Officials say Sandy has cost Suffolk $70M

Suffolk County Supervisor Steve Bellone dropped in at Suffolk County Supervisor Steve Bellone dropped in at the Disaster Recovery Center at the Lindenhurst Memorial Library and spoke about superstorm Sandy two weeks after it struck and the problems facing the county. (Nov. 12, 2012). Photo Credit: John Roca

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Superstorm Sandy has already cost cash-strapped Suffolk County about $70 million, officials said Monday.

On the same day that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requested nearly $2 billion in federal reimbursement for agencies and governments within Suffolk -- much of it for private home and business repairs -- county government leaders publicly detailed its direct costs for the first time.

"Given the size and scope of the storm, I'm not surprised by the cost. I expect it'll increase," County Executive Steve Bellone said in an interview.

The $70-million expense includes money already spent for debris removal and road fixes, police overtime and efforts to rebuild county beaches, said Fred Pollert, Bellone's chief budget aide. He said the county hopes to receive another $420 million for future capital expenses to fortify its infrastructure against major storms.

The county, to meet payroll earlier this year, borrowed against projected state and federal aid for the first time in two decades. But officials say they don't anticipate any new, immediate outside borrowing as a result of the storm and may simply rely more on borrowing from existing reserve funds.

For now, Pollert said, Suffolk will likely increase its annual borrowing against upcoming tax revenue from $400 million to about $410 million. A new round of borrowing against state and federal aid next spring also may be higher.

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"We're still waiting to see how things are going to be fleshing out," Pollert said of the longer-term Sandy impact.

Sales-tax figures are the main question mark. The county's $2.77-billion operating budget is largely dependent on that revenue, but Pollert said his office still doesn't know how the storm affected it. A short-term bump in vehicle sales tax, he said, for example, may end up being offset by tourism losses to Fire Island and other damaged beach communities.

Nassau County also said it won't conduct any new short-term borrowing simply due to Sandy. But Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said the county's traditional December borrowing will increase from $240 million to $260 million.

"It's $260 million this year due to hurricane costs," Nevin said.

"The county is still in the assessment stage, and this represents an initial estimate of recovery costs," Mangano said. "This is the beginning of a very lengthy, expensive rebuilding process to return the county to its pre-Sandy form."

-- With Sid Cassese

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