Funding would increase for snow removal, environment
By Giselle Barkley & Elana Glowatz
Brookhaven Town won’t ask for more money from residents next year, according to Supervisor Ed Romaine’s 2016 budget proposal.
Romaine (R) revealed his nearly $281 million budget plan at a meeting on Oct. 1, touting its benefits of complying with the state-imposed limit on property tax increases and putting more funding toward snow removal as the winter season approaches.
Crafting the budget was a challenge given the tight limit on how much the property tax levy could increase, according to Romaine — the state’s limit was 0.73 percent this year. Despite that, “I support the tax cap because I understand what the tax burden is on the taxpayers of this town,” Romaine said during a meeting with the press last week. “I’m trying to do my best to limit that tax burden while providing needed services and that’s crucial, and our five-year plan reflects that.”
According to the budget proposal, the town’s property tax levy will not see a net increase in 2016, holding taxes steady for many residents. Romaine was able to maintain the levy because of the amount of money the town will save from satisfying debts. Some of the money that would have gone toward those debt payments was used instead to fund increases in other budget lines. When money from the town’s debt reserve fund is excluded, the budget proposal actually reduces overall spending more than $800,000.
“That’s come from careful management of capital projects and the elimination of pipeline debt,” Finance Commissioner Tamara Wright said during the meeting.
Just as there were cuts in the budget, there were also additions. Romaine proposed bringing the highway department’s snow removal budget up to $5.2 million — a budget line the supervisor and the town board have been adding to since the massive February 2013 storm, frequently dubbed Nemo, that buried Long Island under three feet of dense snow. That removal budget has doubled in the last few years.
“I hope that someday we will have a less snowy winter,” Romaine said.
Town officials hope any leftover snow removal money will be deposited into a reserve account, to be used in an emergency winter weather situation.
The supervisor’s proposal also increases spending on environmental protection and funding for public safety staff, code enforcement and internal auditors, among others.
Romaine’s proposed capital budget totals $62.2 million, a reduction of about 2.4 percent from the current year. The capital funds will go toward local projects like long-awaited athletic fields in Selden and road and drainage improvements.