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Capital Projects

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town officials will seek to borrow $7.3 million to tackle a wide variety of projects in the upcoming year.

The board approved bonding out $4.95 million for town projects and $2.55 million for water district improvements at its June 5 meeting. Councilman Gene Cook (R) voted against taking on debt, as he traditionally does each year, arguing the necessary funding should have been incorporated into the town’s 2018 budget.

“We have to be cautious with our money,” Cook said.

“We need to look for alternative sources of revenue in order to make the town move forward.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said seeking bonds for large capital projects and improvements is better for the town’s long-term growth than tapping into its capital reserves.

“There’s certain things you can budget for, but at times there are larger capital projects that will take a longer time and need more money,” Lupinacci said, citing the restricting of the state’s 2 percent property tax levy increase cap. “We need to look for alternative sources of revenue in order to make the town move forward.”

One project that garnered the entire board’s support – including Cook – was bonding for $2.4 million to make roadway improvements throughout the town. These funds will supplement the more than $4.2 million set aside in the town’s 2018 budget for the Highway Department’s contractual services, materials and supplies.

“It has to do with paving the roads and we get a lot of complaints about potholes,” the supervisor said.

The approved funding also includes $1 million for the Greenlawn Water District to purchase and replace old water meters, in addition to $1.55 million for the Dix Hills Water District to make infrastructure improvements at a plant and replace water meters.

The $7.2 million approved for improvements is substantially less than the town had borrowed the last two years. Huntington took on $13.34 million in 2017 and $13.95 million in 2016, under the prior administration.


Projects approved in the $7.3M Bond:
-$75,000 to resurface parking lots
-$100,000 for fencing
-$130,000 for tank and sump improvements
-$175,000 for roof replacement at ice rink
-$175,000 for town building improvements
-$390,000 for drainage equipment
-$750,000 for drainage improvements
-$2.4 million for road improvements
-$560,000 for Huntington Sewer District
– $1 million for Greenlawn Water District
– $1.55 million for Dix Hills Water District

The funding sought by the town could drastically increase if Lupinacci reintroduces a resolution permitting the town to take out $13.5 million in bonds for construction of the James D. Conte Community Center off East 5th Avenue in Huntington Station. The supervisor pulled the measure June 5 before a vote, saying the overall cost of the project had increased and town council members asked for additional time to review the proposed changes.

“I would rather everyone have their questions addressed before it is voted on,” he said.

When plans for the community center were unveiled in November 2017, town officials had estimated renovating the 2,500-square-foot former New York State Armory would come in at approximately $10 million. The town’s 2018 budget already set aside $3.75 million for the project, in addition to a $1.5 million state grant.

Lupinacci said he plans to address funds for the James. D. Conte center at the June 19 town board meeting.

Two resolutions seeking funds for purchase of vehicles and equipment were defeated by a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Cook against. This included a new trackless vehicle at an estimated cost of $130,000, which Lupinacci said he believed would have been used for maintenance of town-owned parks and fields.

Voters will have two propositions on the ballot regarding capital infrastructure projects

Northport High School. File photo

Northport taxpayers will be casting their ballots three times as they head to the polls on the school district’s $166.8 million proposed 2018-19 budget and two propositions.

Northport-East Northport board of education has proposed a $166,810,381 budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, representing a 2.15 percent increase, or $3.5 million more than the current year. In addition, it is asking residents to vote on two propositions regarding capital reserves and improvements to the district’s buildings and facilities.

“I think that not only were we able to maintain our instruction programs and our extracurricular and co-curricular programs,” Superintendent Robert Banzer said. “We were able to move some other initiatives forward. There’s been a lot of talk this year about making sure we are addressing the needs of our students.”


Northport-East Northport school district

$166.8 million 2018-19 proposed budget
2.15 percent year-to-year increase
2.1 percent tax levy increase
$159 annual tax increase for
average Northport homeowner

Under the proposed budget, Banzer said the district would be able to initiate a new alternative high school program for students struggling with the traditional model and expand the district’s co-teaching model across all grade levels. If approved, the district will move forward with its one-to-one Chromebook initiative by providing personal laptops with Google applications to students entering ninth grade as well as purchasing a new piano for its music department. The district hopes to purchase new athletic equipment for student-athletes including lacrosse helmets, treadmills, ellipticals and additional automated external defibrillators.

