Suffolk Legislature: 'Recession Budget'

Sponsors say Plan Restores Key Services, Maintains General Fund Tax Freeze

HAUPPAUGE, NY , OCTOBER 30, 2008 The Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay (D-Holbrook) today joined with Minority Leader Legislator Daniel P. Losquadro (R-Mount Sinai) to announce a bipartisan “recession budget,” a budget that keeps the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility open, provides for the hiring of 80 new police officers, and sustains funding for health clinics and food pantries, while maintaining a freeze on general fund property taxes. He said the budget, forged by the Legislature’s bipartisan Budget Working Group, also is supported by a bipartisan majority of the Legislature.

“During a climate of economic uncertainty, government has a duty to hold the line on taxes while making sure that essential county services needed during a recession—health care, police protection, food pantries and the like—are funded in the coming year,” said Presiding Officer Lindsay. “Through a painstaking line-by-line analysis of the County Executive ’s budget, we were able to make the difficult cuts that were necessary, while maintaining essential services and holding the line on general fund property taxes.

“I extend my thanks to the Budget Working Group for the long, hard hours its members spent drafting this alternative to the County Executive ’s budget. It was time well spent for the taxpayers of Suffolk County .”

“In this time of economic upheaval, I was adamant that Suffolk County could not add to the burden that we all face as taxpayers,” said Legislator Losquadro. “To accomplish this we have come together to make the types of difficult decisions that necessitated the cancellation or reduction of programs and contracts that were not imperative to the core missions of protecting the safety, well being, and financial future of all of our residents.”

The new budget plan keeps the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility open next year. The Legislature wanted to insure that the patients at the facility and their families know that their care is guaranteed after the County Executive ’s budget cut off funding for the facility next year. The Legislature continues to advocate for hiring an outside firm to streamline management of the facility and cut the loss incurred by the county.

The Legislature’s budget also restores funding for health clinics and food pantry providers, including Long Island Harvest and Long Island Cares. The budget also cuts in half the over optimistic sales tax estimate in the County Executive ’s budget from two percent growth to one percent growth.

“In these terrible economic times, more and more families need care at our health clinics, assistance with home heating costs and help with putting food on the table,” said Presiding Officer Lindsay. “Our budget provides those essential services.”

Given the sharp rise in crime that has already begun and the continued reduction in the number of police patrolling our streets, it was essential that more police be hired, and the Legislature’s budget provides for the hiring of 80 replacement officers next year. It is expected that more than 80 officers will retire this year and next, making the replacement officers indispensable. Crime figures in Suffolk County have jumped substantially in the last year, including a 21.1 percent jump in murders, a 20.4 percent jump in burglaries and a 6.2 percent hike in larcenies, and those crimes could potentially jump substantially more in the coming year with the worsening economic climate.

Despite the hiring of the 80 replacement police officers police district taxes will remain well within the tax cap, and in fact will increase less than they have in more than a decade.

The Legislature will vote on the proposed operating budget at its November 5 special session at 10 a.m. in Hauppauge.

The following are highlights of the Legislature’s Operating Budget Proposal:

Ø Fiscal Responsibility

§ Maintains general fund property tax freeze for 5th consecutive year.

§ Equals lowest police district tax growth in this decade (1.57%).

§ Maintains Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund.

§ Reduces the County Executive ’s overly optimistic sales tax growth revenue projection of two percent to one percent, a 50 percent, or $11 million, reduction.

Ø Protects Public Safety- The primary responsibility of local government is the safety of its citizens.

§ Adds 80 replacement police officers.

§ Fills six vacant positions in the 911 Dispatch Emergency Center.

§ Funds 11 vacant positions in the electronic monitoring unit of the Probation Department.

§ Funds 4 vacant positions in the Sex Offender Services Unit,

Ø Protects Public Health

§ Provides $4.5 million to keep the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility open in and in county control for 2009. The Legislature’s budget found cuts in spending, including salaries, supplies and vehicles, and increases in revenues, including selling cars and scrap metal stored at the BOMARC facility in Westhampton, to make that possible.

§ Allocates $1.5 million in appropriations for contracted health clinics to assure uninterrupted service delivery.

§ Provides funding for contracted health service agencies for underserved populations that were inadequately provided for in the County Executive ’s budget. These include cancer and breast cancer prevention and education agencies.

§ Adds an additional six sanitarians for food establishment inspection.

§ Funds grants analyst in Health Department to bring in additional funding for public health programs

Ø Protects Vital Human Services

§ The County Executive ’s budget cut $343,654 from funding for free legal services for senior citizens; the Legislature’s budget restores $200,000 of that funding.

§ Restored funding to many vitally important community based youth and mental health programs

§ Funds 3 vacant homeless caseworker positions to deal with expected caseload increases.

§ The Legislature restored funding for critical food pantries. The County Executive ’s budget cut Island Harvest’s funding from $50,000 last year to a total of $5,306 for the coming year; the Legislature’s budget provides $54,694 for Island Harvest. The legislature’s budget also provides an additional $90,000 for Long Island Cares.

§ Provides $500,000 for MI-HEAP, to assist lower middle income families with home heating costs.

§ Restores an abolished Veterans Service Officer position for newly constructed East End Veteran’s Clinic in Riverhead.

§ Provides funding for contracted human service agencies and programs that were inadequately provided for in the County Executive ’s budget. Funding is provided for the following areas: elder care counseling, domestic violence prevention, education to prevent drunk driving, literacy prevention, child abuse prevention, alternatives to incarceration and cultural affairs.

Terrence Pearsall

Chief of Staff

Office of the Presiding Officer

Suffolk County Legislature

(631)853-4088 Fax: (631)853-4071