Manipulating CPF Funds, But Legally

When Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was asked by Dan’s Papers if Southampton was running out of land to buy with Community Preservation Funds she replied that the opposite was true, saying, “In the Town of Southampton we have identified at least 2,000 additional acres to be preserved. With that in mind, we are currently considering a $125 million bonding plan over the next four years.”

One could guess the idea is to buy the land less expensively in this down market.

The Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund (CPF) was created in 1999 through the efforts of New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, State Senator Ken LaValle, and Kevin McDonald of the Group for the East End.

Since its inception, the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated over $750 million (as of October 2011) and has purchased over 10,000 acres. All proceeds come from a 2% tax of the purchase price of all real estate and building sales over $250,000 in East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island. The tax is 2% over the purchase of $150,000 for a home in Riverhead and Southold. Up to $100,000 and $75,000 for unimproved land is exempt from the real estate transfer fee in these two groups of towns respectively. The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund is only for the five eastern towns Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southold and the C.P.F. expires in 2030.   Based on recent activity, C.P.F. revenues are projected to be in the $55-$60 million range for 2011. Revenues for 2010 totaled $58.78 million.

Assemblyman Thiele stated, “CPF revenues are roughly the same as last year thus far. However, the softening in the national economy seems to also be impacting the C.P.F.. We have seen a decline in the rate of monthly revenues compared with earlier in 2011. CPF revenues averaged $5.25 million the first six months of the year, but only $4.15 for the last four months. Towns should closely monitor this trend.

Only Southampton Town has collected more money in 2011 than 2010.” In last Thursday’s East Hampton Town Board meeting, East Hampton’s Director of Land Acquisitions Scott Wilson was actually proposing to increase the amount of money the Town of East Hampton can legally use from the fund for “administrating the properties,” from just under $400,000 to over $1 million. To do this the town must get New York State Legislature approval. Part of the increase is to fund an endowment by the Town of East Hampton to administer the CPF lands after the CPF transfer tax expires in 2030.

Currently 10% of the C.P.F. money collected annually is used for administration. What is at stake is the administration and cost of maintaining the 10,000 plus acres of land already purchased, i.e. upkeep, roads, trails, fences and other structures.

Assemblyman Thiele released figures below for the CPF reflecting revenues for the first 10 months by Town for 2011 compared with 2010:


2010         2011              % increase

East Hampton   15.01m       10.94m                      -27.1%


Riverhead          1.99m         1.56m                     -21.6%


Shelter Island    1.13m          0.71m                    -37.2%


Southampton     27.27m         32.39m                 +18.8%


Southold              2.90m          2.62m                   -9.6 %


As the figures show, the real estate industry still has a way to go. As for the C.P.F. it will now need to be addressed on its end game in just 18 years. Albany will have to make some tough decisions on how to assist all the towns with maintaining all the acquired acres beyond 2030.

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