If approved by voters, the average Northport homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $159 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,800, in which an
assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

Proposition 2

Proposition 2 will ask residents to approve the release of $900,000 from the district’s capital reserve funds for infrastructure upgrades and repair. The list of districtwide projects includes fencing and gate replacement, door replacements, window replacement and heating and air conditioning unit upgrades and enhancements.

Proposition 3

Under Proposition 3, the district seeks to establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund. The board says that the fund is necessary for several critical infrastructural improvements including roof replacements of its buildings, window replacement, bathroom replacement, masonry and concrete work, floor replacement, wall replacement, classroom renovations, library and multimedia center renovations and gym reconstruction among other projects. The district has put forth that a maximum of $20 million will be placed into this fund along with any investment income the account earns for a term of 10 years. If approved by voters, the district would move no more than $1 million from the remaining 2017-18 budget into the fund to get it started and invest no more than $2 million in each of the following school years.

Go Vote 

The polls will be open May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Dickinson Avenue Elementary, Fifth Avenue Elementary and the district’s William J. Brosnan Building.

Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

How to spend taxpayer dollars has been a hot-button issue in Port Jefferson during the current school year, and the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February that killed 17 people has only added more things to think about for residents and school officials alike.

The district is currently working with a $44.9 million budget draft that rolls over all programs and accounts for mandated contractual and benefit increases from the current year. The proposed spending plan for 2018-19 is 3.65 percent higher than the 2017-18 budget. The current draft makes up for the additional costs with a 2.27 percent increase to the tax levy, meaning taxpayers will be supplying about $807,000 of additional revenue next year, with the remaining increase covered by a 1.46 percent estimated increase in state aid. That number won’t be final until April.

Budget highlights
  • Current draft stands at $44,917,348 for total operating budget
  • 3.65 percent increase in 2018-19 compared to current year
  • Additional expenses would be covered with 2.27 percent tax levy increase and 1.46 percent state aid increase
  • All programs rolled over from current year in next year’s budget
  • Expense increase largely due to contractual raises and increasing health insurance costs

District taxpayers voted down a $30 million bond proposal in December, which would have set aside money to address capital projects to upgrade facilities and infrastructure in each of Port Jeff’s school buildings and administrative office spaces over a 15-year span. The proposed capital bond would have allowed for the building of security vestibules in the high school and elementary school, moved high school classes taking place in portables into the main building and created a more strategic location for the middle school main office, among many other projects. Now, district administration is working to address the most pressing projects within the annual budget and using reserves.

A little more than $800,000 has been allocated toward the district’s capital reserves, and administration is seeking community input to help decide what projects should be addressed with the money if the budget passes, because voters must approve specific uses for capital reserve dollars. Superintendent Paul Casciano said during a March 22 public meeting it would be a challenge figuring out what to address among the district’s pressing needs.

“We had included in discussions prior, but since the unfortunate school shooting down in Parkland, Florida, [safety] has become a real priority throughout the Island, throughout the state and throughout the country,” he said.

“We want to bring our facilities into the 21st century in terms of learning opportunities for our students.”

— Paul Casciano

Prior to the shooting, the list of projects slated to be addressed using the $800,000 included $330,000 for renovations to the high school gymnasium lobby bathrooms, $260,000 for vestibules at the high school and elementary school, $43,000 to make Americans with Disabilities Act compliant fixes to the high school track for and $170,000 for classroom reconfiguration. Since the shooting, administration put together a new list of suggestions, which includes the vestibules, track fixes and relocation of the middle school office for a total $500,000.

“I like option two, of the two of them,” resident Renee Tidwell said.

The district is in the process of assembling a committee of community members to assist Port Jeff in developing a long-range vision for facilities improvement projects after the budget season, tentatively called the “super schools team.”

