The Town of Babylon is slashing the budget for a home retrofit program once touted as a model for energy-efficiency initiatives nationwide, citing declining interest from residents.
The Long Island Green Homes program has helped nearly 1,800 Babylon households lower their energy consumption and utility bills since its inception in 2008, according to its director, Doug Jacob. The program is expected to see its funding cut from $1,500,000 in 2017 to $500,000 in 2018, budget documents show.
With that money, the town pays contractors to insulate attics, replace boilers and carry out other eco-friendly improvements in Babylon households, according to the program website. Residents then pay the town back in monthly installments lower than the savings they reap on energy costs thanks to the upgrades.
Jacob said around 300 households once participated in the program annually, drawn by the promise of 20 to 40 percent reductions in their monthly utility bills and carbon footprints.
This year, however, only 100 Babylon households will have retrofits, Jacob estimated, following a trend in recent years of declining participation. Jacob attributed the decline in part to falling natural gas prices, which has reduced the potential savings offered by the program. Tony Martinez, the town’s deputy supervisor, also cited competition from similar initiatives on Long Island, such as a program administered by Molloy College that’s also called Long Island Green Homes.
“Since we’re not servicing as many people as we were before, we can’t have all this money available in this specific program,” Martinez said. “If there’s more interest in this program, we will increase the program funding.”
Martinez said the budget cut is not related to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s scrutiny of Jacob’s work for Babylon — in particular his role as the town’s municipal finance adviser — in connection with an ongoing investigation.
Steven Wolski, who had his North Babylon home retrofitted through the program around 2012, expressed ambivalence about its decline.
“It was a little pricier than I thought,” Wolski, 65, said of the upgrades. “I thought I would see more of a significant decrease in bills.”
But he still thinks the initiative is valuable.
“If they’re making a cleaner environment for everybody, I’m all for it,” he said.
Peter Maniscalco, a longtime environmental activist who lives outside the town, called on Babylon to redouble its efforts to attract participants.
“It’s a major problem,” Maniscalco, 76, of Manorville, said of household energy waste. Home retrofits are “something an individual can do to save fossil fuels . . . which will limit the effect of climate change on our children and grandchildren.”
Martinez said Babylon does not intend to end the program entirely and that residents are still welcome to apply via the program’s website, ligreenhomes.com.
Tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually by average households in:
North Babylon: 55.9
West Babylon: 54.8
Deer Park: 54.3