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Garbage fees fuel tax hike in Babylon's proposed budget

Babylon Town officials said increased garbage fees over

Babylon Town officials said increased garbage fees over the past few years have paid for capital projects. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Town of Babylon's $167.9 million preliminary 2020 budget would increase taxes $25 annually for the average household in most areas of the town because of an increase in residential garbage taxes.

The budget is an $8.6 million increase over the 2019 adopted budget of $159.3 million. The tax increase applies to non-village residents and Amityville Village residents, all of whom pay for residential garbage pickup and disposal. Residents of Babylon and Lindenhurst villages, who only pay for garbage disposal, will see their taxes increase $12.50, according to town officials.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the increase is strategic after the town began drawing down a large residential garbage fund balance as high as $20 million in 2015.

The residential garbage taxes will be increased from $263.17 to $288.17 for the average household, which Schaffer said is still “the lowest on the Island.”

A public hearing on the budget is expected to be scheduled later in the month.

Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said between 2003 and 2011, the town intentionally collected more in residential garbage taxes than the refuse services cost, increasing its fund balance and paying for capital projects, such as the last ash cell that was built in the town’s Covanta-run landfill facility.

With projects complete, the town in 2012 began charging less for residential garbage taxes than the services cost and began drawing down the fund balance, Bonner said.

“It was artificially low intentionally because that’s the only way you have to use your savings,” Bonner said.

The town’s goal is to get the residential garbage fund balance to around $5.5 million, Bonner said, which it projects will be achieved at the end of 2020.

“This is kind of the last phase of this intentional lowering,” Bonner said.

The $25 garbage tax increase brings the rate back up to cover the cost of the services, he said.

Of the preliminary 2020 budget, Schaffer said beyond the garbage accounting, “all the other funds are in great shape and it’s just minor budgeting back and forth.”

The spending plan continues the town’s policy of retiring more debt in a given year than it takes on. The town is now in its third year of a Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Services.

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