Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today called a special meeting of the legislature for Tuesday, July 28, 2020 to consider and vote on IR 1413, which will help mitigate the projected budget shortfall created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be held via Zoom and include a one-hour public portion.
IR 1413, which requires voter approval, would allow the County Open Space Program to be funded in part with capital funds for a three-year period to allow a larger portion of sales tax revenues to be directed to the County’s Taxpayer Trust Fund. The sales tax revenue will be replaced by capital funding, dollar for dollar, so the open space program will remain fully funded. The resolution contains a fail-safe measure in which the revenues would automatically revert to the Open Space Fund should the capital money not be appropriated by the legislature. This fail-safe provision 100% guarantees that open space funding cannot be cut.
On Tuesday, the Suffolk County Legislature closed the public hearing on IR 1413, but in order to get on the November Ballot, a special meeting is necessary to vote on and approve this measure.
Earlier this week, the Suffolk County Legislature passed IR 1414, which will allow residents to vote on the transfer of excess funds from the Sewer Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund to the Suffolk County Taxpayers Trust Fund to provide property tax protection.
“I applaud the Legislature for standing with taxpayers and essential employees this week by passing resolution 1414, which will give the public the right to vote on tax stabilization and budget mitigation,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “Now we must also adopt resolution 1413, which will help protect taxpayers and essential employees from the worst impacts of the financial emergency caused by COVID-19.”
On April 17, 2020, County Executive Bellone announced the creation of a Fiscal Impact Task Force due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This task force brought together a group of financial experts from across the region that were charged with conducting an independent review of the county’s multi-year plan and determining the fiscal impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on it. The Task Force considered three possible scenarios that could occur given the uncertainty of the pandemic and overall economy.
The report concludes that in the best case scenario, Suffolk County will be forced to close a budget gap of more than $1.1 billion in the next 14 months. In the worst case scenario that factors in a potential second wave and business closures, Suffolk County could face a staggering $1.5 billion total shortfall over a similar time period.
“Our first responders, healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and all other essential workers carried us through this crisis and should not now be forced to bear the burden of the financial hardships this pandemic has caused. While we need federal disaster assistance to recover, we must also adopt common sense budget mitigation measures like this one to protect taxpayers and county employees from the damage of this unprecedented financial emergency,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone.