(Hauppauge, NY-April 2, 2012) Less than a month after an independent fiscal task force found Suffolk County faces a $530 million deficit through the end of 2013, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and a bipartisan group of legislators announced phase one of a mitigation plan to reduce the deficit by more than $160 million.
"I am proud to say that we have leaders who are willing to come together in a bipartisan manner and put Suffolk County taxpayers first," County Executive Bellone said. "By agreeing on the depth of the problem, it allowed us to focus on solutions. This bipartisan agreement to cut the deficit by more than $160 million is a strong first step towards putting Suffolk County back on the right path. This plan features a mix of recurring revenues, expense reductions, efficiency measures and debt management which are essential to improving Suffolk County’s long term fiscal health.”
On March 6, the Suffolk County Fiscal Task Force presented an independent analysis where they found Suffolk County facing deficits of $33 million for 2011, $148 million for 2012 and $349 million for 2013. In fact, 2011 represented the first time in 20 years Suffolk County ended a budgetary year in a deficit. The report also highlighted the operational deficit Suffolk County has been running for years as well as the use of $424 million dollars of reserves and budgetary one-shots since 2008.
The initial mitigation measures are expected to produce $162.32 million in net savings for Suffolk County residents by the end of 2013. They include a number of items which Suffolk County was able to get into the State budget as a result of improved relations with Albany, including additional red light cameras at 50 intersections.
County Executive Bellone and his staff held meetings to negotiate this plan with Presiding Officer Bill Lindsay, Minority Leader John Kennedy, Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley, Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory, Legislator Ed Romaine and Gail Vizzini, Director, Legislative Budget Review Office.
Highlights of 1st phase budget mitigation measures:
New York State Initiatives & Mitigation Measures
• Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB)
• Handicapped Children Program Cost Sharing
• Additional Red Light Cameras
• Pension Amortization
• Charge Third Party Insurance for Medevac
• SCAT Increase Consistent with Bus Fare Adjustment
• Collection of Account Receivables
• Institute a Per Ride Surcharge on Ferries
• Extend Federally Qualified Health Center Status to Other Health Centers
• Workers Compensation Medical Cost Rebasing
• Workers Compensation Management
• Termination of Leases, Restacking of County Facilities
• Efficiency Recommendations from Performance Management Staff
• Alternative Methadone Clinic Delivery
• Alternative Public Health Service Delivery
• Defund Health Smart Program
• Embargo up to 10% of Department Funds
• Defund the Tobacco Education Programs
• Suspend Living Wage Subsidy
• Bond Equipment with a 5+ year Period of Probable Usefulness (PPU)
While this effort was being negotiated, administration officials have also been meeting with representatives of labor unions to solve the county's fiscal crisis.
“This is an important first step in the difficult process of restoring Suffolk County’s fiscal integrity,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay. “We are pleased to be working side by side with County Executive Bellone and with a bipartisan group of Legislators, because the only way we can win this difficult battle is by working together as one team. We are making progress but we face difficult decisions down the road. By working together we can find a solution that we can all live with.”
“Restoring Suffolk County’s financial footing has presented us with many difficult choices. Over the last few weeks we have proven that we can accomplish our goal by working in unison with a bipartisan group of Legislators and the County Executive. Again working together is evidence that we can accomplish our goal and guarantee that Suffolk County will continue to provide the best services for its residents while making tough economic decisions,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne R. Horsley.
The County faces many difficult choices ahead of us to deal with the budget deficit, said SC Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory. “This plan is a good initial first step to getting Suffolk County back to fiscal solvency.”
“The Republican caucus is committed to working in a diligent and determined manner to eliminate the projected budgetary shortfalls identified through 2013,” said SC Minority Leader John Kennedy. “The County Executive and his budget staff have identified recurring savings in this first round of budget adjustments, and we look forward to bringing forward additional measures to fully remedy the balance of the budget shortfalls, while maintaining essential services for Suffolk’s residents.”
“The county is facing an unprecedented financial crisis,” said Legislator Ed Romaine. "As elected officials, we need to take all reasonable steps to resolve it. However, layoffs in critical functions should be the last resort.”
“In the coming weeks we will develop the second phase of mitigation measures to address the deficit,” said County Executive Bellone. “We know we cannot tax our way to fiscal health and the economy won't just rebound overnight and solve this for us. Everyone in Suffolk County government will need to make tough choices and sacrifice together to get our County back on sound fiscal standing.”