Bellone budget cuts capital projects 21%

Photo credit: Ed Betz | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about the county's budget problems during a news conference in Hauppauge. (April 2, 2012)

by PAUL LAROCCO, Newsday
April 17, 2012

Spending for construction and other capital projects would decline by 21 percent next year under a budget proposed Tuesday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. 

Unveiling his three-year capital program, Bellone said roads and bridges still would be rehabbed and public safety vehicles replaced, but that the county's fiscal crisis requires a "leaner" plan than lawmakers have approved in recent years. 

"This capital budget is reflective of the fact that we need to live within our means while we make the necessary investments to grow our economy and make government more efficient," he said. 

Capital spending in 2013 is proposed at $129.9 million, down from the $163.8 million approved by the legislature for 2012. Former County Executive Steve Levy had submitted a capital budget of $107.6 million for 2012, but lawmakers restored many items he had cut. 

For 2013, Bellone is proposing $11.6 million for coastline erosion protection, $11 million for renovations to the county jail in Yaphank and $7 million each for dredging and sewer district improvements. He also would launch Jumpstart Suffolk, providing $5 million in county capital funds for shovel-ready, mixed-use development projects. 

Bellone's plan does not include $16.75 million that some lawmakers had sought for a new gymnasium at Suffolk Community College's Riverhead campus. Nor does it include $1.35 million for a visitor's center at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank, which hosts school classes and others interested in seeing a working farm. 

"We'll have to re-establish our priorities, and it will be tough," said legislative Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). "Those projects that are ready to go, we should fund because they'd have the greatest impact on the economy and keep as many people working as possible." 

Gregory noted that declining to fund the community college gym, which legislators in both parties had long supported over Levy's objections, could be controversial. A Republican leader agreed. 

"I don't understand why an executive would omit community college projects unless they were completely superfluous," said Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset). 

Lawmakers will vote on the 2013 capital budget in June. 

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