“There are a number of things that need to be done,” Casciano said. “We have some aging facilities, we have security needs. We want to bring our facilities into the 21st century in terms of learning opportunities for our students.”

Community input for security enhancement ideas included a system requiring visitors to present and leave identification with security personnel prior to entering school buildings and surveillance of the edge of school grounds. The district already has capital reserve money set aside for a multi-year roof-repair project, which will continue in the upcoming school year. About $1 million will go toward repairing two sections of the high school roof in 2018-19.

“The idea was to get our roofs on a cycle so that we’re not spending it all in the same time period,” board Vice President Mark Doyle said during the meeting of the reserves that had been set aside for roof repairs five years ago.

The board of education’s finance committee will hold a public meeting April 9 before the general board of education meeting April 10, where a budget hearing will take place and a budget will be adopted. The vote will be held May 15 at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Asking for money is uncomfortable. In our daily lives, needing to borrow some cash here or there isn’t a request that rolls off the tongue easily for most.

Since New York State implemented a 2 percent property tax levy cap in June 2011, school districts have been asking taxpayers to consider a referendum for additional spending cash more and more frequently. Boards of education have been required to get creative in trying to get done essential facility improvements to keep buildings and programs vibrant, and to engender high level academics, athletics and artistic performances for as many students as possible.

It’s admittedly not an easy job keeping a school district flourishing while being required to raise tax revenue by no more than 2 percent from year to year, especially in cases where contractual raises or benefit cost increases blow past the cap to begin with. If asking to borrow a couple of dollars here and there from friends or family is an awkward task requiring tact and humility, school districts should be approaching it the same way.

A common thread for bonds voted down by taxpayers in our coverage area in recent years has been a cry for more transparency and community involvement in every step of the process, from compiling lists of projects to be addressed to trimming that list down to the actual appearance of a bond on a ballot.

We found it refreshing to sit in Feb. 12 on the public bond presentation of Comsewogue School District, based in Port Jefferson Station. Although it hadn’t been decided if a proposition will ultimately end up on the ballot in May, making it impossible to know if its strategy will be effective in getting a bond referendum passed at this time, what we do know is that a lack of community involvement or input will never be a charge hurled at Comsewogue.

Since early January, the district’s facilities committee, a group made up of professionals from a wide cross section of the community, has been meeting and deliberating about what projects it would ultimately recommend the board of education considers, including in a bond proposal. If the board goes forward with holding a referendum, members of the board have asked the committee, which includes engineers, architects and civic association leaders, remain involved in every step of the process going forward. John Swenning, board president, said it wouldn’t make sense for the board to ignore the expertise, passion and smarts that could be offered by each of the committee members throughout the process. This is how asking for money should be handled.

It seems like in many cases capital bond propositions are assembled and presented to the community in that order, and public hearings and discussions that follow are just a formality — being held only to meet state-mandated requirements.

District’s seeking permission from communities to borrow large sums of money over long periods of time should approach the ask by doing just that, informing residents on ways their moneys need to be expended, and asking them how in other ways they’d like to see their dollars spent.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

As Mount Sinai school district outlines the first part of its budget for the 2018-19 school year, administrators hope to roll out a capital project bond to tackle what board of educations members say are immediate repairs needed across its three buildings.

The proposed $59.6 million budget aims to maintain current programs and stay within the 2 percent tax cap, and includes a transfer of $4.2 million from the district’s unallocated fund balance to pay for emergency repair projects. The transfer — $3.6 million needed for fixes that cannot wait, and extras currently being reviewed to bring the total to $4.2 — will need to be approved by the public.

Mount Sinai school district Superintendent Gordon Brosdal speaks to residents about the proposed budget plans. Photo by Kevin Redding

A bond referendum advisory committee made up of board of education and community members was formed in spring 2017 to prioritize the district’s requested projects list and make recommendations to the board of education based on an architect’s evaluation of the elementary, middle and high school buildings, which began more than three years ago.

