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2018 budget hikes spending 3.9 percent

REPORTER PHOTO Craig Wood

REPORTER PHOTO Craig Wood challenged the Town Board on the lack of a written capital budget.

With some last minute adjustments, the Town Board Tuesday adopted a 2018 budget of $11.6 million that represents a 3.9 percent change in spending from the current year’s spending plan.

Still undetermined is how the adopted budget will affect taxes. That’s a number assessors will be estimating.

The two areas where money was added addressed the need for funding of the Crescent Beach bathroom project and to increase spending for town engineering services.

Craig Wood challenged the Town Board on the lack of a written capital budget to address maintenance of town assets — Goat Hill, Crescent and Wades beach bathrooms, the Legion septic upgrade and town-owned buildings.

The town has to put money into a fund to get projects done, Mr. Wood said.

He got backing from Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams, who said her goal for the year ahead is to create a written capital budget. When applying for grant funding, the town needs an established capital budget if it wants its requests to be taken seriously, she said.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty has always maintained that he has a list of capital needs in his head and money has always been plentiful in the general fund balance account to address unanticipated needs.

In the future, Supervisor-elect Gary Gerth appears to want a written capital budget and has expressed his admiration for the leadership Ms. Brach-Williams has demonstrated throughout the process of creating the 2018 budget.

Mr. Wood, while complimenting the Town Board for managing to get some capital projects done, especially road work,  criticized the lack of work on town buildings, noting the poor condition of the Justice Hall and Police Headquarters. Money was budgeted for some work on both of those buildings, but bids for re-pointing came in much higher than expected.

It has now been determined that the re-pointing of Police Headquarters won’t get done in the next year unless Mr. Gerth opts to put money from reserves into that job. Re-pointing of Justice Hall is  slated for next spring.

The 2018 budget provides $14,000 for a new well on New York Avenue for Goat Hill along with a new fire alarm system and corrected electrical wiring.

But other requests for the town-owned clubhouse that is rented to the Shelter Island Country Club for $1 a year could become a major expense, Councilman Jim Colligan said. He noted there are small efforts likely to be taken in the year ahead, but said there is major water damage in the basement. Needs for what could be a major renovation have to be assessed and a plan developed.

At the same time, he said he would like to get the Sunset Beach Hotel involved with the Crescent Beach bathroom project since the beach is used by its guests.

Money to complete the Wades Beach septic system upgrade could come from the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board.

As for the Legion Hall septic upgrade, board members Tuesday agreed to put in $50,000 in the 2018 budget and another $50,000 in the 2019 budget after Ms. Brach-Williams told her colleagues it had been dropped.

At the same time, the Town Board raised the amount it will take from the fund balance to offset some of that expenditure, raising the fund balance contribution to the 2018 budget to $175,000.

When Ms. Brach-Williams questioned the amount budgeted for engineering services, she found support from other colleagues.

There are 64 initiatives that require engineering support, Mr. Colligan said. “There is a need on Shelter Island for a full-time engineer,” he added. “There is a lot going on here.”

Mr. Dougherty argued that he is still negotiating with Southold Town Engineer Michael Collins for shared services that would include handling the MS4 — Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer Systems efforts. That work has been overseen by Town Attorney Laury Dowd, who retires at the end of the year.

Mr. Dougherty hadn’t settled on a figure for payment because he is still negotiating with Mr. Collins. The supervisor has beenproposing about 200 hours for Mr. Collins work. But Councilwoman Chris Lewis pointed out that half of that time will be devoted to MS4 efforts, leaving little for the many other town projects.

Nonetheless, Mr. Dougherty argued against adding any money to the engineer’s salary line until more information is known about specific needs. He said that while the session was supposed to be for the public to comment on the budget draft, it was turning into a budget work session for the Town Board.

While Ms. Brach-Williams noted that the Town Board didn’t have to finalize its 2018 budget until November 20, Mr. Dougherty called for a vote that was unanimous to adopt the budget.

The budget can still be amended, and Mr. Gerth can  recommend changes to the newly constituted budget when he takes  the supervisor’s chair  in January.

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