Bellone proposes $129.6M Suffolk capital budget

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

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has proposed a 2014 capital budget of $129.6 million -- a 29 percent reduction over last year's budget -- which calls for a 36.3 percent increase over the three-year capital program.

The multiyear plan also includes $277 million in extra capital spending that Bellone said may be eligible for federal disaster aid. Among those projects is the $242 million replacement of the Southwest Sewer District outfall pipe, which officials say was damaged by recent storms.

The cost of the pipe, originally $150 million, has risen with plans to build a tunnel under the Great South Bay for its replacement, and Suffolk will seek $190 million in federal aid for the project. Bellone said the county would finance the project if federal aid doesn't materialize.

Bellone warned that the county, which is still struggling to recover from the economic downturn and a succession of storms and wildfires, "simply cannot afford an exorbitant capital budget." He said the problem is particularly severe next year because county debt payments will increase by $25 million as tobacco securitization money that has been used for debt service ends.

"He recognizes that 2014 is going to be a difficult year and he's taking a realistic view of the financial picture," said Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), deputy presiding officer. Horsley said he expects lawmakers to amend Bellone's package.

The $702.5 million, three-year plan includes $103.7 million to complete the second phase of the new county jail in Yaphank, a state-mandated project. The first phase, which cost $185 million, opened last month.

The capital plan axes 13 projects, including one to stem flooding on Nissequogue River tributaries, and funds for the Shirley/Mastic Sewer District.

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) called the Mastic sewer cuts "highly unfair," after she had backed sewers for the Wyandanch Rising redevelopment project, which Bellone backs strongly.Legislative Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), whose district includes the Nissequogue project, called the cuts politically motivated. He and Browning opposed Bellone's proposal to sell the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank to private operators, and Kennedy called the capital plan "a hit list for anyone associated with the nursing home." Browning did not make the allegation, and Bellone aides said funding decisions were not political.

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