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Brookhaven chief: Town must find ways to save $19M

Brookhaven Town must save $19 million this year or risk going broke in 2012, Supervisor Mark Lesko said in Tuesday's "State of the Town" address.

Lesko titled the speech "Pursuing Our Limitless Potential," but painted a grim financial picture for Suffolk County's largest township, where declining mortgage tax and landfill revenue led officials to use more than $23 million in town reserves to balance this year's budget. The town will go into deficit by 2012 if it relies that heavily on reserves in the next two budget years, he said.

"If the economy doesn't improve and revenues don't pick up . . . we may not have enough money to operate the general fund in 2012," Lesko said. "So we have to act now."

Speaking to about 500 people at Town Hall, Lesko outlined a host of initiatives:

Working with the town workers' union to "creatively save money." Asked if layoffs were possible, Lesko said, "We're discussing everything." Attempts to reach union officials were not successful.

Increasing revenue at the town landfill, which Lesko said will be run "like a competitive business."

Working with Cablevision to restructure the payment schedule of the town's $6.5-million annual franchise fee. A spokesman for Cablevision, which owns Newsday, confirmed ongoing contract renewal discussions and declined to comment further.

Implementing a townwide efficiency task force, led by tax receiver Lou Marcoccia, to generate new revenue streams and cut spending.

Delaying some capital building projects.

Some initiatives are under way, Lesko said. Saving $19 million this year will likely keep the town's surplus above one-fifth of its general fund budget in 2011, which will protect the town's bond rating, he said. "I'm worried about our future and I pledge to you that I will not allow us to mortgage our future for short-term gain."

In his address, Lesko also promised the town will pursue open-space acquisitions, work to clean the Forge River and break ground on a new skatepark next to the Mastic Pool, a project championed by former town councilman Keith Romaine, who died last year.

Mostly silent, the crowd broke into cheers when Lesko pledged to "fight every day to keep all eight of our train stations open, regardless of what the MTA says," a reference to planned East End service cuts.

Several union workers criticized Lesko's call for budget cuts. Some held signs - one read, "Less public servants = less public service," chiding the supervisor for appointing several new high-ranking town officials earlier this month.

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