HAUPPAGUE - Suffolk County taxpayers shocked by the news that the county is facing a massive budget deficit say they want to know how the money mess got so bad. Yesterday, an independent panel announced its findings: barring drastic measures, the county could be facing a $530 million budget gap by the end of 2013. County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Suffolk) has announced a fiscal emergency. Several county legislators are blaming the prior administration, saying that former Executive Steve Levy was not always upfront about Suffolk's financial situation.

Bellone says that everything is on the table to close the gap, including property tax hikes and county layoffs. He met today with each of the county's 11 unions, although no solutions have been discussed just yet. Click to read the full text of the panel's budget assessment.

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