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Lukewarm support for Brookhaven plan to hike fees, fines

Fees and fines charged by Brookhaven Town - covering everything from building permits and dog licenses to illegal parking - are poised to increase, in some cases skyrocket, for the first time in years.

Some town fees have not gone up for more than 15 years, said tax receiver Lou Marcoccia. Higher fees could net Brookhaven more than $2 million in annual revenue at a time when the town is struggling with decreased mortgage tax receipts, he said.

Marcoccia proposed the fee hikes as chairman of the town's efficiency tax force, which was created to navigate the difficult economy. The new charges would help Brookhaven "really get on par with the other towns" in Suffolk County, he said, noting the average of other towns' fees for services such as building permits is considerably higher than Brookhaven's.

Some of the fee adjustments could be subject to public hearings later this summer, Marcoccia said. The town has not yet made all of the proposed fees public, he said.

One proposal would double the fine for illegal parking in handicapped spaces and fire zones to $260, he said. Another would double the cost of a dog license to $5, according to town records.

But higher fees have divided the town board, which would have to approve any hikes.

Councilman Dan Panico called higher fees "tantamount to backdoor taxes." He said the town should evaluate the cost of its services before it raises any charges.

Councilman Tim Mazzei said the town should look for budget cuts before it adds new taxes.

"If it affects the average resident who pays a lot of taxes here in the Town of Brookhaven, then I'm against that," he said.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld said the only alternative to fees would be to cut services. Deputy Supervisor Kathy Walsh said higher fees would be the only way for the town to avoid a tax increase.

"We really can't ride the gravy train any longer on the mortgage tax and landfill revenue," Walsh said.

Supervisor Mark Lesko said he would support fee increases that are "reasonable" and "reflect the cost of the service." He added that Brookhaven has "fallen behind the other towns" in Suffolk with its fee scale.

Marcoccia also has proposed charging more for use of parks, animal shelter services, assessors fees, landing and tie-down fees at Calabro Airport, and other services. He said he will meet with town board members to see which of the proposals are most likely to pass and to determine the exact fees.

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