Town Board Adopts Tax Freeze Budget for 2020

Town Board Adopts Tax Freeze Budget for 2020

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino and members of the Town Board today voted to approve the 2020 Town Budget which continues to sustain a $1.3 million property tax cut approved by the Town Board for 2018 by implementing a plan that freezes property taxes for the second straight year after a tax cut.  This tax freeze is possible due to spending restraints, efficiencies and debt reduction initiatives.  In fact, total Town debt will have declined by $160 million by years-end under Supervisor Saladino.  The 2020 Town Budget continues to pay down record amounts of Town debt.  Supervisor Saladino stated, “I am proud of the many milestones this administration has reached in returning fiscal stability to the Town of Oyster Bay.  In partnership with the Town Board, we have instilled fiscal discipline and eliminated over $24 million in deficits left behind by the prior administration.  We now have a surplus rather than a deficit.  We have also reduced a significant amount of long-term debt while cutting property taxes and making smart investments in our roadways.  Our overall success was recognized by two Wall Street firms which upgraded the Town’s credit rating and its financial outlook.  These independent recognitions are a testament to the hard work of our employees, managers and elected officials in turning the Town around for taxpayers.” Independent auditors have reported that the Saladino administration produced budget surpluses and eliminated deficits left behind by the prior administration, one year earlier than projected.  In fact, the administration fully eliminated budget deficits which hit a high of $44 million under the prior administration while also cutting property taxes and significantly reducing the Town’s overall debt load.  For the first time in over 7 years, the Town of Oyster Bay has a reserve fund.  The Town transitioned from a $44 million deficit to $8.2 million in reserves.  Due to rapidly improved financial health, there has been no borrowing for cash-flow purposes in 2019 (for the first time in a decade) and the Town of Oyster Bay will not borrow a single dime for cash flow purposes in 2020 as per this Town Budget.   CUTTING & FREEZING PROPERTY TAXESIn 2018, the Town of Oyster Bay was the only town on Long Island to cut property taxes, and it was Oyster Bay Town’s first property tax cut in more than two decades.  In 2019, the Town Board sustained this tax cut by freezing taxes.  While other municipalities plan to raise taxes next year, this 2020 Town Budget continues to sustain the property tax cut approved by the Town Board in 2018 by implementing a plan that again freezes property taxes in 2020.  Accordingly, nearly $4 million will be back in the pockets of residents rather than in the coffers of government.  This taxpayer savings is possible due to debt reduction initiatives and internal controls which limit new spending.  For the third consecutive year, the Town Budget is balanced and holds spending growth to less than 2 percent.  In 2020, the Town will face a 1.9% increase in costs but taxes will not increase due to strong fiscal management practices.  Increased expenses are associated with contractual obligations to the workforce as well as changes in the international commodities market which are driving up recycling costs related to hauling away materials.  State-mandated worker’s compensation costs will also rise.  Despite these increased expenses, the Town Budget continues to constrain government spending that is under our control while delivering the important services our residents have come to expect and deserve.  RECORD BREAKING DEBT REDUCTIONFor too many years, administrations of the past racked up large amounts of debt associated with capital projects.  Statistics indicate that the Town of Oyster Bay borrowed upwards of $100 million a year – even borrowing millions of dollars against future generations to pay for projects not within the Town’s jurisdiction.  The Saladino administration immediately reversed this trend upon taking office.  In 2017, the Town Board and Supervisor Saladino suspended all borrowing for capital projects.  In fact, this was the first time in Town history that not a single dime was borrowed for capital projects.  Instead, debt service payments were accelerated and the Town is on track to reduce overall debt by $160 million by year’s end.  This is the largest debt reduction initiative in the Town’s 365 year history. The 2020 Town Budget continues to pay down Town debt.  As a result, total Town debt will decline another $30 million by the end of 2020 – bringing this administration’s cumulative debt reduction to a grand total of $190 million.  While the Town of Oyster Bay will operate like all other municipalities throughout the nation in borrowing for roadway improvement projects and other important infrastructure ventures, the Town will continue to pay off more debt than it accumulates annually.  The Town will continue on this path of reducing debt.SMALLER WORKFORCE – DOING MORE WITH LESSThe 2020 Town Budget includes a savings of $9 million in full-time salaries when compared to 2016 due to the elimination of positions.  Supervisor Saladino and the Town Board have successfully reduced the workforce to the lowest level in decades.  This workforce reduction saves significant dollars in terms of salary and pension costs for this generation and future generations.  Despite this workforce reduction, the Town of Oyster Bay is delivering better services and at less cost to taxpayers.  Additionally, a greater reliance on Town employees – and less of a dependence on outside consultants – is saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. EFFICIENCIES ACHIEVE SAVINGS FOR TAXPAYERSTogether with the Town Board, the Saladino administration continues to achieve savings for taxpayers through efficiencies and the elimination of past wasteful spending practices.  The administration also directed the Comptroller to enhance internal financial controls and institute fiscally-aggressive monitoring practices.  