Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Organization

Brookhaven Exceeds Tax Cap Despite Voter Referendum

We in Brookhaven Town received our property tax bills this weekend. We saw Town General Fund tax rates increase 25.2% and 18.8% for whole town and part town respectively. This occurred in spite of the 2010 referendum where we overwhelmingly passed a 4% tax cap

The Town contends that the intent of the 2010 referendum was to apply the cap to the total tax rate. This contention is refuted in both the Town Finance Director’s power point (see first attachment below), presented to the Board at the June 15, 2010 meeting, as well as the Town Press Release following that meeting (see second attachment below). These documents state quite clearly that the cap applies to the General Fund tax rates. It makes absolutely no mention of the Highway Dept.

This means that the Board did indeed pierce the town’s own tax cap, albeit with the requisite 2/3 majority vote provided for in the Town Code, in spite of the rhetoric from the Town about holding taxes flat.

The tax bills also show a 13.7% increase in the 2004 $100 million bond act tax. The Town included $1 million in new open space funds in this line rather than in the General Fund line. It’s unclear how this is appropriate. The 2004 $100 million bond act was the result of a Town Referendum and can’t be modified without a further referendum. If this $1 million was included in the General Fund line the General Fund rate increase would have been even higher.

There’s also a line on the tax bill entitled Snow Recovery Tax. The prior tax bills included a line entitled Blizzard Note Repayment and applied to the Whole Town. The current tax bill line entitled Snow Recovery Taxes and is a Part Town tax. Our tax bills show that the rate for this recast line item increases 92%. It’s not entirely clear what this tax is for. Did we issue notes? And if so what were the terms and why are they only applicable to Part Town? It’s also curious that the Highway Budget went down significantly in the same year this item appears.

It’s interesting to note that the Town chose to exclude the $7 million Snow Recovery Tax and the $1 million in open space funding from the erroneous ‘total tax cap’ calculation. If the Town included these items, the resulting tax rate increase would still pierce the tax cap.

We need further transparency in the budget and tax process and should let our elected representatives know how strongly we fell about it.

06.15 Local Law Presentation Extract
2010 June Town Press Release