New York State awarded East Hampton Township $536,425 to help pay for “re-engineering” of its local government.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson announced on Wednesday that the Town received the funds from the State of New York Department of State in recognition of the municipal restructuring plan he and his administration designed, developed and implemented. This restructuring addressed the $27 million deficit created by the previous administration and, at the same time, significantly reduced property taxes for all residents of the Town.
According to Wilkinson’s office, the State’s ongoing program, called the Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program, awards grants based on the merit of actions taken by various governmental entities who apply for recognition. The Town of East Hampton applied for an award based on its efforts in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to re-engineer Town government and solve the financial crisis created by the previous administration. Actions such as staff reduction through attrition, reorganization and consolidation; tax rate and levy decreases; selected program reductions; and the establishment of various internal control procedures designed to prevent future problems were presented to the State for consideration.
The result is East Hampton Town being only one of two entities recognized for an award on Long Island—and the only government in Suffolk County. There were only 13 projects that received awards statewide and Wilkinson’s office reports that the $536,425 awarded to East Hampton is the most it could receive based on the per capita figures used to calculate the grant amount.
“This award objectively evaluated our recovery plan that included implementing zero based budgeting, prudent deficit financing, reduction in staff through attrition and incentive retirements, consolidating operations and streamlining functions, improving operational efficiencies, eliminating and/or reducing select municipal programs, introducing personal accountability and sale of surplus assets,” Supervisor Wilkinson said in a statement.
New York State Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dierdre Scozzafava added, “These projects are producing annual savings to taxpayers…The work being done by our local government partners shows the level of commitment these local leaders have to reducing expenses while maintaining the quality of services they provide. We anticipate other local governments will view these projects as examples of some of the options available to reduce their expenses.”
Mr. Wilkinson pointed out that the Town continues to provide all essential services. He added that the Town has reduced spending and tax rates, and in spite of adding new capital spending of $15 million through 2015, the Town’s actual indebtedness will be reduced from the $146 million of the previous administration to $99 million.
The Supervisor went on to say, “It is especially gratifying to get such recognition from the Bureau of Fiscal Management, Department of State. Although some thought our actions were worthy of criticism, those financial strategies and tactics righted a sinking ship and looked to rebuilding the financial credibility of the Town of East Hampton. It was a team effort and it demonstrated the possibilities of a competent and focused approach.”
Award proceeds will be used to introduce “state of the art” concepts in floor plan and work space design in the renovation of the Old Town Hall. “Our workforce is mobile and oftentimes share responsibilities. The new work environment should recognize these collaborations. Shared space, open flooring and technology advanced work atmospheres should be pursued. This award goes a long way toward the design of such an environment,” Wilkinson concluded.