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Taxes would rise 3.6 percent to cover 2018 spending plan


If Shelter Island’s budget was looking bleak at the end of last week, a weekend of review revealed that an error in a formula that sent numbers soaring was balanced by other formula errors that brought them back to earth.

The taxpayers’ share of spending for 2018 will increase by 3.6 percent if the Town Board makes no other changes after a public hearing scheduled for November 8.

Town assessors are working on determining what a 3.6 percent hike would do to a property owner’s tax bills. When the information becomes available, it will be posted on the Reporter website.

Town Board members approved using $150,000 from the fund balance to keep from raising taxes further and cut from the latest proposal $72,132 Mr. Card requested for highway equipment.

About $1 million remains in the general fund balance, and Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that with careful spending, more may be added by the end this fiscal year.

Town employees can expect to see a 2 to 3 percent salary increase with larger raises going to those like Judy Meringer, the supervisor’s confidential secretary, and Debra Speeches, confidential secretary to Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr.

Some employees pay will rise because of increased hours.

Building Department personnel working 35 hours a week will work 40 hours starting in January. Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli, who has been paid for 20 hours a week while putting in much more time, will be paid for 25 hours a week.
Ms. Fanelli will also get a part-time geriatric social worker to assist her clients; Mr. Dougherty has been negotiating with Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO Paul Connor about sharing the hospital’s geriatric social worker, Juliette Frodella.

A late addition to the budget was $20,000 for the Senior Services Department to purchase a small car to transport clients to appointments and errands.

A request from EMS Director Jack Thilberg for a $5,000 raise won’t be granted this year. He will see a 2 percent increase in his current $30,000 salary. He had argued that the EMS job consumes far more hours than he originally anticipated, estimating he put in at least 30 hours a week on administrative work running the department and also responding to some calls.

In a tight year, the board that had given Mr. Thilberg a healthy raise for the current year, decided to hold to 2 percent for next year.

Mr. Card won’t see the $97,835 pay he sought for his two jobs, but will get $83,993 up from $81,182 this year.

The budget includes $5,500 for summer interns for the Public Works Department. Council members agreed interns have provided a lot of service to the town, a sentiment summed up by Councilman Paul Shepherd who said, “Nobody wants to pay for them, but everybody wants to use them.”

Mr. Card will get $140,000 for ongoing paving work; Mr. Dougherty had wanted to cut it back to $125,000.

Mr. Card requested $150,000, telling the Town Board he really needed $200,000 a year in order to get paving onto a 20-year maintenance schedule.

When it came to a final decision on repaving money Tuesday, Mr. Shepherd said he didn’t feel comfortable rolling the number back to less than $140,000.

The Deer & Tick Committee will receive $20,000 for deer reduction management that is intended to cover a new pilot program to use hunters with Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators licenses to take deer during the February and March deer damage period. It will also cover lottery awards to hunters during the regular season, costs of butchering and other related expenses to that part of the committees budget.

While there are details still to be worked out on how those hunters can be remunerated during the deer damage permit season, the aim is to take at least 50 adult female deer during that hunt.

Animal Control Officer Beau Payne said he has been using less corn in the current year than he anticipated. That reduced the corn budget from $52,000 to $50,000 for 2018.

A request by Police Chief Jim Read to raise Mr. Payne’s salary from $56,100 to $61,100 was rejected, but Mr. Payne will get a 2 percent hike bringing his salary to $57,222.

The full budget proposal will be posted on the town website. Residents don’t get to vote on the budget as they do with school spending plans. But they do have a chance to suggest changes at a public hearing on Wednesday, November 8, at 1 p.m. at Town Hall.

The Town Board will make its final decision later in November and vote on the 2018 budget.