Freezes General Fund Property Taxes for Seventh Straight Year, Complies With Governor Cuomo's Property Tax Cap.
Suffolk County, NY - Sept. 24, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today released a 2019 Recommended Operating Budget that would freeze General Fund property taxes for a seventh consecutive year without imposing any new fees. The Recommended Budget also complies with Governor Cuomo's two percent Property Tax Cap, provides tax relief for residents in the Southwest Sewer District for the fifth consecutive year, and maintains investments in public safety that have made Suffolk County one of the safest suburban counties in the nation.
“As a result of our ongoing efforts to shrink government and control spending, we have submitted a structurally balanced budget that relies entirely on recurring revenues since before I took office,” said County Executive Bellone. “At the same time, the Recommended Budget continues the strategic investments we are making to grow the economy, improve water quality, and keep Suffolk County one of safest communities in the entire country.”
Highlights of the County Executive’s Recommended Budget:
No “one shot” revenue, the first time this has occurred since 2011
Cuts sewer taxes for residents of the Southwest Sewer District
Reduces debt service in the General Fund by $9.4 million
Stops the practice of deferring pension costs for the first time in eight years, bringing structural balance to the budget.
Curtailing Healthcare Costs
The County has taken action to contain growing costs associated with the Suffolk County Employee Medical Health Plan (EMHP). The cost of the Employee Medical Health Plan (EMHP) increased by $100 million between 2013 and 2017. During his 2018 State of the State Address, County Executive Bellone identified the need to reign in health care costs as a priority to protect taxpayers. Today, the County projects savings of at least $27 million in 2019 as a result of re-bidding of services to incorporate new technology for better health outcomes.
Investing in Public Safety
Suffolk County is one of the safest suburban communities in the nation, and is currently enjoying its lowest crime rate in recorded history. The Suffolk County Police Department continues to implement an array of innovative strategies with a particular focus on the opioid epidemic, gang violence, traffic safety and homeland security. Index crimes are at their lowest levels since the Department began collecting reliable crime statistics in 1975 thanks to the hard work the Police Department. In the first quarter of 2018, crime has continued to decline from already historic lows, including violent crime, shooting incidents, property crimes and drug overdoses from heroin.
To address attrition and provide adequate levels of staffing in the Police Department, Suffolk County will hold a Police Officer classes in 2018 that will bring on 87 new Police Officers and 12 Deputy Sheriffs. Each new police officer hired under the current PBA contract will provide the County with thousands of dollars in recurring savings compared to officers under the previous PBA contract. The Recommended Operating Budget also includes funds for a new class of police recruits. A class of correction officers is also scheduled for 2018 that will bring on an additional 50 officers. The County will also hold classes for additional police officers, deputy sheriffs and correction officers in 2019.
Suffolk County is also collaborating with the Sheriff's Department to implement management tools that increase transparency, enabling management officials to identify cost-drivers in real time and make necessary adjustments.
Growing the Economy
Connect Long Island is a comprehensive regional transportation and development plan that is intended to facilitate an innovation economy and sustainable growth by supporting Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and a 21st century transportation network. The i-Zone is a comprehensive plan to make Suffolk a more attractive place for young people and high-tech businesses by investing in economic development, revitalizing downtown areas and creating modern transportation options.
Major transportation projects that are currently in the planning or construction phase include the build-out of the Ronkonkoma Hub; the advancement of the Nicolls Road Multimodal Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Bike/Hike Corridor; the relocation of the Yaphank Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station to Brookhaven National Laboratory; and the creation of a plane to train connection at the Town of Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport.
In addition, TODs are progressing across the County in many areas including: Wyandanch Village; Amityville; Ronkonkoma Hub; Heartland – Brentwood; Riverhead; Riverside; Copiague; Huntington Station; The Boulevard at Yaphank; East Farmingdale; Lindenhurst, Kings Park, Smithtown, Port Jefferson and Patchogue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Shared Services Initiative required each county in the State to collaborate with towns and villages to develop a plan for new inter-municipal initiatives to achieve cost savings through more efficient and coordinated shared services. The Suffolk County Shared Services Panel has unanimously approved SuffolkShare, a comprehensive 11-point plan that is projected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars over a two-year period. New York State will be offering a full matching grant for all net savings achieved through his plan during calendar year 2018. The savings will be split proportionally amongst the municipalities participating in the various initiatives.
This year to date, several million dollars in shared services savings have entered the pipeline. In addition, the SuffolkShare web portal when launched will be a multi-functioning tool that will assist local governments with the facilitation and management of purchases of goods and services between municipalities and the private sector. It will also enable municipalities to share information about the services they perform and shop for the services they need. A number of shared services will be accessible through this portal, including recycling services, marine equipment, street sweepers, road resurfacing crews, senior and youth health care and emergency management.
Since 2012, the County workforce has been reduced by more 1,200 full time positions. Suffolk County has maintained this lower level of staffing through enhanced departmental management and strict position control. The reduction in workforce saves taxpayers more than $100 million per year. Keeping full time staffing levels at this lower level is critical to maintaining payroll costs at a manageable level.