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10/17/14 4:25pm
JULIE LANE PHOTO Town engineer John Cronin at a recent budget meeting warned town officials back in April that aged septic systems on the Island needed upgrading to protect water quality.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Town engineer John Cronin at a recent budget meeting warned town officials back in April that aged septic systems on the Island needed upgrading to protect water quality.

A county wide lottery for year-round residents whose properties lack sewers will enable 19 lucky winners to have a new alternative wastewater treatment system installed without charge and five years of free maintenance. (more…)

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10/17/14 8:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) during an appearance at Shelter Island School earlier this year.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) during an appearance at Shelter Island School earlier this year.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who represents District 1 that includes Shelter Island in the New York State Assembly, was one of the most prolific members of that body in getting bills passed in the legislature this year. (more…)

Featured Story
10/15/14 3:00pm
JULIE LANE PHOTO Deer & Tick Committee chairman Mike Scheibel and committee aide Jennifer Zacha presented their case for their 2015 budget at a Wednesday morning meeting with the Town Board.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Deer & Tick Committee chairman Mike Scheibel and committee aide Jennifer Zacha presented their case for their 2015 budget at a Wednesday morning meeting with the Town Board.

The Deer & Tick Committee allocation, while by far not the largest allocation in the town’s spending plan, is second only to the highway department in terms of needing “the most soul-searching,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said Wednesday. (more…)

Featured Story
10/15/14 8:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Co. auditor Jeffrey Davoli answered questions at Tuesday’s Town Board work session about the audit of Shelter Island’s 2013 financials.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Co. auditor Jeffrey Davoli answered questions at Tuesday’s Town Board work session about the audit of Shelter Island’s 2013 financials.

Shelter Island’s external auditors from Albrecht Viggiano Zurek & Co. gave the town a clean bill of health after reviewing its 2013 financials.

“The Town Board is very pro-active in addressing concerns that we have,” AVZ’s Jeffrey Davoli said.

But he and his colleague, Kevin Tyburski, offered two areas of caution — one of which, the general fund balance, could affect budgeting for 2015. Most municipalities maintain an unassigned fund balance of between 10 to 20 percent of their overall budget to address unforeseen needs.

Shelter Island’s unassigned fund balance was at $679,000, just under 10 percent at the end of 2013, Mr. Davoli said. It has been dropping year to year as the Town Board has dipped into it to close a budget gap without having to add more to property taxes at a time, they’ve said, when money remains tight for many Islanders.

The proposed budget submitted by Supervisor Jim Dougherty called for adding $370,000 in fund balance to cover the 2015 spending plan and that’s something Councilman Ed Brown has questioned.

The other issue for the auditors is the town’s not fully funding the state retirement system for its employees. The state is asking for $8.6 million. That number has grown since the 2012 financials were audited by about $1.5 million.

However, other municipalities have also not been funding the state retirement system, Supervisor Jim Dougherty said.

“We look like pikers” compared with larger towns like Southold, he said.

Not so, said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

“We pay every dollar that’s asked for by New York State,” he said.

Retirement system payments are calculated on a complicated formula and vary from year to year, partially affected by the rate of return the state realizes on investments. After the 2008 recession, resulting low returns resulted in higher estimates of what it would take for municipalities to make the obligation viable.

But with market recovery in the last couple of years, that figure is likely to fluctuate and reduce that obligation.

And, of course, everyone doesn’t opt for retirement at the same time, so what’s necessary is to have enough funds to cover obligations for employees already retired, and those who will retire that year.

A combination of a slow recovery from the 2008 crash and the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap has forced municipalities to cut amounts to the retirement system and also to look to negotiate with unions to reduce obligations for future retirees.

j.lane@sireporter.com

10/13/14 8:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO Communities That Care leader Marilynn Pysher made a pitch to the Town Board last week for Shelter Island School’s part-time social worker Jennifer Olsen to provide part-time townwide services.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Communities That Care leader Marilynn Pysher made a pitch to the Town Board last week for Shelter Island School’s part-time social worker Jennifer Olsen to provide part-time townwide services.

Calling it an “exciting, needed, progressive, practical opportunity,” Communities That Care leader and Shelter Island Board of Education member Marilynn Pysher appealed to the Town Board last week to hire the school’s part-time social worker for additional part-time hours. (more…)