The Southold Town Board has set two public hearings for Nov. 5, at which residents can weigh in on the preliminary 2015 budget. That budget includes changes from Supervisor Scott Russell’s tentative budget, which was released Oct. 1.
The town’s spending plan is now $43.1 million, which calls for a 1.87 percent tax levy increase for local taxpayers. That’s an increase of about .42 percent from the tentative budget, which initially called for $42.8 million in total spending, Mr. Russell said Tuesday.
The increase in the preliminary budget reflects changes Town Board members decided to make after conducting a line-by-line review of the tentative budget, Mr. Russell said.
“The changes that we’ve made [Tuesday] were the ones the board wasn’t sure they wanted to do originally,” Mr. Russell said. “Changes that get made during the review process that accumulated resulted in a tax rate increase.”
Some factors contributing to the increase include the proposed hiring of a second part-time court officer and the purchase of two new light-duty trucks for the highway department, among other items, town comptroller John Cushman said at Town Hall Tuesday.
Town officials will host an informational meeting about the proposed 2015 budget on Thursday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.
Mr. Russell and Mr. Cushman will speak and answer questions about the budgeting process. The meeting will focus on the content of the proposed 2015 spending plan, anticipated revenues and expenditures.
There will be two public hearing opportunities on the final budget on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.
The town is budgeting to create a second part-time court officer position in 2015 at the rate of roughly $16 an hour, Mr. Cushman said.
The move comes after Southold Town’s only court officer announced his intent to resign before the end of the year, citing safety concerns. The town has since been searching for new ways to restructure and improve court safety.
“I don’t think in 2015 we will need three [court officers], but I think we need to go to two,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, before voting to schedule the public hearings. Short-term solutions include training the second officer to operate a hand-held metal detector and direct foot traffic into the courtroom, said Ms. Doherty, who also serves on the town’s committee to improve the court facilities.
Other short-term solutions being considered are replacing the courtroom’s windows with bulletproof glass and lining the judge’s bench with bulletproof material, she said.
A canopy will also be added over the back entrance of Town Hall to shelter individuals waiting to enter the courtroom during inclement weather.
To pay for structural improvements, officials are looking to see if there is leftover money in the 2014 department of public works budget.
The town has applied for a grant for safety improvements.
The Town Board is budgeting for two light-duty trucks for the highway department to use in 2015. The additions come two weeks after Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando proposed to the board a four-year, $250,000 capital plan to replace the department’s aging fleet.
The plan calls for increasing the number of small- to medium-sized vehicles that can handle 70 percent of the day-to-day work of the department. With smaller trucks performing everyday work, the hope is that the department will see increased savings in fuel costs in the short term and fewer costly repairs to larger trucks in the long term, Mr. Orlando said.
The highway department’s preliminary spending plan for 2015 called for $5.71 million.
“The sooner we can update the equipment we have the better off we will be,” Councilman Bill Ruland said Tuesday. “The hidden cost to repair these things is eating us alive.”