These controls constrain the way in which government spends money. The Department of General Services eliminated the need for outside consultants and has reduced annual expenditures on various contractor services.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being saved annually through the annual installation of LED lighting town-wide, including non-taxpayer-funded conversions at Town Hall North and Town Hall South.  Through redesign and the rebid process, the department significantly reduced its monthly fiber optic communication costs and saved tens of thousands of dollars in reoccurring telephone expenses. The Department of Public Works has streamlined operations through staffing reductions and shared services – keeping more engineering projects in-house. The department has implemented significant cost-cutting measures while still delivering the type of first-class services residents have come to expect from the Town.  Sanitation and Recycling have been combined into a single division and routes were consolidated to maximize the efficiency of personnel.  The Highway Department is saving millions through conversions to LED bulbs on street lights.  Oyster Bay Town government maintains 733 miles of roadway throughout our neighborhoods, and like all Long Island municipalities, roadways require a commitment to resurfacing.  The Town made a smart investment by increasing funds for roadway improvements by $22 million.  The Saladino administration has repaved nearly 300 streets, and hundreds more will be completed over the next 12 months thanks to resources in this 2020 Town Budget as well as the Capital Program.  In the Parks Department, new programs at facilities as well as new restaurants and concessions at TOBAY Beach, Tappen Beach and the Town’s golf course are generating 450% more revenue than previously received and a significant upgrade was provided to residents in terms of service, aesthetics, offerings and price.  This additional revenue is contained in the 2020 Town Budget.  Aside from three brand new waterfront dining options at our beaches, many improvements have been implemented at TOBAY Beach including new protective sun shades, free sunscreen, free Wi-Fi service, a new children’s spray park, new Marina playground, upgraded restrooms and new mobility mats.  Similar improvements have been made at Town pools.  New playgrounds have been installed in local communities and more are on the way!  The transformation of a former Superfund site in Farmingdale was stalled by the prior administration.  This administration re-energized the project and doubled the size of Ellsworth Allen Park for the enjoyment of our residents.  The park features new athletic fields for adults, children and the disabled, as well as a jogging path and new restrooms.  Maintenance of these facilities is an essential component of responsible governing and the 2020 Town Budget includes those expenditures.  All of the improvements throughout our parks system are the reason revenue is up by more than $1 million.  The Department of Planning and Development now offers the convenience of same day permits for a long list of home improvement projects, including solar panel installations.  This was seen as one of the most needed changes.  The Department also leads our efforts in combatting vacant and dilapidated homes.  New laws approved by the Town Board require banks and lending institutions holding vacant properties to deposit $25,000 into an escrow account.  The Town holds these funds as collateral and if the landlord doesn’t maintain their property, the Town performs the work and bills the escrow account.  This administration has protected our town by tearing down nine zombie homes to date.  The 2020 Town Budget includes funds to continue enforcement efforts and to take actions with the installation of polycarbonate, cleanup of properties and demolition of zombie homes when necessary. ETHICS, HONESTY, INTEGRITY & TRANSPARENCY RESTOREDSupervisor Saladino and the Town Board have worked tirelessly to deliver important services and restore the public’s trust in government.  To accomplish just that, the Town Board installed a new, independent bipartisan Board of Ethics with real and meaningful oversight.  To protect the Town from any conflicts of interest, the Board is charged with reviewing financial disclosures of our employees, vendors and elected officials.  To educate the workforce, the Town Board implemented mandatory ethics training sessions for all employees and elected officials.  Supervisor Saladino and the Town Board appointed a former Federal prosecutor from the Eastern District of New York, who has a decade of private sector experience in compliance issues with federal and state regulatory agencies, to serve as our Town Attorney.  The Town Attorney has also guided the administration in cancelling contracts and leases with unscrupulous vendors and companies.  The Town Board took the historic step of being Long Island’s first municipality to create an Office of Inspector General.  Supervisor Saladino and the Town Board hired an experienced Federal agent who worked with the FBI, CIA and DEA.  He has enhanced independent oversight and is equally committed to protecting taxpayers.  The Inspector General is also working to strengthen cyber-security to protect the Town’s financial information from hackers.  To further protect taxpayers, this Town Board instituted in-depth disclosure requirements for contractors and vendors to prevent corruption.  Working with the Inspector General, the Town is implementing forensic software to greatly enhance background checks on vendors and reports in real-time.  The Inspector General is also working with us to reform the contracting process, including greater oversight for change-of-work orders.  The Saladino administration has a zero tolerance policy for corruption and took action to recover money from the issues of the past and continues to pursue money from those who defrauded the town under the previous administration.