• Story and photo by Barbara LaMonica
Calling it “The Taxpayers’ Budget,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine unveiled his proposed town-wide spending plan for 2017. During a Reporter Roundtable on Friday, Romaine mapped out the town’s total $281,815,795 fiscal plan that complies with the 0.68% New York State Tax Cap, as well as the town’s Tax Rate and Spending caps, Debt Management Policy, and Fund Balance Policy. There will be a reduction of full-time staffing by 13 positions (866 in 2017 in contrast to 879 in 2016), which Romaine said will be achieved through attrition. “In the four years since I’ve been here, no jobs have been cut – positions have been eliminated through attrition),” Romaine said in his effort to create less government. Romaine said the budget calls for no employee layoffs or a reduction in staff. Romaine’s 2017 Budget proposes to lower town wide spending, (excluding unfixed costs of employee compensation and benefits by $1.6 million, or 1.04%). Romaine said the total increase in the 2017 proposed Budget for Employee Compensation and Benefits is $3.4 million, or 2.8% taking into account the net reduction in the current full time staff of 13 positions achieved through retirements and natural attrition.
Noting Brookhaven’s AAA Bond Rating by Standard & Poors’ Global Rating agency, Romaine underscored: “This AAA Bond Rating is the highest bond rating that can be attained by any town or any municipality.” An excerpt from the Standard & Poors Report cites Brookhaven Town’s: “very strong management . . . (with) financial practices that are strong, well embedded, and likely sustainable.”Crediting the efforts of his administration and working alongside Brookhaven’s Finance Commissioner Tamara Wright and Chief of Operations Matt Miner, Romaine said the AAA Rating was attained “through the hard work and diligent attention to detail . . . this budget continues the effort to put Brookhaven’s fiscal house in order, despite the challenge of an unprecedented low New York State Tax Cap of 0.68%.”
Commissioner Wright noted that “80% of the town’s long-term debt will be paid off in less than 10 years.” This, Romaine said, will save taxpaying residents and businesses money as officials institute some long-range budgeting practices.
Included in the long-range budgeting are reserves for the Brookhaven Town Landfill whose shelf life Miner projects will plateau in eight to 10 years. “We cap the landfill as we go, where 65% of the landfill has been capped,” Miner explained. With $53 million in gross revenues taken in by the landfill annually, the town realizes an estimated $30 million net each year. Town officials say they are preparing now for this future revenue stream. Noting that Brookhaven’s is the last operating landfill on Long Island, Romaine detailed components of the landfill’s reserve stating that $1 million will be added in 2017 to the current $4.6 million reserve fund. “We’re trying to budget now and create reserves so we don’t leave future (generations) hanging high and dry,” Romaine said. Costs will cover such expenses and defray costs of post-capping, monitoring and mitigation. Wright said the town is developing 10-year models to navigate through
In continuing along the path of long-range budgeting, Romaine reported that $21 million is appropriated for the Highway Department’s Capital projects. For the Town Highway’s road maintenance, $58.9 million is reserved for road maintenance town-wide, excluding villages. Snow removal reserves are also accounted for in anticipation of what Romaine calls “extra heavy winters.” The Snow Removal budget in the Part Town Highway Fund increases in 2017 to $5.9 million (an additional $252,000 increase over the 2016 Adopted Budget, or just over 4%). Romaine explained monies not utilized from the reserve will be rolled over for ensuing years for the purpose of snow removal.
While mortgage receipts have been illustrating a slight downward tick since 2007, statistics illustrate an estimated ratcheting up from 2015 to 2016 of just over $2 million, with another $500,000 estimated for 2017. Brookhaven Town Deputy Supervisor and Sixth District Councilman Dan Panico reported that a number of residential and commercial construction projects are in the pipeline or already underway including AVR and 400 acres at Parr Meadows, the Vineyards at Blue Point, the Ronkonkoma Hub, the Vineyards at Center Moriches, Setauket Meadows, an assisted living facility in Holtsville, and a 55-acre project in North Bellport in addition to numerous others town-wide. Romaine noted that the town is taking into consideration a project to redevelop the Dowling Properties along William Floyd Parkway. “As the real estate industry improves, we will do well,” Romaine said.
A host of new capital projects are on tap for the town totaling $46.3 million and include $21.3 million for roads, drainage, traffic safety, facilities, machinery and equipment; $10.1 million to address environmental issues at Lily Lake and Mount Sinai jetties; $5.4 million in landfill infrastructure improvements; $4.4 million for park and recreation facilities and equipment; $2.8 million for open space preservation and land acquisition; $1.4 million for vehicles and security and another$850,000 appropriated for street lighting improvements. “This capital budget continues my commitment to fund critical public improvements projects to provide constituent services, minimize future costs and enhance revenue growth,” Romaine said. “It is of the utmost importance to me as the town’s Chief Fiscal Officer that our AAA credit rating be maintained, which has made the development of the 2017 (proposed) Budget difficult, given the state’s property tax cap in fiscal year 2017 is at an unprecedented low.”
The public hearing for the proposed 2017 Budget is scheduled for November 10 at 5:00 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville.