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Town Gets Grant To Consolidate Government

brookhaven town hall south shore pressBrookhaven Town officials are in receipt of a $50,000 grant under an initiative by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of State issued by the State in their efforts to consolidate government.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine explained in a recent phone interview that the state devised the initiative for governments to consolidate, and touted that Brookhaven “is the only downstate community, and only town (in the state) to receive the grant that now puts us in the running” to receive a much larger grant.

The larger piece of funding is $20 million for which Brookhaven and upstate communities who received the first smaller grant will compete. “If we are successful in our proposal to consolidate, we will receive more details at the end of June,” the supervisor explained.

“What we’re doing now is using the $50,000 to propose a ‘Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan’ where we are exploring reducing the size and cost of government as well as sharing and consolidation,” Romaine explained. To be considered to qualify for the larger piece of funding, Romaine said the town is developing a multi-pronged approach with an overview of each project with a collaborative, long-term vision of shared services.

Some of the specifics which will be included in the town’s ‘Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan’ include the recent vote by village residents to dissolve the Village of Mastic Beach which will return the village under the umbrella of the town. “This,” Romaine said, “will save taxpayers money.” The supervisor did not have specific savings estimates at press time. The consolidation plan also includes consolidating five water districts. Romaine explained: “We have six water districts which we are looking to consolidate and turn over to Suffolk County Water Authority to help reduce costs.” The plan also proposes to turn Sewer Districts 1 and 2 over to Suffolk County DPW (Department of Public Works). A fourth component to the multi-pronged plan takes into account combining the six erosion control districts on Fire Island into one district.

Shared service is another component which Romaine asserts will save the town, and ultimately its residents, money. Romaine said the town has eight villages which would enter into a shared services agreement such as purchasing and IT (Information Technology).

The town’s consolidation initiatives could include garbage collection and recyclables with villages and other municipalities within Suffolk County.

As town officials prepare its ‘Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan’ for submission to the state in hopes of receiving a multi-million dollar grant, Romaine anticipates that Brookhaven would be an example and set the standard of creating savings in keeping property taxes low or even reducing the town portion of residents’ tax bills. “The $50,000 grant,” Romaine said, “is for us to work to see whether Suffolk County, Suffolk County Water Authority, and any of the eight villages want to cooperate with us, and we want to see what’s financially beneficial and also, if we can gain financial advantages and how legally to approach this plan. We do not want to go into this blindly.”

The ultimate outcome, the supervisor underscored, is to reduce or lower property taxes, to modernize and reduce the number of local governments and to achieve a more efficient structure to provide local government services, while creating an innovative structure for shared services for cost effectiveness. Romaine emphasized that no positions will be eliminated as a result of the plan. “There will not be a reduction of positions. Any positions that are reduced will be through attrition,” Romaine said.

Story by Barbara LaMonica

 

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