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Smithtown proposed budget includes tiny drop in property taxes

Smithtown has scheduled a public hearing on its proposed $105 million 2018 budget — Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio’s last spending plan.

The budget draft would shave property taxes on a typical home assessed at $5,500 by 0.08 percent, to $1,268.83. Because the total assessed value of property in the town increased slightly from last year, the total revenue to be raised from property taxes would remain the same, roughly $55.5 million, according to town comptroller Donald Musgnug.

The tentative budget would increase payroll by 1.4 percent to about $31 million. That increase would include raises of $8,000 or more for at least four department heads. Musgnug and town attorney Matthew Jakubowski would both receive $13,000 raises, bringing Musgnug’s salary to $120,000 and Jakubowski’s to $143,000, according to the budget document.

Raises help the town “retain qualified staff,” Musgnug said in an interview. “You’re paying for experience, as well.” Musgnug was appointed comptroller in 2015, but served on Huntington’s town board and had decades of private industry experience as an accountant before his Smithtown appointment.

The spending plan also includes a $110,000 salary for an animal shelter director, but it was not clear when or if the town would fill that job. The position has been open since the town board fired former director Sue Hansen in July. The town’s Public Safety Department has operated the shelter since her dismissal.

“The shelter right now seems to be functioning very well under the direction of Public Safety,” Musgnug said, adding that town officials were “looking at alternatives for a long-term solution” for shelter leadership.

As Vecchio vowed earlier this year, the spending plan includes no increase to the highway superintendent’s $110,000 salary. Highway superintendent Robert Murphy had risked Vecchio’s ire by requesting a $40,000 raise. Murphy later said he had made the request as an opening move in what he assumed would be a salary negotiation. Murphy, who is not eligible for overtime, said he was paid less than some of the workers under him. He also said he sometimes works 14- or 15-hour days during storms and is taking on added responsibility for village roads within the town as part of a shared services initiative.

Hospital and medical insurance costs are expected to grow from $14.1 million to $15.2 million. But several cost-saving measures, in place for years, will help the town to absorb the increase, Musgnug said. They include installation of LED streetlights and a lease program for many town vehicles that cuts down on maintenance costs, he said.

The hearing is to be held Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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