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Southeast OKs Budget With 1.93% Tax Levy Increase

By Holly Crocco

The Southeast Town Board passed a budget for next year that increases the tax levy 1.93 percent, which is drastically lower than the 9.33 percent tax levy increase that Supervisor Tony Hay proposed back in September.

Councilman Eric Cyprus explained at a town board meeting last month that the budget still provides for vital town services while coming in about $40,000 below the state-mandated property tax cap.

During the Nov. 9 meeting, the board adopted the budget, with all four councilmen voting yes and Hay abstaining from the vote.

Hay said that all 11 of his prior proposed budgets came in well below the tax cap, but this year he felt that an increase was unavoidable.

“This year with inflation running rampant yet again; several new budgeted employees that will require newly renovated space, the need to equip some of them with vehicles, gas, and all of them with computers, furnishings; salary increases, this year it will be 2.75 percent for over 50-plus employees; double-digit increases for retirement and health insurance benefits, I don’t feel that the town could remain within the tax cap,” he said.

During the Nov. 9 meeting, Hay also proposed the town create a Capital Reserve Fund, which could be used to fund various needs in town, including the creation of a new town hall and town court, with more storage space, as well as improved infrastructure in the Brewster Heights area and along Pugsley Road, among other things.

Hay explained that while the town has already earmarked how it will use $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds it received through the county, there is still another $1.3 million in ARPA fundings coming from the federal government that needs to be spent by the end of 2026.

“Unfortunately COVID had many, many bad things, but there was actually one good thing – it brought more money into this town,” he said. “Crazy money. Very crazy.”

The board will consider the supervisor’s request to create a Capital Reserve Fund to house leftover monies while the town identifies when and how it should be spent.

Cyprus questioned whether the board should move ahead with this action, seeing as new town leadership will take the helm in January. “With three of the five of us leaving in a month, it doesn’t’ feel appropriate to lock up the future town board,” he said.

Also during the Nov. 9 meeting, Councilman Eric Larca asked the board to consider granting approval for the town to spend some money to research the feasibility of developing recreational space along Sunset Ridge.

Several years ago, a large-scale proposal to develop a facility and fields on town-own land on Sunset Ridge, near the Home Depot plaza, was voted down by residents. Now, Larca is seeking the board’s approval to move forward with a preliminary study to determine how much land is available at the site, and usable, as a baseline to start some discussion for a scaled-down proposal.

“It’s such a beautiful piece of property, if you’ve ever been up there,” he said. “The name Sunset Ridge is fitting. I’d just like to see if there’s any way we can use it.”

Larca said he’s looking to get authorization to “spend a little bit of money this year to try to find out what would fit up there, if anything, and what type of site improvements would be required to do that.”

The town also recently announced two new hires to lead the department, with two long-time employees moving to different town positions. Jared Kuczenski, the incoming director, and Chris Heller, who will assume the role of recreation leader, will be taking the reins from Patricia Bohrman and Cathy Chiudina.

“Patti and Cathy have been instrumental in running our recreation department, and we genuinely appreciate their efforts,” said Larca. “As we bid them a fond farewell from their current positions, we are pleased they will continue contributing to the town and assisting with the transition of the rec department.”

Chiudina will be stepping into the position of town clerk, succeeding Michele Stancati, who will continue to contribute to the town in a different capacity. Bohrman will take a position in the building department.

“The town board is committed to investing in the growth of the recreation department, ensuring top-notch opportunities for our residents,” said Larca. “With this new leadership, we anticipate a seamless transition and a continued dedication to the enhancement and quality of recreational activities within our community.”


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