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10/02/15 4:30pm
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Hap Bowditch Jr., who had lost the Republican primary in 2005, announced he would conduct a write-in campaign.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Hap Bowditch Jr., who had lost the Republican primary in 2005, announced he would conduct a write-in campaign.

50 YEARS AGO IN HISTORY

Then Cuban President Fidel Castro announced that Che Guevara was resigning his post in the government to fight for Marxist revolutionary causes in his native Argentina and in Guatemala and Bolivia. (more…)

10/22/11 1:05pm

REPORTE FILE PHOTO | Councilman Ed Brown

What seemed a simple question about budgeting — where does the money for each year’s “fund balance” come from — touched off a dust-up at the Town Board meeting Friday night.

The principal protagonists were Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who is seeking re-election to a third two-year term, and Councilman Ed Brown, who is in the middle of a four-year term.

Their squabble was about who had been the biggest users of the unspent money carried over every year into the following year’s budget fund balance to cushion their budgets and limit tax hikes — Mr. Dougherty or Town Boards working with previous supervisors.

The balance currently stands at between $1.5 and $2 million, board members said, well above the state-recommended minimum of 10-perecent of the annual budget, which totals over $10 million.

The board’s only elected Conservative, Mr. Brown started the sparks flying when he offered figures to back up the argument that the Democratic supervisor had been tapping the fund balance harder during his two terms than previous administrations .

He also chastised him for claiming credit in his re-election campaign for the budget work of the whole Town Board.
“It’s all about Jim,” Mr. Brown complained, adding that the supervisor’s style was to throw “as many people under the bus as you can.”

The supervisor countered that previous Town Boards had tapped the fund balance when the economy was good and when non-tax revenues were flowing. The money was a “Rainy Day fund” to be used in tough times, not in good times to hide spending increases, he argued.

Mr. Brown was wrong, said Mr. Dougherty, to assert that those previous boards had faced unusual expenses: a new highway barn and the park at Bridge Street, among other things. Those projects, Mr. Dougherty noted, had been funded by bonds and “I’ve been paying for them” in subsequent budgets to the tune of $145,000 a year in principal and interest.

“You’re paying for it all on your own,” remarked Mr. Brown. “Nice of you, Jim!”

According to Mr. Brown, the Town Boards over the six years from 2003 through 2008 had used a total of about $945,00 from the fund balance to cushion their budgets.

Over the three years since Mr. Dougherty took office in 2009, he said, $1.45 million has been tapped.

Mr. Dougherty defended the use of the fund in recent years as appropriate for bad times when revenues plunge.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Jim Dougherty

The fight prompted Town Board candidate Paul Shepherd, who had asked the question from the audience, to take pains to say he hadn’t meant to start a political dust up for the Channel 22 camera and the Reporter.

“This wasn’t me setting you up,” he told Mr. Dougherty.

More details about that hot exchange, and other business at the Friday meeting — including the question why the Red Cross Ambulance squad was being taken over by the town instead of the Fire District — will appear in the October 27 edition of the Reporter.

10/14/11 11:10pm

The town’s principal assessor, Al Hammond, called on the Town Board Tuesday to restore funding that he said was vital for his department’s operations but had been cut back in Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s preliminary town budget for 2012. Mr. Hammond called some of the numbers in the budget “misrepresentations.”

“They are not what we requested. They are not entirely correct,” he said, and if the Town Board did not restore some of the cuts, his department couldn’t function properly and “we might just as well close it.”

Mr. Hammond also made a pitch for a 2-percent increase in his salary of $60,815 to $62,000 and in part-time assessors BJ Ianfolo and Pat Castoldi’s current salaries of $17,984 and $11,989.

Supervisor Dougherty said he had rejected the salary request in preparing the budget because he had told department heads he was “flat lining peoples’ compensation.” He said “a number of department heads had volunteered” to forego a raise while others had asked for one “on the usual grounds.” If the town gave the assessors a raise, he said, “It’s a precedent and we have to be very, very careful.”

Town Board members did not reveal their thinking on the request but Councilman Peter Reich urged the board “not to look at any salaries until we run through” Mr. Dougherty’s entire budget proposal, which board members have complained contains blanks and puzzling figures, and “plug in” numbers that “are missing” or need to be changed.

