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Brookhaven Town seeks to shed $9M in capital projects

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko listens to residents at

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko listens to residents at a town meeting. (Feb. 22, 2010) Photo Credit: John Dunn

Cash-strapped Brookhaven Town may shed more than $9 million in building, parks and other capital projects in an effort to deal with mounting debt, officials said last week.

The town's $68.6-million 2010 capital budget needs to be trimmed because the town's revenues are declining at a time when its debts are rising, Supervisor Mark Lesko said last week.

While mortgage tax and landfill revenue have dried up, Brookhaven projects to spend nearly $30 million in debt service in 2010, up from $24.8 million in 2008, officials said.

"If we don't start making hard decisions, we will end up broke in 2012," Lesko said.

Lou Marcoccia, Brookhaven's receiver of taxes, is working on a list of projects that could be canceled or delayed to save money. The town board could vote on the proposals as soon as Tuesday.

Marcoccia's proposals include cuts in every fund except the highway department. Recommendations include a $300,000 cutback on restoration of historic buildings, a $400,000 trim on ballfield lighting and a $400,000 cut in security systems at Town Hall.

The proposed cuts received a lukewarm response from town board members and officials last week. Parks Commissioner Ed Morris, whose department would suffer $4.2 million in cuts, said he plans to make a counterproposal by Tuesday's meeting.

"It seems that we are cutting back on things people really use and enjoy," newly elected board member Dan Panico said at a work session last week.

But Lesko said too much reliance on debt could jeopardize the town's credit rating.

Brookhaven's debt service is equal to more than 19 percent of the town's general fund budget, while town policy calls for 15 percent, Lesko said.

"All of these projects are worthwhile, but if we don't act now . . . we're going to find ourselves in a very bad position," he said. "This is not pleasant. No one wants to have this discussion."

Officials used more than $23 million in town reserves to balance this year's budget. Lesko said earlier this year that Brookhaven Town must save $19 million in 2010 or risk going broke in 2012.

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