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Mar 6, 2012 2:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County May Face $500 Million Deficit

Mar 7, 2012 9:41 AM

Absent a swift rebounding of the Long Island economy, Suffolk County could be facing a deficit of more than $500 million by the end of 2013, according to an independent panel of experts appointed by County Executive Steve Bellone to examine the financial health of the county he has just taken over.

The head of the panel—Hampton Bays resident and former New York City financial officer Richard Halverson—told members of the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday morning that the county would likely find itself with a $33 million deficit when it tallies its 2011 spending and revenues later this year and that the current $2.7 billion 2012 budget is headed toward an additional $148 million shortfall, which many saw coming. In 2013, if there are not drastic increases in tax revenues or almost untenable cuts in spending, the county could see an additional deficit of $349 million, the panel said—although those predictions make several assumptions about revenue trends and costs that some within the county say may be somewhat overly pessimistic.

“After being told the 2011 budget was balanced, I was stunned to learn it was actually out of balance by more than $33 million, the first time Suffolk County ended a year in deficit in 20 years,” Mr. Bellone said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “It’s not pleasant, but it is reality. There are two ways to deal with reality, you can embrace it or you can deny it. I choose to embrace reality and build Suffolk County’s finances on an honest foundation.”

“This afternoon, I will formally declare a fiscal emergency in Suffolk County under authority granted to me by the County Charter,” Mr. Bellone’s statement reads. “This will give me the ability to immediately embargo up to 10 percent of the funds in each department’s budget. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with our countywide elected officials and the leaders of our public sector unions to begin the process of addressing this shortfall.”

The panel shied away from placing blame for the mountainous deficits, noting that a mortal blow was dealt to the county’s fiscal foundation by the economic collapse in 2008, a tsunami that swept away more than $110 million in annual sales tax revenues from the county’s coffers. At the same time, new state pension requirements loaded mountainous contributions to retirement funds—an additional $90 million in a single year—onto the county’s annual bills. Miserly constraints on spending by former County Executive Steve Levy’s administration served only to put off the coming deficits temporarily and one-time revenue inputs into the 2012 budget—like feeding in money from rainy-day funds, sales of county land and a windfall from a major tobacco lawsuit settlement—just put the 2013 budget in even more dire straits.

The panel report showed that county expenditures have outpaced revenues each year since the economy collapsed in late 2007, when sales and mortgage tax revenues plummeted. The predicted deficits in 2011 and 2012 it blamed primarily on revenue shortfalls, but the 2013 estimates would come primarily on the back of steep cost increases—due in large part to mounting debt service on borrowing that has climbed from just under $300 million in 2007 to nearly $650 million in 2012—according to the panel’s report. The panel said that there are few signs that the challenges facing the county will ease in the years beyond its forecasts.

Bridging the cavernous gaps in what the county will bring in and what it effectively must spend each year, will likely require both painful cuts to services and increases in county tax revenue—increases that don’t appear likely to come from a broad economic rebound in the immediate future.

The panel’s massive deficit predictions even take into account the elimination of hundreds of county jobs planned for in the 2012 budget—but only some of approximately 600 employees of the county-run John J. Foley Nursing Home in Yaphank, which former County Executive Steve Levy had proposed closing in his final budget. The legislature ultimately put off the closing, hoping to form a public-private partnership that may allow the facility to remain open while still cutting costs to the county.

“The 2012 budget spent less than 2008 levels and was balanced until the Legislature restored the nursing home and 600 employees,” Mr. Levy, the former county executive, said in a statement released shortly after the budget panel presented its findings. “Long island is unaffordable and raising taxes is not the answer. They should close the nursing home, require employee contribution to health benefits and seek a freezing of police salaries for two years. Things the Legislature rejected in the past must now be passed.”

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You gotta love it- business RUNNING not walking from this Island- not to mention from this Country (look at all the manufacturing that moved their plants and offices overseas), out of control pensions, benefits, and salaries- local Government (and us dopey taxpayers) not standing up to this- and we wonder why. When will we learn?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Mar 6, 12 7:01 PM
Mr Bellone is shocked the county has a deficit? I don't even follow county politics and I knew they had a deficit in the hundreds of millions. Reason being the countys pension contributions will double and triple in the next 10 years. It's time we follow what most of the country does, and get rid of townships, and make a centralized county govt. There are literally thousands of over lapping jobs being done by many local towns and villages. We also have to combine schools districts and get rid of ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 6, 12 9:38 PM
Let's see, "promises our body can't keep.".
Check.
Let's look again: "$*** we can't ever afford.".
Check.
Q: When do we"We" have simply a better life?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 6, 12 10:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
These guys couldn't even run a candy store. Trouble is we're in this mess with them.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 6, 12 10:47 PM
Well that's a candy coated report of the Panels assessment. No mention of the County estimating a jump in Sales Tax Revenue, or the increase in Real Estate Prices or the total poor planning? Most other "News" outlets had that quote from the Panel - but not here.........curious.

