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Brookhaven weighs restructuring agencies

Brookhaven Town will consider restructuring and /or privatizing a host of town departments and public services to help close a gaping budget hole, officials said Thursday.

The town faces a budget gap of $6 million to $10 million in 2013 if it does not take action this year, officials said.

The town could save all or some of that money if it divests some public services and streamlines others, Brian Beedenbender, chief of staff to Supervisor Mark Lesko, said in a presentation to the town board Thursday. He did not indicate how many jobs would likely be eliminated by the moves.

The changes -- which could include privatizing the town's animal shelter and marinas -- would require public requests for proposals and public hearings; but the moves could keep the town solvent, Lesko said.

"Next year's budget is going to be tight," Lesko said. "This could be the only way to maintain those services."

One proposal would transfer services from the town's planning, public safety, waste management, parks, building and fire prevention departments into a new Department of Public Works. That would eliminate two management slots and save $180,000, Beedenbender said.

The town could also save more than $5 million by privatizing such services as the animal shelter, Calabro Airport, Brookhaven Ecology Site, Brookhaven Amphitheater, marinas and transportation for seniors, he said.

Some town board members questioned the proposals Thursday. Connie Kepert asked if the town's planning services would suffer. Kathleen Walsh voiced concerns that the town would lose control over the qualifications of the drivers who transport the elderly. "How do we have oversight?" she asked.

Lesko said the reorganization would be subject to public hearings. The town has already issued a request for proposal for the amphitheater. Requests for proposals for private operators of the other services are pending, Lesko said.

The town's financial woes have been propelled by a dip in mortgage tax revenue and spikes in pension and health care costs. Its financial pace would leave it bankrupt by 2015, Beedenbender said.

"We're trying to show the taxpayers that we're not trying to drive the taxes up," Beedenbender said.

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