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2019 town budget a done deal … almost

Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams, left, and Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar at Tuesday’s budget meeting.

The Town Board adopted a preliminary $12.9 million budget Tuesday that would raise spending by 5.3 percent for 2019. But before final adoption takes place, there will be a public hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, November 7, at 1 p.m.

If the budget remains as written following the public hearing, the average taxpayer whose property was assessed this year at $850,000 will likely see that value in 2019 at $875,500, Deputy Supervisor Brach-Williams said.

The increase on the tax bill for the hypothetical median home on Shelter Island in 2019 would likely be an additional $126, she added.

Board members are open to hearing suggestions from the public about more cuts or where money should be spent differently. But Ms. Amber Brach-Williams told her colleagues that given the items she might identify, none would have an impact on that 5.3 percent spending increase and there’s no project crying out for money that hasn’t been addressed.

That doesn’t mean that department heads and committee members who asked for items that aren’t being funded in 2019 were frivolous in their requests, but that the board had to make difficult choices and prioritize needs, according to members.

They pointed to the reality that funding was needed for re-pointing bricks at Police headquarters and the need for a new bulkhead at Volunteer Park since both were potential liabilities from accidents.

When the board began working on the 2019 budget, they were aware that every 1 percent increase in spending represented $88,000.

The one concern members have is that taking $297,000 from the fund balance to offset 2019 spending means replacing it for the 2020 budget. That could be offset with improved revenues in time for the 2020 budget and wiping out some of the one-time expenditures from 2019.

The board is hopeful it will get grant money by the end of this year to offset planned spending on the bathroom at Crescent Beach. That could be an early Christmas gift, Councilman Jim Colligan said, noting that a decision was expected by December 23.

Among requests that were turned down was Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr.’s proposal for a highway storage building to protect vehicles at the Recycling Center. Overhead covering will be provided, but the board decided the trucks are heavy duty and can withstand the elements.

The effort to hire a part-time animal control officer to free Beau Payne from dealing with domestic pet problems — particularly during the deer hunting season– won’t happen, at least at the outset and possibly not at all in 2019. It had been budgeted for $10,000. The plan was to provide time for Mr. Payne during the hunt in February and March and also give him more time throughout the year to reduce the deer herd.

One expenditure that almost got knocked out received new life this week as Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli won approval for $22,100 cost to hire an assistant. After a last minute follow-up meeting with Ms. Fanelli this week, Supervisor Gary Gerth and Mr. Colligan agreed the expenditure is needed.

“We are not getting any younger,” Mr. Colligan said. “We’ve got a growing aging population here.”
Mr. Gerth agreed and Councilman Albert Dickson, who has been fighting for that job to be funded, said he was relieved to see it restored.

The board wants to have meetings at least twice a year that include senior services, Island medical doctors, police and fire department personnel plus other organizations and departments to determine the most efficient way of delivering services.