Town Board votes to set hearing on law to let it to pierce tax-hike cap — just in case

The Shelter Island Town Board voted unanimously to schedule a hearing on a proposed local law that, if adopted, would allow it to override the 2 percent state-imposed tax cap Friday afternoon. Supervisor Jim Dougherty said after the meeting he remains confident he and his colleagues will come in with a 2013 budget that won’t raise the tax levy above the cap.

The hearing was set for 5 p.m., Friday, November 9 in Town Hall. The board is required to adopt a final budget no later than November 20.

He acknowledged that he came to work Friday morning fully intending to vote against the resolution that, by state law, required a 60 percent majority to pass — which happens to be the usual three votes needed to pass anything on the five-member Town Board. But he said Councilman Peter Reich had convinced him that voting with the rest of the five-member board was “a prudent thing to do.”

The convincing argument, he said, was that this year the town faces contractual raises and two relatively new or brand new expenses: the second year of budgeting for the former Red Cross ambulance corps, which the town took over last January;  and a new Length of Service Award Program for the corps that town voters overwhelmingly approved in a referendum in August.

Nonetheless, he expressed confidence at holding the line on taxes. “We’re going to come in under the cap,” he said.

Town Board members have been meeting with department heads to hammer out the budget for past couple of weeks in an effort to nail down the numbers in Mr. Dougherty’s tentative budget proposal of $10.4 million.

Mr. Dougherty started Friday’s Town Board meeting with an announcement that a perceived $418,000 balance in the Waterways Management Advisory Council’s dedicated waterways fund is actually $183,000. No money is missing, he said, but ongoing errors allowed money to be taken from the town’s general fund to pay for expenses that were supposed to be paid directly from the WMAC fund.

He credited Mr. Reich, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar and Deputy Clerk Sharon Jacobs with poring through records that revealed the bookkeeping errors.
“All the money is there,” Mr. Dougherty said.

Nor was any money used improperly. Mr. Reich said that approved expenditures from the dedicated fund were never properly deducted from its balance total over the years.

Also on Friday, the Town Board approved a $500,000 bond to be repaid from future 2-percent Community Preservation Fund receipts to cover some of the town’s share of the second of two Sylvester Manor development rights purchases this year. The town’s share of the pending deal is over $1.4 million and it has about $1.1 million on hand in its 2-percent fund. The supervisor noted no local property tax revenues will be used to pay for the purchase.

For a full Town Board story, see Thursday’s Reporter.