Villages, school districts and other taxing entities in Brookhaven Town could see more than $60 million in total savings over the next five years from a state-funded government consolidation effort, a town consultant said Wednesday.
Officials from at least 40 villages and special districts met for the first time at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville at a "Council of Governments" meeting to launch the town's plan to cut municipal spending by combining and sharing services, such as tax collection and equipment purchases.
Brookhaven officials set up kiosks to pitch town services such as information technology and road paving that could help smaller governments provide those services at reduced cost. The town won a $20 million state grant earlier this year that will reimburse some costs associated with consolidation efforts.
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine compared consolidation to a barn raising, at which neighbors work together for the community's benefit.
"This is not for my budget," Romaine said at the start of the meeting. "It's for all of our budgets, to see how we can do things more efficiently.
"People say we have all these jurisdictions. This is one way we can reach across jurisdictions and see how we can do things together."
Under the Brookhaven plan, villages and school, library, fire and ambulance districts could tap into town services to provide or enhance property assessments, security, snow removal, records management, purchasing and other programs.
Ben Syden, an Albany-based consultant hired by the town to draft and implement the consolidation plan, said Brookhaven and the smaller governments and districts could see savings of about $61 million over five years. That could cut taxes about 2 percent, he said.
Syden, a Port Jefferson Station native, said the Brookhaven program was the largest municipal consolidation plan in the state. "People may have thought this was a pipe dream," he said. "This is our new reality."
Many efforts, such as building truck-washing facilities in Yaphank and Coram that could be used to clean school buses, ambulances and other vehicles, are in the planning stages, officials said.
Some parts of the consolidation plan, such as disbanding the Village of Mastic Beach, have been completed or are well underway. The town has closed 13 inactive special districts and is in the process of shifting some water districts to the Suffolk County Water Authority and combining erosion districts.
The town Highway Department also works with villages to purchase paving supplies. Shoreham Mayor Brian Vail said that helped his small North Shore village cut paving costs by about $200,000, or 20 percent.
The town is working with the villages of Belle Terre, Bellport, Port Jefferson and Shoreham to provide property assessment services, officials said.
Brookhaven also has embarked on an $18 million project to replace streetlights throughout town with LED bulbs. The town would be reimbursed about $4.9 million by the state for that project.