Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer today submitted a balanced budget for 2014 which continues the town’s conservative fiscal policies in the face of the ongoing impact of Superstorm Sandy and increased mandated expenses. The tentative 2014 budget holds the line on discretionary spending and increases town taxes by just 2.88% to meet the obligations from Sandy and mandates. This modest increase protects taxpayers by meeting Babylon’s obligations to rebuild and keep a strong bond rating which holds down borrowing costs. At the same time, residents and business continue to benefit from reduced garbage taxes.
“This balanced budget protects taxpayers by making sure that we pay our bills to rebuild from Sandy while maintaining vital services,” Supervisor Schaffer said. “My budgeting philosophy is simple, keep expenses to a minimum, collect what you need to meet your obligations and don’t borrow if you can avoid it.”
Babylon suffered the most Sandy damage of any municipality in Suffolk County and the 2014 budget reflects the town’s continued commitment to rebuild stronger. With nearly 10,000 homes affected in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the town suffered over $600 million in property damage, reducing town tax revenue by $700,000.
Additionally, Babylon has already spent $17 million as it worked around the clock to repair damage done to its parks, marinas, and facilities in time for every one of those facilities to be operational by the summer. While Superstorm Sandy forced the expenditure of millions of unbudgeted dollars on cleanup and restoration efforts, the Town is pushing for the maximum FEMA reimbursement possible. Following responsible and conservative budgeting practices, the Town is committed to paying its bills now, with the hope that future FEMA reimbursement will be able to lessen the tax burden on residents in next year’s budget.
In addition to Sandy, mandates had a major impact on the Town’s budget. Babylon experienced nearly $3 million in increases in mandated state pension costs and health insurance premiums. In a policy driven by the goal of maintaining the Town’s excellent credit ratings, the Town will not be amortizing the increased pension payment over the next 10 years, which would result in higher future expenses. Instead, Babylon will pay for all of the increase in the year incurred.
The budget also reflects Supervisor Schaffer’s success in negotiating a new residential garbage contract which saves the Town nearly $10 million in 2014 and more than $230 million over the length of the agreement. Thanks to recurring cuts in the residential garbage tax, residents will continue saving on their garbage services for a total of $658.64 per household since 2011. In addition, the tentative 2014 budget provides for relief for businesses in Babylon, cutting garbage taxes by $1.9 million.
Supervisor Schaffer’s commitment to conservative fiscal policies and smaller government continues former-Supervisor Steve Bellone’s policy of doing more with less. The number of full-time employees is down 11% over the last 5 years. Supervisor Schaffer has also been aggressive in enforcement against slumlords and abandoned properties, collecting $713,423 in fines and clean up costs. These measures, along with Babylon’s commitment to retire more debt than it issues each year and keep debt service reasonable and manageable, led to Standard & Poor’s reaffirming the Town’s high bond rating of AA+ earlier this year, lowering the Town’s borrowing costs.
Since 2006, the average Town of Babylon residential tax bill has gone up an average of just $15 per year. During this time Town has renovated or created over a dozen parks, paved over 173 miles of roadway, and added dozens of new recreational, youth and senior citizen programs.