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Faulty formula sends budget back to board

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Shelter Island Town Hall

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Shelter Island Town Hall

UPDATE: The Town Board met for mere minutes Monday morning, concluding there were other parts of the budget that would likely render improved numbers on spending and revenues.

To create time to crunch those numbers and determine the amount of revenue that might have to be cut, the board adjourned the discussion until Tuesday afternoon, following the 1 p.m. Town Board work session.

There were a few brief moments Thursday afternoon when Town Board members breathed a sigh of relief, believing they had scaled back the 2018 budget to a 4.5 percent increase and there was nothing more they could do to achieve further cuts.

But Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams,  a cerified public accountant, suddenly caught an error in the spread sheet, revealing that an incorrect formula had been entered, resulting in incorrect numbers.

She rapidly corrected the formula that showed numbers that did not please anyone.

The exact amount that would need to be eliminated to reach that 4.5 percent  limit on spending increases wasn’t clear.

The meeting that had just been adjourned was reopened, although members had to wait for Councilman Jim Colligan, who had already left Town Hall and was almost at his Silver Beach house when he got the call to return.

Again, the Town Board reconvened and began another line by line review, hunting for still more cuts and additional places where revenues had been underestimated and more realistic numbers could be substituted.

Although the initial thinking was to cut new expenses, that rapidly became difficult because some of those proposed new areas of spending — including increased hours for several town workers — had to be realistically retained to meet the town’s needs.

Even Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who some think is the first to reject increases, called for retaining some of the more recent increases.

The supervisor was heard to say the town has been growing and with that growth come important new needs. With that, he suggested that even if the 4.5 percent increase in spending can’t be held, taxes would still be the lowest on Long Island and among the lowest in New York State.

Members found some places to cut and a few where revenue expectations could be increased.

But at 10 a.m. today, Monday, they will be back in Town Hall for at least one more go-around before they settle on a spending plan to present to voters at a public hearing Tuesday.

An update is expected to be posted following Monday’s meeting.

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