Brookhaven presents $312.9 million 2020 budget

Brookhaven presents $312.9 million 2020 budget

Ed Romaine. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is proposing a $312.9 million budget that Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called “a taxpayer’s budget.” The proposed budget is a near $10 million increase from last year’s $302 million, but officials say there will only be a minor increase in taxes.

In a budget media briefing meeting Sept. 30, officials said there will be a small increase to property taxes, but are looking to end deficit spending, reduce debt and restore surpluses. The 2020 tentative operating budget of $312,868,413 is not set to dip into the town’s fund balance, essentially its rainy day bank, for the second year in a row. The new budget stays at the 2 percent state tax levy cap.

In 2019, the town did not appropriate any use of its fund balances, effectively the rainy day funds in case of need for emergency spending. This is compared to nearly 10 years ago during the Great Recession where the town was using approximately $28.5 million in fund balance to balance the budget.

The town is also looking to decrease debt, with new capital projects coming in at $43.9 million, which is $14.6 million less than 2019. With the budget, the town is looking to eliminate the current $15.8 million pension debt and eliminate the $30.1 million in “pipeline“ debt, or the extra money left over from the close of bonded projects, either unused or unappropriated.

“It’s move it or lose it for pipeline debt,”

– Ed Romaine

The new operating budget also sets aside $1.6 million additional funds in the post-closure landfill reserve. The town’s landfill is set to close by 2024.

The 2020 tentative capital budget sets up public improvement projects established via bonds and reserves. This includes $26.4 million for the Highway Department comprising road repairs, drainage, traffic safety, facilities and machinery/equipment. This is in addition to a $5 million increase for road resurfacing in the operating budget from $10 to $d15 million.

“That’s part of the supervisor’s commitment to spend $15 million a year in road resurfacing,” said Matt Miner, town chief of operations. “This is the first year that will be going into effect.”

Those funds do not include funding from New York State, especially the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program — known as CHIPS — from the state Department of Transportation, worth on average about $4.5 million to the town, according to officials.

“The Highway Department will have sufficient funding, far in excess of what they’ve had in the past years,” Romaine said.

In attempts to reduce debt in a faster manner, the town has looked toward 12-year loans instead of 20-year loans. Brookhaven officials hope to reduce overall debt to $20 million by 2021 from $600 million at the end of 2018.

Despite a complete restructuring of the town’s garbage and recycling apparatus, the annual cost for garbage pickup will remain flat at $350 for a single home, with each home on average getting around 171 pickups per year.

Romaine said the town has looked to reduce the amount of revenues gained through property taxes. Currently property tax makes up 53.3 percent of the 2020 tentative budget.

Commissioner of Finance Tamara Branson said the town has looked to focus on getting grants instead of spending through capital expenditure involving tax-raising initiatives.

“We have 50 grant projects that are public improvement projects,” she said, adding that the town has received grant funds of $63.2 million. 

Elected officials will also see a small raise in annual pay. Council members will receive a $1,446 increase to $73,762, while the supervisor will be bumped by $2,398 to $122,273. The highway superintendent at $121,515, town clerk and tax receiver will each receive around $2,000 in increases. Elected officials have been seeing an approximate $2,000 increase in pay for the past few years.

The new budget went before the Town Board for preliminary adoption Oct. 3. A public hearing on the budget will take place Nov. 7, but town finance officials said they don’t expect the budget to change much between then and now. The full budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

 

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