Smithtown’s shovels are primed for the pavement.
The Town Board green-lighted nearly $17 million in capital projects over the next four years at its last meeting, including things like an animal shelter renovation, LED streetlight retrofittings and marina bulkhead improvements.
Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug pitched the 2015-2019 capital budget proposal earlier this year, which the town approved at the June 18 meeting, setting aside $5.6 million in projects this year alone. The comptroller said now was the time to consider such projects and the board responded with a unanimous 4-0 vote.
“Interest rates are at historically low rates and the town is fiscally strong,” Musgnug said when he pitched the plan in his first capital budget discussion since taking the job in February. “Now is the time to borrow, when rates are low, and thankfully we are in a position to do so.”
Musgnug said he expects replacing aging and otherwise deteriorating town equipment would reduce the amount of money set aside in future budgets for repairs and maintenance. In reference to an upcoming $3.1 million streetlight project this year that would bring LED lighting to Smithtown’s streets, Musgnug said the town would offset the costs of future projects in the form of savings.
“Taking advantage of new technology, such as in the case of LED bulbs for streetlights and the municipal solid waste facility, will reduce utility costs [and] repair costs and improve safety,” Musgnug said in his report in May. “Because the town’s finances have been conservatively managed over the years, there is little room to cut operating budgets, making the goal of staying within the New York State tax cap increasingly difficult in light of rising compensation, health care and pension costs.”
Musgnug said the town expected to reduce utility costs and repairs by $350,000 as a result of the streetlight LED retrofit, which will offset the cost of borrowing, which is $270,000 per year. The comptroller also said the town should anticipate equipment purchases and construction in 2016, mostly because of the first phase of Smithtown Animal Shelter renovations as well as upgrades at the town marina, which collectively require about $3.1 million in financing.
“Overall, I think it’s excellent,” Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) said when the proposals were introduced in May. “In past years, we borrowed money and put up capital projects, but they never got done. Let’s make sure someone oversees these.”