The Town of Brookhaven on Tuesday upheld the beach and marina parking fees about a month ago, despite an attempt by one town council member to comb through the town budget to find savings that would offset the cost of repealing the fee.
The Town Board voted 3-4 against dropping the fee, with council members Jane Bonner, Tim Mazzei, and Dan Panico voting in the minority.
By working with various town officials, Bonner said she was able to find $625,000 in offsets within the town budget to withdraw the fee without sacrificing overtime costs budgeted for town operations. Her plan included eliminating three positions that are currently vacant due to the town's hiring freeze. She called it "painless ways to come up with the cuts that won’t be felt through the rank and file."
At the Town Board meeting on April 24, Bonner originally intended to present a resolution that would repeal the resident fee, but the town tabled the issue until the May 8 meeting to give her more time to work with various departments to achieve the necessary cost offsets. At that time, her negotiations fell $175,000 short of the $625,000 in total budget savings that would have allowed the town board to consider repealing the parking fees.
On Tuesday, town supervisor Mark Lesko said any of the savings should be banked for the future.
"Given the fiscal situation here, and I’m the chief financial officer, I have to look at the bottom line and we just can’t afford it," he said.
At least one Brookhaven resident at the meeting supported rolling back the fee. Anthony Frontino called it "a bitter reminder of Brookhaven’s inability to control spending and waste."
"[Lesko] calls it a user fee. It’s really a tax," he said.
Some in the crowd spoke in favor of retaining the parking fee.
"Let’s get real. It’s $25 for two years," said Meg Shutka, president of the CSEA white collar unit. "Expenses are increasing, revenues are down. The money has to come from somewhere...Brookhaven has beautiful beaches, beautiful parks. We need this money to keep these things that we have."
The Town Board has also adjusted the locations at which residents can purchase the parking permit; refer to the PDF attached to this article for full details.