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Board offers revised $13.66 million spending plan: Public hearing set for Nov. 3

The Town Board will present a proposed $13.66 million 2022 budget at a Nov. 3 public hearing, representing a 3.9% increase in spending. The current budget is $10.2 million.

The amount that would be raised from taxes if the revised budget passes is $10.6 million.

There’s no estimate yet on how the proposal, if adopted, would affect taxes. Higher revenues could lower taxes as would increases in the tax base.

Although there’s no public vote on the proposal, the Board will listen to those who would like to make changes to the budget and will have two weeks before voting on a final spending plan on Nov. 20.

In its final review of the budget numbers on Oct. 15, members agreed to final decisions on a few pending matters:

• Tabled a request from Tax Collector AnnMarie Seddio for a 6% raise, at least for now. She had argued for an increase above the 2% being allocated to most Town employees. No one questioned the quality of her work, but Mr. Siller said he couldn’t justify increases for elected officials who knew the salary range when they ran for election. However, if revenues are higher than anticipated, the Town Board agreed to revisit the request later in 2022.

• Agreed not to lower costs for seniors using the FIT Center. The Board wants to see if there are seniors not using the FIT Center because of the cost and left open a decision on possibly lowering costs.

• Discussed creation of a capital budget to address projects that are vital to maintaining Town assets and paying for needed one-time projects. The Town’s Capital Planning/Grants Committee has been working to develop a capital budget.

Mr. Siller praised Jay Card Jr., former Public Works Commissioner and Highway Superintendent, who had fought for the need for such funding during his terms to avoid having to find money to cover a crisis.

Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman will be realizing some revenue increases in fees, but also could have challenges based on how much money might hit his coffers from New York State’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). Attempts to balance the state budget could result in less income than has been the case in pre-COVID years.

Among Mr. Sherman’s challenges is an effort to raise some roadways that flood during  major storms. One such project scheduled would raise the roadway that runs from Cobbetts Lane along Ram Island Drive. Flooding during some storms stops residents on Ram Island from being able to traverse the roadway.

Among the expenses in Police Chief Jim Read’s budget is a raise for Animal Control Officer Jenny Zahler. The budget calls for a 25% hike in her salary. Ms. Zahler was hired as a part-timer at $20,000, but she has been available 24-7 to respond to animal cases, Chief Read said. He asked for a $5,000 raise to bring her on full-time, telling the Town Board, “Jenny is a real asset to the Town.” She has been offered other full-time jobs in neighboring communities, but prefers to work on Shelter Island. Other offers she has received would have given her two times her current salary with benefits.

“She’s there to help the people,” Chief Read said.

One major addition in spending previously reported is the planned hiring of personnel who can provide Advanced Life Saving services. The EMT service on the Island has been reduced to one qualified person, Phil Power, who is retiring. Given the need for people who can provide ALS services to Island residents, the Town Board and EMS Director Det. Sgt. Jack Thilberg are planning to allot up to $132,000 to cover costs.

Clearly, no one person is going to be able to work 24-7, so it’s anticipated that will cover costs for hiring more than one person to handle the needs.

“This is not a luxury,” Mr. Colligan said about the budget item.

The Town has benefited from substantial grants identified by consultant Jennifer Messiano Higham that have provided substantial money to tackle some major projects.

The public hearing on the budget is slated for Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.