Major proposed projects include a partial repair to the high school’s roof, multiple renovations to the building’s auditorium and replacement of its turf. The field hasn’t been improved upon in 15 years, well beyond the average lifespan of turf fields, and the bleachers are currently not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

School board and bond committee member Edward Law said while the district has several dozen projects to tackle — “over $50 million worth of requests” — the group will whittle the priorities down to what it think the community can support at this time.

“The committee is about the district’s facility needs and not just a wish list of everything we might want,” Law said, stressing the repairs in the proposed bond will not go forward without the public’s approval during a referendum vote in May. “At the end of the day, it’s not up to the advisory committee or the board of education. It’s up to the community because it’s theirs and our collective tax dollars we’re talking about.”

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said using the unallocated fund balance for the repairs will help satisfy directives made by the state’s comptroller during an audit to bring down the balance’s amounts to 4 percent of the annual operating budget. The current fund balance is estimated to $9.9 million, or 16.7 percent of the annual budget.

“Since we have the money, let’s do it and make it happen,” Brosdal said.

District officials said updates on the bond referendum will be presented to the public over the coming months. The next board of education meeting will be held Feb. 28 in the middle school auditorium at 8 p.m.

Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer speaks to the board about capital projects. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Northport Board of Education voted to include more than $3 million worth of capital projects on the ballot last Thursday. Improvements range from renovating the softball field at Northport High School to irrigation for the Pulaski Road school.

A total $1.639 million of the improvements are included in the budget, and the remaining approximate $2 million worth of improvements would have to be funded by a capital reserve fund, which the public would need to approve separately.

Superintendent Robert Banzer said the district is proposing $1 million in capital funds be spent on replacing a boiler at Ocean Avenue Primary School and upgrading the fire alarms at Dickinson Avenue Elementary.

“Over the last few years we have been replacing boilers, and so we can almost see the end with this project,” Banzer said at the meeting. As for the fire alarms at Dickinson, he said “we need to get to each of the classrooms the strobes with the alarms and the smoke heads. And that’s what this money would allow us to do.”

The boilers would come in at $800,000 and the fire alarms at $200,000.

According to the district, other projects not funded by the capital reserve could be funded through additional state aid.

With the state budget passing on Friday, it was confirmed that districts will be receiving full restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a deduction of state aid taken from all New York school districts, enacted several years ago in an effort to close a state budget deficit.

“This is sort of saying if we receive more state aid, here are some projects that have emerged over the last few months,” Banzer said.

Totaling almost $640,000, these improvements include renovating the softball field at Northport High School, district wide door lock replacement and installing irrigation at the Pulaski Road fields.

“There has been a discussion about replacing our door locks … so that they can lock on both sides,” Banzer said. “This is a safety issue as well as helping us streamline our classroom’s keys and locks.”

As for the field repairs, Banzer said there has been a lot of talk about the conditions of Northport’s fields.

The $2 million capital reserve fund would go toward replacing the gymnasium ceiling at Northport Middle School, renovating the locker rooms at the middle school and replacing a boiler at the Pulaski Road school, among other improvements.

BOE Vice President David Badanes made a motion for all projects to go on the ballot, as well as an additional project: replacing the tennis courts at Northport Middle School.

Rocky Point board of education members voice their opinions of the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After Rocky Point school district’s capital projects proposal didn’t pass last year, it was back to the drawing board.

The district presented its revised capital projects proposal on March 7, showing that while the school district is keeping many projects from its previous proposal last year, the Facilities Sub-Committee cut around $4.4 million worth of projects from the previous bond proposal.

The committee, which handles the school district’s bond proposals and revisions, got rid of extra projects like artificial turf for the varsity baseball and softball fields and outside bathrooms, among other projects. However, adding air conditioning to the Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School and Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School cafeterias and installing another means of leaving the Middle School’s nurse’s office, were added to the $16.5 million proposal.

Projects like turf fields and outside bathrooms were removed from the initial bond proposal.
Projects like turf fields and outside bathrooms were removed from the initial bond proposal.

