The Southold Town Board unanimously passed a $44 million preliminary budget at its meeting Tuesday night, setting up the proposal — which pierces the tax cap and raises the tax rate by 7.57 percent — for public hearings next month.
The overall budget is largely unchanged from the one originally proposed by Town Supervisor Scott Russell, which calls for $2.4 million in appropriations for highway repairs and a roughly $1 million increase in mandatory employee health care costs.
If approved by the board after the November public hearings, the budget would be the first to pierce the state tax cap law, which limits the amount of money municipalities and school districts can collect from taxes. Southold Town’s tax levy cap was set at no more than a .68 percent increase from 2016.
Among the changes to Mr. Russell’s original budget are an extra $20,000 added to pay for a traffic study for Main Road and Love Lane that would research ways to improve the intersection.
“I think it’s imperative that we move on that,” Councilman James Dinizio said at a budget discussion earlier that day. “If we have a study and a plan … we have it shovel ready.” Another $26,000 would purchase a new vehicle for the town’s fleet.
However, some on the board were skeptical of the $2.4 million roadwork plans at the budget discussion Tuesday morning. Several board members said they were frustrated that Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando hadn’t given them a full plan of when all the needed roadwork in town would be addressed.
“It think it’s imperative that we know exactly the miles of pavement that’s … gotta be done,” said Councilman Bill Ruland, who went on to say he didn’t know if he would ultimately approve the proposed budget without that information.
Councilwoman Jill Doherty agreed and said the board could hold off on a final decision until after the public hearings, giving the Highway Department enough time to present the plan.
“I think we’re all there with you,” she said to Mr. Ruland.
Councilman Robert Ghosio did not vote on the preliminary budget; he was absent from the meeting because of an illness. Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Southold Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Photo caption: The Southold Town Board. (Credit: Paul Squire)