The County would not have to lay off anyone if they simply reduced the double & triple dippers down to one paying job. Instead, to protect the patronage & pay to play environment they will cut positions held by employees ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 7, 12 7:01 AM
Come on G, one more time, tell us who they are, quit making things up and give details. Are there so many double dippers that we have a half billion dollar deficit and only YOU know the cause and how to correct it? WOW!!!!
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 8, 12 12:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Greatgoogamooga, Southampton on Mar 7, 12 10:38 AM
Actually, the highest level of incompetence is @ the White House, In Congress and the Senate. These local humps take their lead from Washington & the State. Lets not think for a moment that any local, elected "leaders" have an original thought between them. Even SHTGOV is ruled by Brookhaven. The incompetence trickles downhill to the local level, like many other things.... Thus the State of our County, Town, many Villages & the Schools. The local Gov is to blame - but lets not make their heads ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 7, 12 10:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Greatgoogamooga, Southampton on Mar 7, 12 11:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
I say we find a local, "salt of the earth" fellow who can beat Bishop, and Altschuler.

We've got to have one person on the East End who would do a better job than either of them, don't we?

And, I DON'T mean me. There has to be someone. Local leader, loves and understands the East End, has seen some of it's most hidden jewels somewhere out on the trail, or the water.

Anyone?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 9, 12 3:03 PM
Just tell me who do you think is more local than Tim Bishop? Do you have in your mind some other "local" who can trace family ancestry back to the founders of 1640? Who is mr. Z? you think you are local? I doubt it. Tim Bishop knows more about Southampton Village, Town and Suffolk County than you'll ever know. The East End is in his DNA. He does care for his home country and is trying his best to do his part to help govern this country.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Mar 10, 12 9:11 AM
He did a hell of a job at Southampton college lol
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 12, 12 12:13 AM
Well summertime, I was born on Long Island soil, right in that hospital over on Meeting House La. in the village. That being said, being a descendant of a "Founder" no more makes it a given that you do a good job, than an elephant being born in a tree makes you a bird.

