Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell released his $42.9 million tentative 2016 budget on Wednesday. It includes replacing a retiring police officer and hiring a code enforcement officer.
The supervisor’s proposed spending plan includes a .7 percent reduction in overall spending next year, and an estimated .54 percent tax levy increase for local taxpayers.
[Scroll down to read the tentative budget]
“The budget is fiscally sound and I am sure it’s more than adequate to cover our needs in 2016,” he said. “The budget I am presenting includes projections based on historic expectations and does not include unrealistic expectations.”
The town is expected to hire one full-time police officer to fill a position vacated by retirement.
Mr. Russell said he had to decline Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley’s request to hire four additional officers due to the state’s property tax cap of .73 percent — the lowest since its inception in 2012.
“We had a request for four more police officers and requests for more full-time employees in other departments,” Mr. Russell said in an interview Tuesday. “The town has to look at that and say, ‘Well, can we afford to hire more people?’”
The Town Board hired eight new officers last year, with a total of 52 officers, an increase Mr. Russell believes is the largest in the town’s history.
Chief Flatley said he submitted the request for additional officers not to grow his department beyond its usual size, but to preempt a handful of retirements he expects in 2016.
“We’re expecting at least three openings before the end of the year,” he said. “Each spot I requested was for a replacement officers, not for new officers.”
The timeline for adding a new officer is long — 16 months from the decision to hire to that officer’s first day on the beat, Chief Flatley said — so he wanted to get ahead of the curve and begin planning now to avoid a manpower shortage like he had last year.
“I don’t want to let those gaps start to generate,” he said. “This is more like preventative maintenance.”
Although overall spending will decrease, the budget also allows for the hiring of a few positions, including a full-time code enforcement officer to enforce fire codes, a part-time youth bureau director and a part-time wildlife management coordinator.
In addition, Mr. Russell included a $250,000 infrastructure bond, which will focus on stormwater drainage and flood control.
At a special meeting Friday, the supervisor submitted his budget to the town board. They will examine it in the coming weeks, and then a public hearing will be held in October or November to discuss the budget.