Bellone unveils pandemic-ravaged budget proposal for Suffolk County that slashes millions
In an exclusive interview, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone unveiled his proposed budget, giving a good look at just how devastating the pandemic has been on the area.
For months, Bellone has sounded the alarm about potential cuts to county services and jobs because of the pandemic and a lack of federal aid. On Friday, massive reductions are a step closer to reality with his proposed 2021 budget.
The spending plan includes slashing $20 million from the police department, $13 million from county bus service and $8 million from contract agencies the provide health care and social services. Five-hundred full-time county jobs are also on the chopping block.
"These cuts are devastating and should not be happening in the middle of battling a COVID-19 pandemic," says Bellone. "This is a last resort budget."
Bellone says he had no choice but to make the reductions after Washington failed to deliver on disaster aid.
"We're not asking for a handout. The fact of the matter is it's a simple matter of fairness," says Bellone. "We send billions of dollars every single year of our tax dollars to Washington that we never see in return. We're simply asking for the federal government to give us back a small fraction of those tax dollars so that we can recover as a region from this unprecedented natural disaster."
Suffolk is facing a projected deficit of about $437 milion this year, and a multiyear shortfall of more than $1 billion.
Republican Legislator Rob Trotta claims the county was in bad shape before the pandemic, and the fiscal mess is the result of Bellone's mismanagement.
"Now you have the county executive crying to the federal government for his mismanagement before this ever happened," says Trotta.
The county charter requires the Legislature to approve a budget by Nov. 10.
If approved, the proposed budget cuts don't take effect until next July. Bellone says that gives the county time to roll back the cuts if Washington comes through with disaster aid.