Farmingville, NY – On March 11, Supervisor Ed Romaine delivered his seventh State of the Town address in the auditorium at Brookhaven Town Hall. The Supervisor delivered an optimistic look at the great strides that have been made this past year, his new initiatives and the challenges that face the Town in the years ahead. Declaring that the “state of the Town is strong and getting stronger,” the Supervisor opened his address by acknowledging the efforts of the Town Board Department heads and “our hard-working employees” who “keep Brookhaven moving forward.” Highlights of Supervisor Romaine’s State of the Town Address include:
FinancesThe Supervisor noted that Brookhaven’s financial position continues to strengthen and has maintained its AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, its highest possible rating. They cited “very strong management with strong financial policies and practices, strong budgetary performance and very strong budget flexibility.” This will save Brookhaven taxpayer’s millions of dollars in future debt service payments.
The Adopted 2019 Operating Budget used no surplus to balance any of the six major funds while maintaining staffing levels and making no cuts to constituent services. Other highlights of the Town’s strong fiscal position include:
The Supervisor commented, “Our residents cannot pay more in taxes. Too many people, young and old, are leaving our island in pursuit of lower taxes elsewhere. While we are the smallest portion of the tax bill, we are committed to keeping our Town affordable for all.”
Shared ServicesStating that “we have too much government on Long Island,” Supervisor Romaine maintained his commitment to work with other municipalities “to streamline operations and eliminate duplication” of services. The cornerstone of this effort is the Town of Brookhaven’s United Consolidation and Efficiency Plan. Once fully implemented, the plan will generate an estimated $61 million in savings for Town residents. Some of the shared services already put in place include:
In addition to shared services, the Town will continue to cut costs through energy audits and energy saving upgrades. This will reduce energy usage across many Town buildings. He acknowledged Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro, who is spearheading the LED conversion of all Town streetlights which has already produced a $1.6 million cumulative savings.
The Supervisor also noted that the Town’s Purchasing Division will launch its new “Municipal Market Portal” in April, enabling villages and special districts to have full access to all Town contracts. Under the Brookhaven United Plan, the Town has already dissolved 17 special districts, making government smaller and more efficient. He also noted that the Town, working in conjunction with the Village of Port Jefferson, was first municipality to enter into a successful agreement regarding LIPA’s Port Jefferson power plant. Through extensive negotiations, Brookhaven created a model designed to protect and promote fair assessment of real property within the Town.
As a strong proponent of sharing resources and services to reduce the size, scope and cost of government, Supervisor Romaine said that he will continue to work with our school districts, local taxing districts, the County and State on various shared services opportunities. He also noted that as part of this commitment, the Town put forth a comprehensive plan under the State’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition of various shared services that would reduce government spending and save taxpayers’ money.
The Supervisor also stressed that Shared Services is not the only way that the Town can cut costs. Other cost-cutting initiatives include:
Economic DevelopmentSupervisor Romaine stated that a major focus of the Town Board has been to grow our economy, create good paying jobs and make living in Brookhaven Town more affordable for everyone. He also recognized the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for being named the “IDA of the Year for 2017” by the Long Island Business News.
Highlights of the Town’s recent economic growth include:
Opportunity Zone DesignationAs part of the Town’s commitment to smart growth, the Romaine administration has worked diligently to obtain the “Opportunity Zone” designation by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for North Bellport. This will help to attract businesses, residents, and opportunities to renew this area. There has already been progress with the Bellport Residence, consisting of 69 affordable rental units and a 1,500 sq. ft. community center recently approved by the Town Board with overwhelming support from the community.
Quality of Life InitiativesCommenting that “maintaining quality of life is one of the most important jobs we have as elected officials,” Supervisor Romaine outlined initiatives that have made Brookhaven “better today, and for the generations of tomorrow.”
Mass TransitSupervisor Romaine has been a long-time proponent of electrification of the Long Island Railroad in Brookhaven Town and he noted in his address that “we cannot compete in the 21st century economy with a 19th century rail system” The three LIRR lines that run through Brookhaven Town: the Port Jefferson branch on the north shore; the Main Line through the center of the town; and the Montauk branch on the south shore are not electrified.
He promised to continue his advocacy for electrification of the system and to encourage the MTA and LIRR leadership to control costs and avoid fare hikes. He has also been a long-time advocate of relocating the LIRR Yaphank station to a location adjacent to William Floyd Parkway, just south of the Long Island Expressway, which will make train travel more accessible to commuters and provide crucial support to nearby Brookhaven National Lab (3,000 employees), as well as businesses in the area, including those in the Brookhaven Technology Center (2500 employees), the sustainable mix-used development “The Meadows at Yaphank,” currently under construction. The station would also service Brookhaven Calabro Airport, and the former Dowling campus that has tremendous potential for private investment.
The EnvironmentAs a leader on environmental issue, Supervisor Romaine renewed his commitment make sure Brookhaven does its part to protect the environment so that “future generations may also enjoy and experience the beauty of Long Island.” To that end, he will continue to work diligently to improve our renewable energy portfolio, including:
The Supervisor also touched on global climate change and sea level rise, calling it “real” and saying that it “poses significant challenges in the decades ahead.” To better protect low lying areas and reduce future impacts to the health and safety of town residents and their property, he noted that the Town of Brookhaven has embraced a concept of letting nature reclaim wetlands through a “strategic retreat” of residential and commercial development in areas susceptible to flooding. Other action taken includes:
The Supervisor stressed that effective solid waste management continues to be a concern, leading to worldwide reassessment and revisions to the direction of recycling programs, including the Town of Brookhaven. He thanked residents for cooperating in the dual-stream recycling program and vowed to continue protecting our environment and remove tens of thousands of tons of material from the waste stream.
He also mentioned that over the past seven years the Town has undertaken an aggressive program of capping and closing the landfill. Today, more than 75 percent of the landfill has been capped and closed, and the Town is on pace to close the landfill in 2024 – nearly five years earlier than previously planned. The post-closure reserve fund established by the Town Board will ensure that this facility will not be a financial burden in the future and ensure continued funding post-closure obligations without impacting future budgets or taxes.
An Eye Toward the Future Supervisor Romaine announced that recently, dozens of residents in East Patchogue and Medford were informed that their water was contaminated with PFOS and PFAS – chemicals which were historically used in firefighting, food packaging, waterproofing and stain-resistant carpets. He commended Assemblyman Steve Englebright for introducing state legislation to ban household products that contain 1,4-dioxane – a chemical found in products such as body wash, baby products and laundry detergents that is a likely carcinogen. He also stressed the need to develop and implement a comprehensive protection and management plan based on scientific studies and the understanding of groundwater. He also announced that the Town will be making a major investment into capital programs by investing $150 million into Brookhaven’s highway system.
Finally, Supervisor Romaine urged the New York State government to fully restore the $1.8 million in AIM funding that was cut in the Governor’s budget in the manner it has historically been applied, instead of through a “gimmick to create new taxes.” He also noted “as we commit to invest in our roadways, we need the state to increase CHIPS funding to expand upon the paving program and follow through with their commitment purchase, protect and preserve the coastal forest in Shoreham that was under threat of being clear cut.” He ended the State of the Town by renewing his commitment “to take the necessary steps to strengthen our Town today, to provide a solid foundation for the generations of tomorrow.”
Division of Public Information * Office of the SupervisorOne Independence Hill • Farmingville • NY 11738 • Phone 631-451-6595