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Loss of state funding leaves Southold facing $88K shortfall

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget has left Southold Town officials scrambling to close a budget shortfall after all Long Island towns were excluded from receiving state funding through the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program.

The decision leaves Southold town with an $88,000 funding gap in the 2019 budget, Town Comptroller Kristie Hansen-Hightower reported at a work session Tuesday.

It will also impact budget planning for 2020.

“[AIM funding] hasn’t changed in many years. It’s just general funding that towns and governments can use for their general expenses,” Ms. Hansen-Hightower said. “Any municipality whose AIM funding was two percent or less of their expenditures was removed.”

Those figures were based on 2017 expenditures reported to the state comptroller. The funding had been included in the town’s part-time fund, Ms. Hansen-Hightower said.

“The thinking was that it wouldn’t impact us that much,” since it’s less than two percent, she said.

“It still hurts,” Councilman Jim Dinizio said.

Officials across Long Island have opposed the plan, and Supervisor Scott Russell asked the board to consider a resolution to support that opposition.

Ms. Hansen-Hightower said the gap could be offset by some expenditures that cost less than expected. “We budgeted a 10 percent increase for [New York State Health Insurance Program], but only spent three,” she said, noting that would result in between $30,000 and $35,000 left over, in addition to a $20,000 contingency fund for the first time. “We do have some mechanisms to absorb it,” she said.

The board agreed that the reversal continues a troubling pattern for Long Island taxpayers.

“I think there’s a genuine hostility toward Long Island from New York City and upstate legislators,” Mr. Russell said. “Long Island is viewed as this prosperous location that doesn’t need the state’s help.”

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