The board of education said the bond is subject to change, as it may add or delete projects before it goes to a vote later this year. The bond will still target repairs and renovations to the district’s facilities, which includes, but isn’t limited to, fixing the ceilings in various areas of the schools, installing light-emitting diode lights, renovating the bathrooms, repaving the asphalt and improving security.

Smaller items like fixing a crack in the Middle School’s masonry were also factored into the bond, but Rocky Point school district Superintendent Michael Ring said this was intentionally added to the capital projects proposal.

“These are unique — unlike other special projects, these could be recipients of state aid because [of] the nature of them,” Ring said. “So if voters are going to consider a bond, it would make sense to put it in there.”

For the past three or four decades, state aid has reimbursed 70.2 percent of the school district’s project costs. This takes some pressure off taxpayers and the school district to fund the project. Ring added that mandatory projects like new security cameras, will go into the school district’s 2016-17 budget if the bond doesn’t pass. If it passes, the average homeowner with an assessed value of $2,600 will pay $74.48 a year in additional taxes over a 15-year period.

According to Rocky Point resident Bruce MacArthur, community involvement is important when it comes to passing a bond.

“We have virtually no participation right now from the community,” MacArthur said during the meeting. “[The] larger issue is how do we get the community more involved to be educated on the projects that are being proposed.”

Around 20 people, including the board of education, attended Monday’s meeting. The board and the sub-committee hope to attract more people for its future bond proposal meetings to get more community input before residents vote in favor or opposition of the bond.

“We all came to a consensus that we have to try to sell it [to residents],” said board of education President Susan Sullivan. “One of the reasons we’re meeting is because we are looking to move on this.”

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Cracked pavement is on Kings Park’s list of things to repair. Photo from Timothy Eagen

Kings Park Central School District has big plans in its future, in terms of renovations.

“When you think of the hamlet of Kings Park, there is no greater investment than in its school facilities,” Superintendent Timothy Eagen said.

The Kings Park Board of Education created a facilities committee this past May. The district reached out to community members once the committee was formed to invite residents and employees to join.

“We had 20 responses from staff and the community, and members were ultimately chosen so as to best represent Kings Park, while also making sure to include members with knowledge of facilities and grounds,” Eagen said in an email.

The committee is made up of two board members, seven district employees, one student and eight resident volunteers.

Throughout the summer, the committee traveled to all the schools in the district, surveying the damages, repairs and upgrades needed in each building.

Currently the total dollar value of every item under consideration is approximately $40 million.

The board was presented with a long list of what the committee believes to be necessary updates to the buildings at Tuesdays board meeting.

“I love this district, my kids all go here, and I think the upgrades are a total necessity,” Tara Samson, a member of the committee said.

Out of the projects, up to 82 percent would be focused on infrastructure, with 8 percent going to healthy, safety and security, 8 percent to athletics and recreation, and 2 percent to curriculum and instruction.

“Our buildings are not getting any younger,” Eagen said.

The youngest school building in the district is William T. Rogers Middle School, which was established in 1970. And the oldest building is RJO Intermediate School, which was built in 1928.

Members of the committee and Eagen both agreed that these schools are all well past their prime and are in need of major infrastructure renovations.

Parking lot renovations and drainage are issues every school building shares. Whether it’s the front parking lot or the back parking lot, each school has cracks in the pavement, on the sidewalks and stairs, potholes, and problems with flooding when it rains.

The removal of vinyl asbestos tiles is also crucial in every building, with the fear that damaged tiles are releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Plumbing repairs, electrical upgrades and boiler upgrades were also echoed sentiments at each school.

“My children run home everyday to use the bathroom, since they refuse to use the ones at school,” Samson said.

Members of the committee also said that money is flying out the windows of the schools every day, since there is little to no insulation left in many of the original windows for each building. This is contributing to added costs in heating and air conditioning.

“In WTR middle school, the heating controls are located on the roof, which is incredibly inefficient and needs to change,” Tony Tanzi, a member of the committee, said.

It is hoped a major part of the renovation funds will go toward installing new roofs in almost every building.

With the exception of Park View Elementary School, where the roof was replaced two years ago after Hurricane Sandy damaged it, every roof in the district is more than 10 years old, and two are more than 20 years old. The intermediate and middle schools both have their original roofs.