The supervisor did not explain the cuts his budget calls for in the assessors office. One of them — a reduction from a requested $1,850 to $800 for a support contract — paid for “an application to run our office,” Mr. Hammond said.

The requested figure is a fixed cost for contracts that cover three software applications, according to Mr. Hammond; one to conduct property assessments, another to manage appraisals and a third to “draw plans of new construction” based on filings with the Building Department. It was budgeted at $1,900 for 2011 but an early payment had shaved $50 from the cost, he said, so he had requested $1,850 for 2012. In Mr. Dougherty’s proposal, the budgeted amount for 2012 is shown as $800.

Another request that was cut for 2012 — from $2,500 to $1,750 — is listed on the “reval update” line in the budget. Mr. Hammond said the money he asked for was needed to continue the annual property revaluation or reassessment process begun a decade ago to keep listed values in line with fluctuating market prices. He said Shelter Island and Southampton towns were the only ones in Suffolk County that had won state support grants in recognition of their up-to-date revaluation programs. Shelter Island’s grants averaged $15,000 a year for 10 years, he said, so the $2,500 to run the reval operation “is money well spent.”

Reducing it by $750 and cutting into the update process “would curtail our going forward” and possibly cost the town another grant in 2012.

Mr. Hammond called for corrections for two other numbers in the supervisor’s budget proposal. He said he had requested $7,800 not $8,722 for BJ Ianfolo’s health benefits and $4,165 not $3,800 for Pat Castaldi’s health stipend. The supervisor’s 2012 “revised” numbers are listed as $7,772 and $3,703 respectively.

His requests, Mr. Hammond said, reflected fixed costs and were “not discretionary” so could not be cut.

Also during the budget review portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard from Kathy Gooding, P.A.T. Hunt and Carol Galligan of the town’s Taylor’s Island Committee. Ms. Gooding urged the board to hold the line on the committee’s current $22,000 budget and not cut it. In fact, the committee got a raise.

The committee’s request was for an increase to $26,500 in 2012, according to the supervisor’s budget proposal, and the amount he budgeted for 2012 is $22,500.

The overall effect of the discussion was to raise the committee’s 2012 budget to $25,000, higher than this year’s but lower than the requested amount.

Building Permit Coordinator Mary Wilson came in to meet with the board about her 2012 budget — nearly unchanged from 2011, down to $63,331 from $63,511 — but the board had no questions and she offered no comments.

In other business on Tuesday, the board:

• Heard Highway Superintendent Mark Ketcham report that flaws in the design would delay the renovation of the senior kitchen in the town’s Medical Center. Mr. Ketcham said the plans prepared by engineer Matt Sherman had to be revised. See separate story on page 10.

• Debated the budget for the new ambulance department. See separate story on page 1.

• Reviewed plans for county dredging at the point of Shell Beach, where sand carried southward along the outer beach is building up the beach and extending it into the channel. Councilman Glenn Waddington suggested that the county move the proposed spoil site for dredged sand farther northwest down the beach, to the area where the town recently filled in and reinforced a washed-out section of embankment along Oak Tree Lane. Mr. Ketcham said the county would need extra pumping power to do that and, without repairs to the aged and crumbling groins or jetties along the outside of Shell Beach, any sand deposited there would soon wash away.

• Heard Supervisor Dougherty report that the Lions scallop fundraising dinner — with proceeds earmarked for the Senior Activity Center kitchen renovation — had raised more money than ever, nearly $9,000 from 295 patrons compared to a usual figure of 175. He said the Lions had promised a minimum of $2,500 for the kitchen project but that he expected the club would raise that number.

• Heard the supervisor report that he had proposed a contract for Dr. Peter Kelt’s rental of office space in the Medical Center that would continue the $800 rate he’s been paying for many years without a lease. The contract would include a provision for increases to reflect inflation with a 3 percent annual cap. As reported last week, Dr. Kelt has contracted with Winthrop University Hospital to take over his office. He and his wife Jean will continue working as employees of Winthrop, which will handle insurance claims, billing and other chores, Mr. Dougherty announced last week.