The Suffolk County Legislature on Wednesday passed a $3.74 billion budget that boosts law enforcement and cybersecurity spending, keeps general taxes flat and maintains more than $700 million in reserves .
Lawmakers voted 14 to 4 on two resolutions authorizing the 2023 spending plan. Lawmakers Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holbrook), Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) and Trish Bergin (R- Islip) voted against it, with some expressing concerns about its impact on the county’s economic future.
Other lawmakers from both parties said the budget was fiscally sound.
“This is a very conservative, well-funded, well-thought-out budget process here,” Legis said. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), session chairman. “We think the revenue will definitely support the expenses we’re going to incur.”
“This year’s budget process went as smoothly as any I have been involved in in my twelve years in the legislature,” Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) said in a statement. . “The level of collaboration our body showed was extremely encouraging. As a legislature, we were able to make sacrifices when needed and put the financial health of the county ahead of partisanship.
In a statement on Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said “this budget protects taxpayers, addresses cybersecurity, invests in public safety and in the fight against the opioid epidemic, and continues our efforts to reform government. I want to thank my partners in the Legislative Assembly for their work in difficult circumstances and I look forward to fully implementing these bipartisan efforts.”
The spending plan, which faced a truncated approval schedule due to a cyberattack on county systems, raises spending about 1.5% to $3.74 billion from $3.687 billion. dollars in 2022.
The budget freezes taxes for the general fund and the police district, which covers the five western cities.
But Trotta said the budget relied too heavily on pandemic-related funds, like the sales tax increase, and didn’t do enough to cut county spending, with most economists expecting a recession the next year. next year. He did not propose any specific amendments to the budget.
“It feels like ‘I’ve got a balanced budget, it didn’t raise your taxes. That’s great,'” he said. are starting to fall, and we need to raise taxes through the roof.
Sales tax revenue rose an unprecedented 23%, or $340 million, in 2021 from 2020, according to the county legislature’s budget review office. Legis. Steve Flotteron (R-Brightwaters), chairman of the legislature’s budget and finance committee, noted that the 2023 budget projects sales tax revenue will rise 2% next year. He called the figure conservative, pointing to average growth of 4% in 2022.
The budget adds 28 positions to the district attorney’s office and increases the department’s budget by nearly $1.5 million for those salaries. Department officials said the new staff were needed to comply with state-mandated discovery requirements and other criminal justice reforms.
Before voting, lawmakers also revised the police overtime budget to $2.6 million and added 25 additional officers, bringing the total number of new officers in 2023 to 225.
The Office of Budget Review said the county often underbudgets its overtime costs, which doubled from 2017 to 2022 due to staff turnover.
The budget also increases information technology spending by more than $7 million in the wake of the September cyber hack and adds 19 cybersecurity positions.
Also on Wednesday, the Legislature unanimously passed a new map of Suffolk County’s legislative districts that had been recommended by a bipartisan committee.
The new map creates four districts in which ethnic minorities make up the majority of residents, keeps the population of each legislative district roughly equal, and does not require any incumbents to run against each other.
The panel was created after Bellone, a Democrat, vetoed maps passed by the then Democratic-controlled county legislature, saying he did not believe they would withstand a legal challenge.
Legislative redistricting, which takes place after each US decennial census, determines how competitive districts will be in the next election.
Both sides praised the cards and the panel, which met dozens of times over several months before reaching an agreement in September.
“We should be a role model for others struggling to do so,” McCaffrey said.