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Brookhaven plans to dissolve special districts to cut costs

Brookhaven Town announced a new interactive traffic safety

Brookhaven Town announced a new interactive traffic safety website on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven officials plan to dissolve more than a half-dozen obsolete special districts as part of the town’s efforts to cut costs and streamline services.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Tuesday some of the districts, such as the Granny Road and Comsewogue sidewalk districts, are not needed because they no longer collect taxes from residents. Other districts disappeared years ago because of mergers, but were never formally stricken from town records, he said.

Dissolving the districts helps bolster Brookhaven’s bid to win a $20 million grant in the state’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, Romaine said. Brookhaven is one of six municipalities statewide competing for the award.

“Whether we get this $20 million grant or not, we’re committed to doing everything we can to share services and consolidate government,” Romaine said. “I hope Albany is watching. ... We’re serious.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has called on county officials statewide to prepare plans for consolidating county, town and village services to cut property taxes. Referendums on each county’s plans are to be held in November.

Officials have estimated long-term savings for consolidation efforts supported by the state could exceed $600 million.

In Brookhaven, special districts were formed decades ago to collect taxes to pay for trash collection, sidewalk construction or fire and ambulance services.

In addition to the sidewalk districts, town officials plan to close the Selden and Mastic refuse and garbage districts, the Mastic Beach Garbage District, the Brookhaven and Bellport ambulance districts, the East Patchogue Fire Protection District, and the West Setauket Water Supply District.

Shuttering the districts would have no impact on staffing because they had no employees, Romaine said.

Closing the districts will save the town and taxpayers in those districts some money because of reduced costs for paperwork, Romaine said. Even though the districts are inactive, they still appear in town codes and annual budgets, he said.

“It’s not going to save a lot, but it’s going to save some,” he said. “It makes government more efficient. You don’t have all these appendages for no purpose.”

Romaine said some districts effectively ceased to exist decades ago when construction bonds were paid; garbage districts became obsolete about 30 years ago when Brookhaven adopted townwide trash pickup. The Bellport and Brookhaven ambulance districts vanished when they merged and became the South Country Ambulance District.

“What we’re doing is, things that are on the books that really don’t exist or no longer serve any purpose, we’re eliminating,” Romaine said. “By dissolving them, we’re taking the first steps in reducing the size and scope of government.”

The town board is scheduled to vote Thursday on setting dates for public hearings for each of the proposed dissolution plans.

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