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Southold Town budget will pierce the tax cap

Southold officials passed a 2022 budget on Wednesday night that’s set to pierce the state tax cap. 

The 2022 annual budget, with total appropriations set at approximately $52.27 million, represents an approximate $3 million increase from 2021. The 2.22% tax levy increase is just over the state’s 2% tax levy limit. 

“The Town of Southold has made significant efforts to reduce spending in an effort to avoid piercing the tax levy limit; however, in order to account for the increase in costs to provide town services and fund town operations for 2022, while at the same time maintaining the Town’s high credit rating and general fund reserves, will likely require adoption of a budget in excess of the tax levy limit,” Town Board member Bob Ghosio said at a regular town meeting Wednesday night, reading from the newly passed local law. 

Total appropriations for next year have increased from an early October work session, where Town Supervisor Scott Russell outlined total appropriations at just under $52 million. At a more recent work session, the town board discussed ways to slim down the budget before bringing it to public hearing.

The newly passed budget also projects a 2.69% tax rate increase for 2022. Mr. Russell explained at a public hearing — the town held two on Wednesday — that the tax levy and tax rate are different calculations and may not match.

“Basically, think of [the tax levy] as a dollar to dollar spending from year one to year two. It’s a calculation based on the amount of dollars you’re spending,” he said. “The tax rate is different in that [it] can be influenced by a lot of things, not just the amount of money that you’re spending or the increase of your spending.”

Mr. Russell said the budget is “pretty comprehensive” and should cover town needs throughout next year. 

“Given the current climate of COVID, I don’t think the economic landscape is going to change anytime soon. That makes it all the more remarkable that we produced a budget that kept the tax rate as low as we did,” he said.