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Brookhaven Town sticks with the tax cap in $280.9 million budget for 2016

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine speaks in Yaphank

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine speaks in Yaphank on Thursday, June 25, 2015. Credit: Kristy Leibowitz

Brookhaven Town officials Thursday released a proposed $280.9 million 2016 budget that would adhere to the state property tax cap while increasing spending by about 0.43 percent.

The average homeowner next year would pay $1,051.12 in town property taxes -- $8 less than this year, town officials said. But some homeowners will pay higher taxes next year due to increased tax rates caused by lowered property evaluations, officials said.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the budget maintains all current services. He said officials did not postpone projects to stay under the cap. "We know what the reality of the situation is. We understand our limitations," he told reporters. "We've reduced our debt, we've controlled our expenses, we've lived within the tax cap, and no one has said, 'Ouch.' "

Romaine said he expected the town board to vote on budget adoption at its Nov. 19 meeting.

Romaine told reporters the 0.73 percent tax cap presented a challenge as town officials crafted the 2016 budget. Towns such as Huntington and Babylon have delayed hiring and construction projects because of the tax cap.

The Brookhaven budget projects a net increase of nine town employees -- from 870 to 879. Town staffing had been 1,069 as recently as 2008.

Romaine said he planned to hire code enforcement officers, town attorneys, auditors, assessors, building inspectors and investigators to enforce quality-of-life issues for residents. Money for those hires would come mainly from more than $1 million in savings accrued this year by paying off loans to fund retirement pensions.

Romaine said the town has shifted money "into departments that we think need more attention." Spending to protect the environment would be increased by 20 percent, he said.

Increases in town revenue such as landfill tipping and recycling fees are expected to increase revenue by about $3.6 million. But mortgage tax receipts, once a major source of income, are expected to drop by $600,000, to $10 million.

The town plans to increase spending for snow removal by more than 25 percent, from about $4 million this year to $5.2 million in 2016. Romaine said the increase is intended to avoid charging taxpayers a "snow note" on tax bills to cover cost overruns.

Town officials also released a $62.2 million capital budget that would reduce spending by about $1.5 million. Nearly half of that budget, or $26.5 million, would be for projects to expand town landfill capacity in Brookhaven hamlet. The capital budget also includes $23.3 million for road improvement projects, $7.3 million for parks and $6.8 million for open space preservation and land acquisition.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the percentage that spending would increase in the proposed 2016 Brookhaven Town budget.

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