of the major expenses that Supervisor Jim Dougherty cited as a reason he couldn’t estimate the budget total.

Then there are requests for new spending, some of which will be cut or eliminated from the final budget by the rest of the Town Board, before members settle on a 2018 budget plan.

In reviewing requests from department heads and committee chairs, the Town Board has noted a number of areas they want to consider pulling the trigger on final figures.

Shelter Island is unlike most surrounding towns where supervisors do total their proposals, providing the best estimates they can for outstanding figures and including an overall statement that sums up their thinking about the decisions they have made in constructing their budget proposals.

Mr. Dougherty issued a statement on October 6, suggesting that what he called “budget creep” resulting from meetings held to date, he was continuing to explore agreements with neighboring municipalities to share services.

During early budget meetings he had referred to possibly sharing with Dering Harbor and Southold, specifically mentioning sharing engineering services with Southold.

Michael Collins, one of two Southold Town engineers, Mr. Dougherty said, is willing to provide some services to Shelter Island.  Mr. Collins handle some of the Island’s engineering responsibilities, but details on that have to be worked out, Mr. Dougherty said.

At the same time, Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. suggested last week at a budget meeting that the board consider hiring back recently resigned Town Engineer John Cronin. Mr. Cronin has said he would provide assistance to Mr. Card on certain projects.

Board members made no reference to Mr. Card’s suggestion during the meeting.
Building maintenance

Current plans had called for re-pointing the Police Headquarters and Justice Court buildings, with a later decision to concentrate on the Justice Court first. But when bids came in for that project, they were double the $40,000 estimate the town had originally expected, according to Mr. Card. He said he would be adjusting the specifications and putting the project out to bid again.

Capital projects
Mr. Card’s 2018 proposal includes:
• $69,000 for the re-pointing of justice court, a fire alarm at the Medical Center and general repairs and emergencies
• $29,000  for a new well at Goat Hill plus corrected electrical wiring there and a fire alarm system. Those three items are likely to be approved, but other Goat Hill improvements in that $29,000 cost, including: a kitchen vent fan; installation of poles; a driving range net; replacement of a gas exhaust system duct in the fire place; motion lights in the parking area; and siding on the south and west sides of the clubhouse are not likely to be in the final budget.
• $136,500 for the new septic system for the Legion Hall and school and new lighting and bathroom renovation at the Legion Hall will be partially addressed with grant money, but it’s unclear if the town will put any dollars toward the project.
• $19,000 for engineering and an improved septic system could come from the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board allotment.
• Completion of an upgraded bathroom at Crescent Beach is estimated to cost $111,500.

While Councilwoman Chris Lewis has advocated for the work to be done at Crescent Beach, it’s unclear whether her Town Board colleagues will join her in that decision.

She told her colleagues they must not continue to delay needed projects while waiting for possible grants.

The town has made progress in its efforts to repave roads, but is still not on the 20-year maintenance cycle Mr. Card has requested. He told the board he would like to “kick it up a little” and allot $200,000 per year for road maintenance.
Mr. Card also asked to hire two additional department employees to fill in as needed when other staff members are on vacation or taking sick days.

Councilman Jim Colligan suggested he might agree to one additional new employee.

Mr. Card again made a request for a raise for his secretary, Debra Speeches, and for himself, arguing they are paid less than those who hold similar jobs in other towns.

The general requests for raises for town employees ranges between 2 and 3 percent, Mr. Dougherty said.

Deer & Tick
The budget for effort to manage the deer and tick populations would raise the amount currently being spent on culling the deer herd, but Councilman Paul Shepherd said he’s not convinced that the effort to control tick infestation Island-wide is moving fast enough.

At the same time, he said he has ethical and moral questions about killing deer that were once considered a benefit on the Island, but now are being targeted with a bounty that pays hunters in the months of February and March — known as “the deer damage period” — $200 for each doe killed.

Mr. Shepherd said he has supported “the killing effort” from the beginning, realizing that many would starve to death if they weren’t culled from the herd.

Police Chief Jim Read, who coordinates the hunt for the town, asked for a raise for Animal Control Officer Beau Payne from the current $56,100 to $61,100. Mr. Dougherty has suggested a raise to $57,250.

In many departments, plans call for increasing the work week to 40 hours from 37.5 hours per week. Among them is the office of Senior Services, where Director Laurie Fanelli said she puts in far more than what she was hired to do.

Similarly, Karin Bennett, who runs the nutrition program and assists Ms. Fanelli, said she also puts in more hours.

Ms. Fanelli made a strong pitch for a social worker to provide services to seniors on the Island.

Similar increases in hours are planned for Building Department personnel.

New Recreation Director Bethany Bortmann proposed a town summer camp program that would be partially paid for by the town. The camp program would be offered in three age groups for children ranging in age from 6 to 12. Ms. Bortmann proposes to start the program on July 2 to eight weeks through August 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

She projected the cost of staffing, equipment and supplies at $55,120 with town revenues to come in at $48,000. Ms. Bortmann is seeking increases for new FIT Center equipment and also is asking for new tables and chairs for the youth center.
Saving Money

While most who come before the Town Board during budget meetings are asking for money, Green Options Committee Chairman Tim Purtell and member Don D’Amato spoke about saving money by converting light bulbs in town buildings to hybrid tubes that are more energy efficient.

In Police Headquarters, alone, Mr. D’Amato said, $1,800 could be saved on energy costs.

“That’s a no-brainer from this side of the table,” Mr. Dougherty said.