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:
The 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:
- Total Fund Balance across the six Major Funds grew 9.4%, further increasing the Town’s financial flexibility to sustain significant unexpected events.
- Staying within the NYS Tax Cap, and the Town’s Tax Rate, Spending and Debt Management Caps.
- A structurally balanced budget.
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.”
Stating 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:
- Consolidation of registrar services
- Consolidation of tax collection services
- Sand and salt purchases, utilizing our Town’s purchasing power
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:
- The Town’s recycling center provides the region with a state-of-the-art processing center, which has enabled three other towns, five villages, and seven school districts to enter into municipal agreements with Brookhaven.
- Through energy audits and energy upgrades, we have been able to reduce energy usage in the Town with more upgrades to follow. These upgrades will result in annual savings of over a million dollars.
- A major effort currently underway is the conversion of more than 40,000 streetlights to LED fixtures, which should be completed over the next few years.
- As an outgrowth of the Town’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition submittal, the Town Board dissolved eleven special districts.
Supervisor 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:
- The Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) closed on 15 projects in 2018 that will result in almost $344 million of private investment and create or retain over 1,200 permanent or construction jobs.
- In 2019 the IDA has already closed on six projects that will result in over $117 million and create or retain over 800 permanent or construction jobs.
- The IDA and Local Development Corporation (LDC) have 13 approved projects that are expected to close in 2019 with the potential for another $554 million in private investment into our town, creating or retaining another 700 jobs.”
- Phase 1 of the Ronkonkoma Hub Project is currently finishing construction with an estimated 450 multi-family units.
- Yaphank Meadows on William Floyd Parkway has completed 260 fully rented apartments, and has a hotel, an assisted living facility and an additional 450 units of multi-family housing under construction. And, a multi-use field and community center will be turned over to the Town this Spring.
Opportunity Zone Designation
As 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 Initiatives
Commenting 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.”
- Over 250 unsafe, blighted structures have been demolished by the Town since 2014 and last year alone, over 500 properties were cleaned up by the Town.
- Last year, the Parks Department completed the installation of a new water spray park at Shirley Beach, renovated the restrooms, playground and shade shelter at Corey Beach, completed renovations at 12 Pines Park and completed and opened our newest recreation center in Center Moriches, which will soon house a senior nutrition program.
- Public Safety has completed construction of its new state-of-the-art emergency command and dispatch center to assist the Town in rapid response during emergencies and allow better monitoring Town parks, buildings and property.
- Brookhaven has taken steps to ensure the protection of our employees and residents’ civil rights. In 2018, the Town engaged in a comprehensive interactive training program for employees and elected officials dedicated to the prevention of and protection against discrimination and harassment.
- Town Board adopted a comprehensive Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy for the protection of our workers and residents, which has been provided to all our employees and is available to the public on the Town’s website.
Supervisor 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.
As 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:
- Brookhaven has completed solar installations at the Manorville Compost Facility (1.3 MWs), our Holtsville Ecology Center (1.8 MWs), and most recently a 3.4 MW installation of solar panels at Town Hall with further installations planned at the Brookhaven Amphitheater (2.3 MWs) and Calabro Airport (3.5 MWs).
- Working with LIPA/PSE&GLI to bring to fruition the “Energy Park” at the Brookhaven Solid Waste Management Complex with a Fuel Cell that will provide 7.4 MWs of electricity and 10 MWs worth of solar installations atop capped portions of the Landfill and incorporating battery storage into the energy park.
- As part of the new garbage collection contract, the Town required the replacement of residential refuse/recycling trucks with new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueled vehicles, further reducing The Town’s carbon footprint.
- Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at Town facilities in Mt. Sinai, Centereach and Center Moriches and one to be installed at Town Hall, making it convenient to use plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
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 Town Environmental Protection staff has worked diligently to restore eelgrass in Bellport and Moriches Bays and introduce scallops and oysters into various areas of the Great South Bay to improve the quality of our local waters.
- Efforts to protect the Carmans River and improve Lake Ronkonkoma.
- The Town is working to expand shellfish production and restoration efforts in Mt. Sinai, Bellport and Moriches Bay.
- Expanding the use of innovative technology to protect our ground water by reducing the nitrogen loading by examining areas for which I/A systems are appropriate.
- Working with Suffolk County to finally bring sewers to the Shirley-Mastic area along Montauk Highway, to allow for smart growth and lessen the impacts of nitrogen pollution on the Forge River.
- Forever protected over 1,100 acres of open space.
- The Town will again provide free tree seedlings to our residents.
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 Supervisor
One Independence Hill • Farmingville • NY 11738 • Phone 631-451-6595