Kings Park High School is in danger of having its track condemned, which means it would no longer be allowed to hold track meets, according to a committee member.

Aside from track replacement, additional bleachers and lighting, upgrades to the concession stand, additional field irrigation and more were listed under consideration by the committee.

Overall approximately 75 percent of the work is planned for the high school and middle school.

“The library [at the high school], is not really a library at all, it’s used as a second cafeteria,” Casey Samson, a Kings Park high school student and committee member, said.

Renovations to the library are under consideration of the committee right now, including a media makeover and a new second floor loft space.

As far as curriculum and instruction improvements, the committee wants to utilize the New York State Smart Schools Bond Act that has allocated $1.454 million for Kings Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) initiated the Smart Schools Bond Act last year, with the intention to invest $2 billion in New York’s schools that will put schools in the 21st century and ensure that students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy.

Expenditure through this act would include educational technology equipment, high-speed broadband or wireless Internet connectivity, and capital projects to install high-tech security features.

The committee also wants to shift toward solar energy in the Kings Park school district, including the installation of solar panels on roofs, and purchasing electricity through a renewable energy company.

SunEdison, a global renewable energy company headquartered in the United States, would design, own, operate, monitor and maintain anything they set up in Kings Park, according to the committee.

If Kings Park purchased electricity from SunEdison, it would be at a lower rate than the district is currently paying PSEG Long Island. Kings Park would retain its PSEGLI account, but would require less electricity from the utility if it began working with SunEdison.

“We are looking at ways to save the community money, and with solar energy we could save $100,00 annually,” Eagen said.

The committee is in the process of prioritizing the items that were identified, and then they will make a recommendation to the board of education. Eagen anticipates that this will occur by the end of September.

Once the recommendation is made, the board will decide on a final package, and a timeline for voter approval. If everything moves forward as planned, the next step would be to follow the project bidding process and get the New York State Education Department’s approval.

If approval is given, the goal is for the highest priority projects to begin in summer 2016.

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Unanimous vote paves way for $17 million proposal, improving animal shelter, streetlights over four years

File photo

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.”

Smithtown Comptroller Donald Musnug outlines his capital budget suggestions before the Town Board on Monday. Photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown’s new comptroller is calling on the town board to borrow money to fund upcoming capital projects.

Donald Musgnug, who was sworn in as town comptroller in February after his predecessor, Lou Necroto, took a job with the county, provided his first capital budget recommendations report on Monday and pushed for borrowing money to pay for improvements. He listed several bullet points justifying his recommendation, as the town gears up to fund projects like an animal shelter renovation, LED streetlight retrofittings and marina bulkhead improvements.

“Interest rates are at historically low rates and the town is fiscally strong,” Musgnug said. “Now is the time to borrow, when rates are low, and thankfully we are in a position to do so.”

The comptroller said he expects replacing aging and otherwise deteriorating equipment would reduce the amount of money set aside in future budgets for repairs and maintenance. In reference to an upcoming streetlight project 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. “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.”

In the upcoming year, Musgnug said most of the budgetary requests are equipment-related and should be done in the near future as assets deteriorate due to age and usage.

The streetlight project, he said, would total $5.6 million but could be offset by a possible $750,000 grant from the state.

“It should also be noted that … we expect 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,” Musgnug said. “So we actually more than offset the cost of installation.”

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.

The following year, he said, those projects would require about $6 million in funding overtime to complete.
After the comptroller’s report, Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) said he was impressed by the thoroughness of Musgnug’s pitch and wants to make sure the town follows through on capital projects after setting aside funding for them.

“Overall, I think it’s excellent,” he said. “In past years, we borrowed money and put up capital projects, but they never got done. Let’s make sure someone oversees these.”

In his report, Musgnug said even if the town chose to borrow more money as recommended, it would still see its overall debt steadily drop because of its conservative fiscal management policies.

“You should be commended for putting the town into a position where it can borrow significant sums of money and still have declining debt service payments [for which] it must budget,” he said.

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