Southold Town adopts budget with 2.8 percent tax increase

After two public hearings last Wednesday at which there was scant public comment, the Southold Town Board adopted its 2012 budget at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The $39,824,144 spending plan carries a tax rate hike of 2.79 percent, much of which is due to an additional $700,000 the town must pay next year into the state retirement system. When Town Supervisor Scott Russell unveiled the first draft of the budget in September, he said that 2.4 of that 2.79 percent is due to the retirement costs.

Those costs are set by the state and the town has no leeway to change them, though Mr. Russell has repeatedly said that he and town leaders throughout the state are lobbying hard to change those rules.

The budget includes 4 percent raises for Southold’s CSEA employees, who also received 4 percent raises this year after taking salary freezes in 2010. Their three-year contract expires at the end of 2012.

Police officers in town have been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2009, and are currently in binding arbitration to settle a new contract.

Elected officials will not be receiving raises this year, after a proposal for modest raises in the 2011 budget came under fire from the community.

At the budget hearings last Wednesday, only one member of the public approached the podium to address the board.

“You all really need to be given a hand for the good work and it’s appreciated,” said Hugh Switzer of Peconic.

Two councilmen also spoke.

Councilman Al Krupski said that an awful lot of work went into the budget, but it’s an ongoing process, and the public can address the board on budget issues at any time of year.

Councilman Bill Ruland, considered the most spendthrift member of the board, says the budget document reflects the input of everyone on the board and is something he can truly support.

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