Attempts to change Brookhaven budget fail

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville. Photo Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis, 2008

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Numerous attempts to change the proposed Brookhaven budget for 2013 failed at Thursday's board meeting, underscoring the town board's gridlock.

Hundreds of people showed up to protest the $247 million budget's proposed 150 layoffs and elimination of some town services. And many criticized the board's impasse -- most of the dozens of resolutions that offered to restore jobs failed.

"It's depressing, knowing that the facts and the better interest of the people don't outweigh the lack of bipartisanship," said town resident Daniel Walsh.

The six-member board has two Democrats, a Conservative and three Republicans, though Republican Deputy Supervisor Kathy Walsh frequently votes with the Democratic bloc. A seventh member, Republican Supervisor-elect Ed Romaine, will be sworn in Nov. 26.

Buildings permit examiner Sherri Hillenberg said she thinks she's going to lose her job under the proposed budget. "I just bought a house last year," Hillenberg said. "Unemployment won't make my mortgage payments."

Democratic Councilwoman Connie Kepert also criticized the proposed budget's layoffs as "not fiscally responsible."

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"We cannot balance the budget by slashing services," she said during the meeting, and pointed out that most other towns have proposed raising taxes.

Walsh and Kepert sponsored most of the job-saving resolutions, which the GOP bloc rejected.

Brookhaven's budget, which was drafted by former Democratic supervisor Mark Lesko, freezes the tax rate. A one-time "snow note" of $6 million because of lower-than-expected snow-removal costs last winter is being used to reduce tax bills. Some residents have argued to use the $6 million to save jobs.

But Republican Councilman Dan Panico said the town has no way to predict costs for this winter. "We don't even know what our Sandy costs are," he said, referring to damage from the superstorm that ravaged parts of Brookhaven.

After the meeting, Councilwoman Walsh -- whose husband, Bill Walsh, head of the town's blue-collar union, spoke against the layoffs at the meeting -- said she was frustrated by the lack of consensus.

"I'm terribly disappointed because there didn't seem to be any reasoning, and no cooperation on wanting to continue to provide the services," she said.

The town board plans to vote on adopting the budget Tuesday.

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