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Brookhaven unveils its 2017 town budget with slight tax rise

Brookhaven Town Hall is pictured in an undated

Brookhaven Town Hall is pictured in an undated photo. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Brookhaven officials have proposed a 2017 town budget that would raise taxes on the average home by less than $5 next year.

The $281.8 million budget includes no new spending initiatives and trims the town payroll by not filling 13 jobs, town officials said.

The budget, if approved by the town board, would raise the town tax levy by about 0.68 percent, or the equivalent of the state tax cap.

Taxes on the average home assessed at $2,750 would go up by about 0.44 percent, or $4.72, town officials said. The tax increase is less than the tax levy increase because property values have risen slightly this year, officials said.

“This is a taxpayers’ budget,” Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said to reporters on Friday during a news conference at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville. “There’s no gimmicks, there’s no phantom revenues. ... Whatever we can do to save money for the taxpayer, we’ve done.”

The budget contains no layoffs, and no town services will be cut, town officials said.

Romaine and other officials said crafting the budget was difficult because they had to adhere to state-mandated pension costs and a 9 percent increase in employee insurance premiums while complying with the tax cap. Unionized town employees also are due a 1.5 percent raise next year.

Town Budget Commissioner Tamara Wright told town board members Thursday that next year’s budget was “the most difficult I have worked with.”

“The most challenging thing is we have fixed expenses we have to do and mandated expenses that we have to do that exceed the tax cap,” Romaine said.

To cut costs, town officials decided not to fill 13 vacant positions, including 10 management posts, Romaine said. That brought the town’s staff next year down to 866 from the current 879.

The budget for snow removal is going up by 4.9 percent, to $5.9 million, in the wake of several winters that produced devastating snowstorms. The town has created a snow reserve fund to set aside money for future storms, officials said.

Officials expect mortgage tax revenue to go up by $500,000, to $12 million.

The town also has proposed a five-year capital plan, including $46.3 million worth of new projects. The new projects include:

$21.3 million for roads, drainage, traffic safety and other highway improvements;

$10.1 million for environmental improvements, including new jetties in Mount Sinai and dredging of Lower Lake in Yaphank;

$5.4 million for landfill upgrades;

$4.4 million for parks and recreation;

$2.8 million for open space preservation and land acquisition;

$1.4 million for town vehicles and facility improvements;

$850,000 for street lighting.

Public hearings on the budgets will be held at 5 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Town Hall.

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