Smithtown officials have voted to adopt about $17 million budgeted in capital projects over the next four years, with funding for high-priority items such as LED streetlights and improvements at the animal shelter.
The 2015-19 capital program, adopted in a 4-0 vote -- Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was absent -- at a June 18 town board meeting, allocates $5.6 million in projects for 2015. The largest amount for a single project this year, $3.1 million, is designated for the LED light revamp, which calls for the installation of more than 7,000 streetlights in residential areas.
Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug said equipment and vehicle upgrades are emphasized in the 2015 capital budget, which includes 13 trucks for the highway department and new lighting for the recycling building.
The storm water remediation of Brookside Park and the first phase of the animal shelter's renovation are also slated for this year. Councilwoman Lynne C. Nowick said the $2.5 million budgeted through 2019 for the shelter is a major reason she supported the capital program.
"The shelter is in need of an overhaul," said Nowick, who serves as the board's animal shelter liaison. "We need new cages, an updated home for the animals." Long Beach Marina's $3.5 million rehabilitation is another costly project.
This year, the town spent $30,000 for a needs assessment, and results from the study are pending, Nowick said.
Councilman Robert Creighton said all the capital projects are sorely needed. "This is really the first time in a long time that we have done anything," he said.
There was no capital budget for 2014, according to Vecchio.
The town's conservative borrowing over the years makes now an ideal time to borrow, Musgnug said. Interest rates are low, and past debts are being steadily paid off. At the end of 2014, the town's debt was $14 million, the lowest per capita debt of any municipality on Long Island at $140 per person, Musgnug said. He expects the debt to fall to about $11 million by the end of this year, as loans are paid off and bonds age out.
High bond ratings make it easier to borrow loans, and Smithtown has an AA rating, which is the second-highest rating offered by Moody's Investors Service, Musgnug said. But he warned the board the bond rating could be downgraded.
"Whenever you have deficits, there's always the potential," he said.
New bonds will be issued in the fall, ideally by September, Musgnug said, adding that the town will request a rating then. He said he met with a bond adviser to discuss financing options, and expects to issue about $5 million worth of bonds, $600,000 in grants and $189,000 in operating funds. He will submit final bond resolutions at the July 14 town board meeting.