The Southampton Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to establish a $25,000 fund that offers local employers rebates for each new job they create, with one councilwoman not sold on the plan.
Councilman Jim Malone, C-Hampton Bays, introduced the resolution establishing the Hiring Incentive Rebate for Employers, or H.I.R.E. fund. He said the resolution was the first component of the plan, which would be worked out over the next year. Malone could not win over Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, who questioned the effectiveness of such a plan, and said spending $25,000 outside town hall after numerous employees and others had earlier in Tuesday's meeting .
Malone envisions that a small panel, including the town comptroller, general services director and deputy supervisor, will begin to hear applications for the cash incentive in October or November 2012. He said he will also seek to offer greater incentives for hiring Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
"As we've see over these past two, three years, the increasing cost of providing health care, increasing cost of fuel, the increasing costs of running a business have just become overwhelming and it's stymied small businesses from reaching out and taking the risk of hiring another individual, especially a full-time individual."
Fleming said she wanted empirical evidence of such a program's effectiveness before voting on it.
"My concern is that earlier this evening, we had a room full of people begging us not to eliminate certain positions, and we're talking about $25,000, which could be more than half of a position that was discussed," Fleming said. "And these are good positions that are at town hall and do provide services and they're loyal employees. So, for me, I haven't heard anywhere near enough about this program and its merits to say this kind of money should be dedicated outside of town hall when we have folks here whose jobs we'd like to save."
But Malone said that compared to half a job, he is reaching toward the creation of 25 private sector jobs. "A budget is a platform of priorities ... and it's a question of putting our efforts in a direction of economic stimulus," he said.
A $1,000 rebate can offset increasing costs, like the MTA payroll tax and health insurance, Malone said. "I think it's a worthwhile investment and its tenfold return." He compared it to town investments in groups that promote Southampton. "This is just one more compenent of the arsenel that we should be presenting to try to push back these economic frustrations."
"It's a message worth making," Malone said.
But Fleming countered, "I'm just not willing to send that message to the good folks who were in the room today."
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I-Sag Harbor, suggested, and Malone embraced, the idea of incentivizing businesses to hire town employees who are laid off. The legislative intent of the bill was unanimously amended to encourage hiring laid off town employees and veterans.
Malone said another parameter for his plan is that the newly created job does not need to be filled by the same employee for the whole year to qualify for the incentive. "I'd hate to think that we would be encouraging a small business to keep an employee on who just wasn't performing," he said.
Malone said the $25,000 would come from the town's fund balance, and not out of money budgeted for salaries. He said he'll also look for grant money in the future, and is hoping to increase the size of the fund to $50,000 in 2013.
According to the resolution's financial impact section, on top of $25,000 being moved from the general fund balance to the H.I.R.E. fund, the 2012 tax levy will increase $25,000.