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Smithtown board OKs $101M 2016 budget that avoids layoffs

Smithtown Town Hall is seen in an undated

Smithtown Town Hall is seen in an undated photo. Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Smithtown board members have unanimously approved the town's proposed $101 million operating budget for 2016, which maintains a modest tax increase, cuts spending by roughly $3.5 million and includes no layoffs.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the lack of amendments was "an affirmation that it's a pretty good budget." It passed on a 5-0 vote.

The average home assessed at $5,500 will pay $1,271.25 in annual taxes, an increase of $18.01, town officials have said. The town's tax levy is $55.49 million, slightly above this year's $55.04 million levy.

Town officials could have appropriated another $500,000 and still stayed within the state's mandated tax cap.

The budget approval came as Smithtown received an Aa1 rating -- the second highest -- from Moody's Investors Service on $5.8 million in public improvement serial bonds and on $19.6 million of outstanding general obligation debt. The report, released last month, showed the town has healthy reserves, an affluent tax base and a manageable debt and pension burden.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said Thursday he voted for the budget because "it kept services high and kept our debt level low," and was below the tax cap. Councilman Edward Wehrheim said the budget calls for a hiring freeze through 2016, except for vital jobs. "Department heads have agreed that there will be no service cuts to the public," he said. "We felt that it was a good budget."

The town animal shelter was a bone of contention at an Oct. 22 budget hearing. Diane Madden of East Meadow, who resigned from the Smithtown Animal Shelter Advisory Council with two others in September, cited concerns over allocating money for a full-time behaviorist who would train animals and establish programs.

Shelter director Susan Hansen said a budget line item for professional services was increased from about $4,500 to $55,000, "which could be potentially used for a behaviorist trainer."

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