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Special meeting set for Tuesday on 2021 town budget

Residents who have been following discussions about the proposed town budget of $13.09 million that would raise taxes by 3.6% will have a final chance on Tuesday at a 2 p.m. special Town Board meeting to hear from the Town Board before it acts to adopt a final budget.

In response to a question about whether there would be a discussion at the special meeting of the budget prior to its adoption, Supervisor Gerry Siller said, “We will discuss any changes before adopting [the] budget.”

That leaves unclear whether the public will be given any further chance to weigh in prior to the vote by the Town Board.

During the public hearing on the budget, no one raised any questions or made comments about budgeted items except for several who questioned why a $15,000 allotment to the Shelter Island Historical Society was being cut back to $5,000.

Mr. Siller said he thought the request represented a contribution, not a service for which the town should pay. For the past 10 years, the town has provided $15,000 annually that the Society’s treasurer, Michael McClain, said helped to pay for appropriate preservation of documents and materials used by much of the community, including government.

Restoring even $5,000 to make the allocation $10,000 would raise the tax increase to about 3.7%, according to Deputy Town Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams.

She said the increase would cause the average taxpayer about $2.30.

But Mr. Siller, while acknowledging that as a small amount, said it may not sound like a lot of money, but small raises in various areas add up quickly.

Given anticipated additional expenses for items such as insurance and expected cuts in revenues that could be as high as $300,000, the Town Board had to work hard to keep the budget from escalating further, the supervisor said.

“We’re pretty much a bare bones operation,” Mr. Siller said.

At the public hearing, Gordon Gooding, who is chairman of the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, said his committee has sought assistance on history of properties that group has considered for acquisition. He said he was speaking for himself, not the CPF Advisory Board, but Mr. Siller suggested that perhaps CPF money could contribute to the Historical Society.

At Monday morning’s CPF Advisory Board meeting, Mr. Gooding told members, “There is no way that we’re committing CPF funds to the Historical Society.”

Those funds that come from a tax paid by new purchasers of property in the town are meant to be used primarily for acquisition of land to be preserved and, in recent years, up to 20% of that money could be directed to water quality improvement projects.

A review of the original budget items pertaining to history, besides reflecting a cut to the Historical Society’s funding, shows a payment of $4,684.15 to town historian Bill Clark III and a $30 payment for what is listed as “historian contractual.”

Neither Mr. Clark nor Historical Society Executive Director Nanette Lawrenson could be reached in time for comment about this money.