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Supervisor Siller proposes $14.4 million budget: Town Board starts sessions to weigh in on draft

Town Board members will begin to carve out a budget for 2023 on Thursday, Sept. 22. Supervisor Gerry Siller’s draft plan released Tuesday proposes a $14.4 million spending plan, a 4.8% increase of money to be raised by general taxes from the current year’s budget.

To support the current year’s budget, $10.6 million was collected in general taxes. Mr. Siller’s draft, if  adopted without changes, would ask taxpayers for $11.1 million. But historically, additions and subtractions in various budget lines occur based on input from the full Town Board.

In putting forth his draft, Mr. Siller noted the Consumer Price Index has averaged about 8.3% for the past year.

“Between carefully managing our finances and increasing revenues to offset expenses, I am proposing a budget increase of approximately 5%,” Mr. Siller said.

He and Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams, account Clerk Shelby Mundy and Administrative Assistant Kristina Martin Majdisova met with department leaders and committee chairpersons to review their budget requests. They studied year-to-date expenses and income along with money encumbered but not yet spent to arrive at numbers to meet needs projected for 2023.

In 2021 and 2022, budgets were determined primarily by the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic to pay for extra services and lessened revenues, the supervisor said. The 2023  budget is a response to inflation and necessary basic municipal improvements, he added.

The Town Board will be negotiating contracts with unions and has created a contingency line to meet with increases. The supervisor is  not tipping his hand about those negotiations, lumping all the contingency money in a single line currently listed as $210,000.

Most Town employees will see a 4% salary increase, while a few will receive differing amounts. In some cases that will be 2% because they received larger starting salaries and 6% for members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board members because of added work they have been assigned.

One major addition to the budget is critical to the Shelter Island community: The draft calls for an increase from $132,000 to $241,000 to pay for a paramedic capable of rendering Advanced Life Support services.

That role until last year was handled by volunteer Phil Power, who retired. This year, the Southampton Hospital Foundation shared what was a $235,000 cost with the town of an ALS-trained paramedic or teams of paramedics to cover 12-hour shifts every day.

“I am also proposing that we double the amount that was budgeted last year for paid EMS coverage,” Mr. Siller said. “While we currently have a one-year contract with Stony Brook/Southampton Hospital to share that cost, I believe we need to be ready, moving forward, to either staff that position 24/7, or at least have the funds available if a second responder is needed.”

The paid paramedics have responded to 60% of ambulance calls since the Southampton Hospital Foundation provided the grant.

At the same time, Mr. Siller said he hopes to entice some of the current EMS volunteers to take the extra training that would qualify them as paramedics.

Other budget items Mr. Siller highlighted at Tuesday’s work session include:

• The purchase of a new electric vehicle to be shared by the Building Department and Assessor’s Office.

• An additional part-time clerk for a number of boards and committees because the work load with new demands of electronic communications and filing has doubled.

In the past year, the Town Board has initiated user fees for some services rather than covering costs through general taxes, Mr. Siller said. He plans to submit a proposal for increased mooring fees that haven’t been increased since 1999.

Budget work sessions were scheduled to start at  9 a.m. and end at noon on Sept. 22. Sessions will continue on Friday, Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon each day. If needed, another session will be held on Monday, Oct. 3.

The Town Board will be meeting with Highway Superintendent and Public Work Commissioner Brian Sherman and Police Chief Jim Read since they have the largest budget segments.

The Board will invite other department heads and committee chairs who request meetings.

The sessions are open to the public, but no input is to be accepted until a public hearing slated for Nov. 10.