We have alot of serious problems, and Tim appears to have thrown his hat in the ring with those who are part of the problem. Or, at least that is the perception of many out there. Even if he is worth his salt, there are ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 7:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
The "leadership" is corrupt from the top of the Federal government to the smallest municipality. Why did the County install those car covers meant to house solar panels when they were so far in debt. I wonder who got that contract.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 7, 12 1:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mandates are killing all the government and public school business models. It needs to change as it is bankrupting all the property and state income taxpayers. The Tier system should immediately change as the accrual and cashing out of sick, personal and vacation days is killing us. Use em or lose em. If they changed that one step you could probably raise the workers salaries. Further the workers should start payng more for health insurance. The other uneccessary expense is the prevailing wage provision ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 8, 12 6:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
Government of the people,by the people and for the people.What a joke. It's all for the politicians and their cronies. Might as well be Tammany Hall.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 8, 12 10:33 AM
Love all the talk about the federal government. This is why our problems will never be solved. There's like 3 cops on the road for every motorist and alot of them are making 6 figures.
And you old people keep electing officials who hire more cops and shape the county so the money flows to them. And then complain about whatever glen beck or rush tells you to complain about.
Keep whining about the federal government while county officials make poor invesments with out money and over-police ...more
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Mar 8, 12 11:12 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Greatgoogamooga, Southampton on Mar 9, 12 11:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
I don't have and hard figures on the cop thing - and I don't think your average cop is any worse of a guy than your average carpenter. I actually like all the town, country, and state cops i've interacted with. Good guys (and women) trying to do the right thing the right way. I don't have any hard figures - i just see 5 cop cars at every accident, 10 at every fire, and b/w 2 and at every other cop-needing event. Those guys do earn every dollar but I don't think we need state, county, and village ...more
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Mar 12, 12 12:02 PM
Wouldn't you think that there would be a major investigation over a shortfall of 530 million dollars? Apparently not just cash those paychecks use those benefits and move that money. Plus keep those idiot taxpayers quiet.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 12, 12 1:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Greatgoogamooga, Southampton on Mar 13, 12 3:41 PM
Phil, you know that cap America is a man of limited intellect and ignorant biases, you should not expect better than childish names and a refusal to accept facts
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Mar 13, 12 10:52 PM
Most of see 10-11 as negative 1 and are rarely surprised by it.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 8, 12 3:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
Time to get rid of all these local towns and villages they all have over lapping services we already have. These townships are just places to put patronage jobs for our crooked politicians.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 8, 12 9:31 PM
Chief1, So I take it that U are in favor of BIG BIG Government? What a mess that would be!!! no local individuals to have a say in how the area they live in must be governed? What are U thinking of Dictatorship? Maybe U want to give up our Constitution?
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Mar 10, 12 9:23 AM
Actually getting rid of villages and townships would be a way to shrink goverment. The villages and towns are just a waste of money
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 12, 12 12:11 AM
Run our Town and County like a business, no expenditures without the funds to pay for them, make the cuts in personnel and services neccessary to achieve this. PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 9, 12 7:37 AM
Easier said...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 9, 12 1:52 PM
Phil...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 9:58 PM
It's surreal. One day they report a small debt. Next day a 530 million dollar dept.How inept can these characters be? How ignorant do they think we are? I wonder how this would have played out in the Old West? Or right here 120 years ago?
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 9, 12 2:35 PM
Translation for Phil, run the government the same way WORKING PEOPLE (not sure this applies to you) handle their lives. Spend what you can afford and cut back in times of economic difficulty.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 9, 12 4:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
AHEM....
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 10:00 PM
You're always good for a laugh Phil, if you ever move out into the real world and work for a living, you'll see how rediculous your positions are. Novel ideas during the 60's but proven not to work.
How can you be against a more efficient, less intrusive government? Don't lose sight that the funds being spent are ours, the taxpayers and the government works for us.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 10, 12 8:21 AM
Well Pyil, you hit all the Demokrat talking points as usual.
You misunderstood that the flap about birth control is only an issue for the Dems used to obfuscate the fact that BHO is presiding over a terrible economic situation made worse by His fiscal policies. The Republican's position is that the federal government has no power to force citizens to violate their religious tenents, ie. Obamacare mandating birth control coverage by health insurers.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 11, 12 8:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Can We get a word in edgewise?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 10:01 PM
to bigfresh:

Quote: "The Republican's position is that the federal government has no power to force citizens to violate their religious tenents. . ."

Thanks for pointing this out. My opinion is that the federal government has ample Constitutional authority to forbid men in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints from engaging in sexual intercourse with their own infant female children (for instance) despite that religion's assertion that god ordains ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 11, 12 12:51 PM
phil, coward or not, his arguement is lucid and on point. Your response was not even trying to argue the facts, just trying to distract from the issue that you were in the wrong. Typical left-wing tactic, "if you are wrong, go after your opponents character. That way maybe people will think that you're right."
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 13, 12 2:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why should employers provide health insurance in the first place?

By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 11, 12 2:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
to highhatsizeisafreak:

Thanks. You are the first correspondent on this forum sincerely to flatter me by adopting an imitation of my nom d'internet.

Bigfresh made an unqualified statement which I simply pointed out is wrong regardless of your political point of view. I hope that he didn't take my response as seriously as did you. Religions do not have a "sacrosanct" status vs-a-vie the operation of federal law.

That's all I can say in response to your post. It is ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 11, 12 8:03 PM
2 members liked this comment
For the Republicans to go after women's health issues before an election is suicidal. Do they want to lose this election? Rush Limbaugh is almost out of advertisers. Ones that do advertise get mail,phone calls etc. Other right wing talk show hosts are having similar problems
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Mar 11, 12 8:59 PM
The student enrolled at Georgetown just to set this up? You can not be serious. Where do you get this nonsense? Are one of Limbaugh's last stand? Oh yeah, "...that's the dumbest thing ever posted on the internet."
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 12, 12 11:37 PM
Phil never says where the money is going to come from. Entitlement spending is now at unsustainable levels. Long Island, and in this case, Suffolk county is already a very expensive place to live. The tax payer is paying more and more and receiving less and less. People like Phil waive the magic wand and think that somehow money will fall from the trees. It won't. The knee-jerk liberal response is to tax the rich. Never, not even once have I read a suggestion from the liberal hit squad that government ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 11, 12 9:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Get ready, double standard, here it comes: As a life member of the "liberal hit squad," I'll say, and not for the first time, "government needs to get its house in order FIRST."

