(Hauppauge, New York-May 27, 2015) Today, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was joined by Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy and members of the Suffolk County Legislature, to announce a plan to expedite the merger of the Comptroller and Treasurer’s office which was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum last year by Suffolk County voters. Originally proposed by County Executive Bellone in 2013, the plan calls to move the merger date to January 2016, two years ahead of the schedule set forth by the referendum.
The referendum called for the elimination of 5 positions which would save taxpayers approximately $767,000 annually. Incredibly, the savings called for in the merger have already been achieved under Treasurer Barry Paul more than two years ahead of schedule. Since being appointed by County Executive Bellone in March, Treasurer Paul has worked closely with Comptroller Kennedy on ways to reduce and streamline the office in order to benefit taxpayers. With staff reductions and other efficiencies, annual savings of more than $1.5 million have already been achieved with additional opportunities for savings identified.
“I have always felt that merging these offices was sound public policy to save taxpayer dollars,” Suffolk County Executive Bellone said. “This is a common-sense plan which respects the will of the voters to merge these offices and save taxpayer dollars. I am glad to partner on this initiative with Comptroller Kennedy.”
“I applaud Legislator Kevin McCaffrey, County Executive Bellone and the members of the Legislature for moving forward in a decisive and effective manner to implement the will of the electorate in consolidating the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer, as adopted in the November 2014 referendum,” Comptroller Kennedy said. “Our residents have stated that they want to see their County government operate efficiently, effectively and at the least possible cost. This agreement on the part of the Executive and Legislature does just that, by accelerating the cost savings to be accomplished with the advent of the departure of the former Treasurer, but more importantly, allows for the unification of common core functions, such as revenue and expenditure accounting, administration of the lodging tax program and streamlining of a variety of functions.”
“I have been following County Executive Bellone’s mandate to make the Treasurer’s Office as efficient as possible,” Treasurer Barry Paul said. “I am confident in this timeline and the work we are doing to save taxpayer dollars.”
County Executive Bellone introduced a local law, subject to permissive referendum, to move forward the timeline to merge the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer by two years, co-sponsored Legislators Kevin McCaffrey and William Lindsay III. This plan will improve the process by eliminating the need to hold an additional election this November for the remaining two years of the Treasurer’s Office as well as the confusion of having to submit separate budget requests for the offices. Last November, 62% of Suffolk County voters supported a referendum to merge the offices at the end of 2017.
“I am pleased to join with County Executive Bellone and my colleagues on the Legislature in a bipartisan effort to expedite the consolidation of the offices of the Treasurer and Comptroller,” Legislator McCaffrey said. “The electorate has spoken loud and clear on their wishes to consolidate government and make it more efficient. I look forward to continuing to work together to find innovative solutions and make the difficult discussions necessary to make Suffolk County a more affordable place to live.”
“This consolidation will provide immediate hard cost savings and unprecedented soft cost savings by reducing duplicative financial management roles,” said Lindsay III. “Suffolk County voters provided us with a clear message last November that they want us to merge these two offices as efficiently as possible. I am extremely proud that, together, we have created a bipartisan initiative that will expedite this merger, accelerate our savings, and provide our residents with better services.”
The plan calls for immediately reducing the size of the merged office by eight positions, saving $1.01 million per year. Under the leadership of Treasurer Paul, the Treasurer’s Office is already down by five positions since the beginning of 2015, including the mandated positions of Assistant to the County Treasurer and Exempt Secretary which are unfilled. Once merged, the three positions of Treasurer and two Deputy Treasurer which are currently filled, would be abolished.
Under Treasurer Paul, the department has made tremendous progress in addressing a backlog of providing tax refunds in a timely manner to taxpayers by identifying process improvements and devoting staff to resolve the backlog. The April 1 backlog of 11,830 Tax Refunds has been reduced by more than 1/3, to 7,810 as of May 14. Based on the current trend, the entire backlog is expected to be eliminated by the end of July, which will save Suffolk taxpayers more than $1 million in reduced interest costs on an annualized basis. The merged office will ensure that these and additional advanced workflow automation improvements continue so that Suffolk County taxpayers continue to receive timely refunds and taxpayers don’t end up footing the bill for interest payments.
The merged office will save an additional $150,000-200,000 by hosting MUNIS in the County’s IT system and will save additional funds down the road by combining systems. Expediting the merger by 2 years will make those savings happen quicker.
Through additional improvements in information technology, an additional three positions will be eliminated through attrition, saving an additional $135,000 per year.