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East End Police Get Another Boost in County Funding

Michael Wright
East Hampton Press

South Fork police departments will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding from Suffolk County in 2016, the second year of an agreement with the county to increase the share of sales tax revenues directed to communities that do not rely on County Police for law enforcement coverage.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposed $2.9 billion county budget for 2016, released this week, would direct a total of $1 million in additional sales tax dollars toward the county’s 19 municipalities that have their own police departments providing primary coverage. The County Police are the primary law enforcement agency in much of western Suffolk County.

Most of the money, about $800,000, would go to 10 town and village police departments on the East End. The boost would mean an additional $295,000 annually for Southampton Town Police, about $2.5 million total, and an additional $104,900 annually for East Hampton Town Police, approximately $1 million total, according to County Legislator Jay Schneiderman. Riverhead Town would get an additional $178,900, for $1.5 million total.

In their proposed 2016 budgets, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell have both proposed expanding their respective police forces, at least partially thanks to the additional county funding.

After a summer of daunting enforcement issues, primarily in Montauk, Mr. Cantwell has proposed adding three new police officers to the town’s 62-officer force, as well as an additional code enforcement officer, a fire marshal and new building inspector.

Last year, Southampton Town hired four new officers, and Ms. Throne-Holst has proposed using the additional funding from the county to hire two new Town Police officers, bringing the total to 93. Southampton’s police budget for 2016 is $22.1 million; East Hampton’s is $16.6 million.

The tax revenue-sharing agreement for police, brokered by Mr. Schneiderman in 2014, directs an additional $3 million in annual revenues to the town and village departments over three fiscal years, 2015 to 2017. Another $1 million will be tacked on to the annual appropriation next year for the 2017 fiscal budget. That’s as far as the agreement extends.

The county has traditionally shared the sales tax revenues with local police operating funds, but East End lawmakers have argued for years that the proportion they receive is anemic compared to the portion of the county’s overall sales tax revenues that are generated by the East End—though no breakdown has been made available.

Suffolk County’s sales tax generates some $1.3 billion annually. About $50 million of that went to fund police services in 2015, primarily the Suffolk County Police Department, and $8.5 million of that to the revenue sharing with East End police departments, or about 13.5 percent. The total sales tax revenue dedicated to police funding in Mr. Bellone’s 2016 budget is about $64 million.

Southampton Town receives the largest overall chunk of the $8.5 million in sales tax revenue sharing, followed by Riverhead, Southold and East Hampton towns. Additionally, the 2016 budget would dedicate $146,861 to Shelter Island Town, $91,036 to East Hampton Village, $258,509 to Southampton Village, $102,201 to Westhampton Beach Village, $138,272 to Sag Harbor Village and $58,401 to the Village of Quogue.