OK? Now you've read it, straight from the wrong side of town. So what does that mean, government getting its house in order? This is a story about County finances, right? The guy who ran the County while we were got into this hole was Republican Steve Levy, right? Thing is, at this local level, government ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 12, 12 5:53 AM
Good on you, Turkey. Good on you. Aside from your false assumption that I'm somehow making excuses for the Republican party your post is somewhat refreshing. For the sake of progress I'll ignore your sarcastic cuteness.
Here's how I would do it
1. Fiscal house in order = what are we spending and why? What is actually needed and what is perk? Bye bye perks. What is a job worth? What can we afford to pay for said job? What are we offering in terms of time off, retirement, medical? If that ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 12, 12 8:59 AM
TB,
Not to muddy the water, but Steve Levy was a Democrat for 28 of his 30 years of elected office.
And FWIW, I think Steve Bellone is the best thing to happen to Suffolk County in a lot of years.
Just want to make it clear that all is not what you sometimes post. Levy became a Republican when the County Conservative Chair wanted to once again be the tail wagging the dog and get Little Stevie the Republican nod for Governor. A tasty morsel that Steve was willing to sell his soul for.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 12, 12 12:20 PM
Hey blank, I agree w/you about Steve Bellone -- I hope we're right about him. You're also correct about Steve Levy. I shouldn't have hung it all on him, but I was trying to avoid doing a long post & used him as shorthand . True that Steve L. has been a Republican for only 2 years, but Reps ran the County Legislature for most of the period when the deficits arose, and I blame a long-time Suffolk Republican atmosphere of cozy/comfy/chummy good-old-boy dealing for a lot of the financial damage. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 12, 12 12:57 PM
Well TB we can debate who had the majority in the Legislature, but it was never more than one or two in Levy's admin of a majority one way or the other. Certainly well within arm twisting or political gamesmenship to swing a vote (isn't that why they are politicians?)
Or, we can look at Nassau and Suozzis Democrat majority, the county now under NIFA controls. or we can look at NYS when Democrat Comptroller Carl McCall dropped employee/employer comtributions to less that 1% while he tried a ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 13, 12 11:20 AM
And keep blaming others, Phil. If you went to a mechanic to get your car fixed and he messed it up you'd be angry and rightfully so. If the next mechanic promised to fix it, but he he didn't, and then you asked him to again and he said he would, but he didn't again, would you at some point say this guy is inept too?
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 11, 12 9:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Personal responsibility Phil, personal responsibility. The INDIVIDUAL should be responsible for their own health insurance, not the employer and certainly not the government. I know this idea is like Holy Water to a vampire when applied to the leftist wing of the Demokrat Party, but there it is.
As to Suffolk County's fiscal problems: Get your house in order first, that's been posted before. Second: budget the revenue that's available starting with CRUCIAL services. Eliminate non essential ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 12, 12 8:05 AM
I agree with most of that other than individual insurance would cripple most households. Higher co-pays, and paying a percentage of the premium would ease the burden. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to insure a workforce. Obamacare made that even harder. This burden will be past on to the workforce in terms of lower wages or reduced hiring. Yes we can!
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 12, 12 9:05 AM
Why do I never hear the phrase "McCarran-Ferguson Act" from you well informed parties?

If there's one thing that allows for malfeasance, that would be it.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 2:53 PM
Not sure how you are applying it here.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 12, 12 4:05 PM
Az far as I have been informed, it gives insurance companies a "free pall", oopps, mean "free pass" from some anti-trust laws.

Seems to me, that the recent health care Act, skated repealing it.

Or, so I've been told...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 9:55 PM
Right.
Left.

Left.
Right.
Left.

Where's Pete?

Goodnight...
Mar 12, 12 10:02 PM appended by Mr. Z
By the way, did you hear about those two guys sitting on the cliff?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 12, 12 10:02 PM
It is time for the county workers who bragged and thought their jobs were 'safe' to face the same issues people in the private sector have been facing. trim the fat.
By joegti10 (8), East Moriches on Mar 13, 12 9:36 AM
3 members liked this comment
I know someone who got a job with the county a little while ago. He was ecstatic because (he told me) he was now "made for life". He talked about the huge pension and benefits package he would get and then told me that of course, as it was a job that involved physical labor, the chances of being able to get off on disability were very high. He actually chuckled. That was his goal but only after the "probation" period kicked in all these goodies. That said it all to me. It was a revolting display. ...more
By local12 (34), Remsenburg on Mar 13, 12 10:47 PM
Bravo!
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 14, 12 7:42 AM
Haaaa, The little taker got what he deserved this time nice job everyone
By They call me (2826), southampton on Mar 14, 12 9:18 PM