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Suffolk Sale-Leaseback Stall Causes Some Worry

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivers his State

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivers his State of the County address. (Feb. 19, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Lack of state approval for Suffolk’s plan to sell and lease back its buildings as a short-term budget fix is creating increasing worry among county lawmakers.

Suffolk legislative leaders met Friday with County Executive Steve Bellone to discuss potential solutions to a newly projected $250 million shortfall through 2014. But the cloud hanging over the proceedings was the continued uncertainty over the $70 million “sale-lease back” proposal officials are banking on for this year.

Bellone needs the State Legislature OK his plan to allow the county to sell the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge to private investors and lease it back, yielding one-time revenue that would help balance the 2013 budget. But the proposal is not currently in the state budget that will soon come up for vote.

“We’re all on pins and needles, because that’s our closer for the year,” said the Suffolk Legislature’s Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley. “Without that we’re going to have to scramble to figure out the budget.”

Minority Leader John Kennedy said that the lack of certainly over the sale-leaseback was “the most immediate message” of Friday’s meeting.

“The most immediate thing Bellone shared with us is that the county is no closer now to getting approval for the sale-leaseback than we were three months ago,” Kennedy said. “And I’m not sure why that’s the case.”

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said that officials are not yet panicking, since if the item does not make it into the state budget, it can always be approved in the remaining legislative session, which goes into June.

“The fact we’re pushing so hard for this the sale-leaseback is endemic of the challenges we face,” Schneider said.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said he was still hopeful the item will come through.

“It’s frustrating we don’t have it yet,” he said.

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