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Babylon budget would hike taxes

Babylon Town Hall, as seen on Dec. 14,

Babylon Town Hall, as seen on Dec. 14, 2011, at 200 East Sunrise Hwy. in Lindenhurst. Credit: Carl Corry

The Town of Babylon's tentative 2013 budget calls for a tax increase but no cuts to services.

The budget proposal unveiled Monday decreases 6 percent from $137.2 million in 2012 to $128.6 million. Taxes would rise 1.7 percent, staying within the state's tax cap, Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer said.

The average homeowner in the town's three villages would have an increase of $32 to $42 while those outside the villages would see a $50 to $65 increase next year, Schaffer said.

The three most influential factors in crafting the budget were the continuing decrease in mortgage taxes and the continuing increase in health care and pension costs, Schaffer said.

The town saved $235,000 by not filling vacancies of those who left for positions with the last supervisor, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, thereby avoiding cuts to areas such as youth and senior programs, he said. "It's a . . . budget that keeps in place services residents deserve while at the same time paying all of our obligations in a very sound financial way," Schaffer said.

The proposed budget raises the general, part-town and street lighting funds while freezing the highway and residential garbage funds. The commercial garbage fund was slashed by $2.3 million, allowing a $100 base fee reduction for commercial property owners, and a $50 per unit cut for condos, co-ops and apartments.

Schaffer, a Democrat, said the decrease is due to the town making its last payment on $190.3 million in bonds and debt service. That money was used to close and cap the town's landfill and build its ashfills, he said.

Schaffer acknowledged the town's new residential garbage contract -- which cuts the monthly cost for trash collection from $27.13 per household to $13.40 -- has led to some expectation of a reduction in that tax.

The town is being cautious, he said, because it has to cap and close ashfills over the next four years. "Going forward, we still have capital costs, and we don't want to do any more borrowing," Schaffer said, noting the town's top-tier credit ratings.

Tony Pancella, chairman of the Babylon Town Republican Party, said he hasn't looked at the budget, but added, "Babylon is a blue-collar town and any tax increase is a difficult pill to swallow."

The town has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed budget on Nov. 8 at 3:30 p.m. The town board is expected to vote on the budget Nov. 15.

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