Suffolk agency racks up $3.6M in start-up costs
Suffolk's new Traffic Violations and Parking Agency, created to provide new revenue to close the county's budget gap, is generating $3.6 million in unexpected start-up costs for office renovations.
Officials in County Executive Steve Bellone's administration told a legislative committee this week that an emergency resolution will be presented at Tuesday's county legislature meeting to renovate office space for the new agency.
Bellone aide Luis Montes said that while the agency will generate $8 million to $10 million in new revenue in its first full year, officials expect it to only "break even for the first year" because of the start-up costs.
The renovation costs are in addition to the $2.3 million in start-up expenses for new personnel that Bellone outlined in March when he announced a deficit-reduction plan. Bellone also had estimated nearly $13.2 million in revenue for 2013, but revised that to $10 million after including start-up costs.
Bellone has submitted a $2.7 billion budget proposal that includes a $70 million deficit heading into 2013.
"We legislators are just looking for the straight story -- these estimates should not be changing," said Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches). "These costs sound higher than they should be and I'll be asking questions [about] where the revenue is going."
Renovations including security cameras and glass partitions are needed to make the offices safe for cashiers and the public, said Errol Toulon, an assistant deputy county executive for public safety who will oversee the new agency. The county also must buy computers and software that will work with the equipment of the 24 law enforcement agencies -- including county police, sheriffs and State Police -- that will use the agency.
The emergency resolution is necessary because the traffic agency must be operating by March 1, Toulon said.
The new agency is expected to process 150,000 moving violations tickets each year, but will not handle tickets for villages or the East End. Until now, the state has run the traffic court and the county has had to pay $4 million annually in administrative fees. Suffolk received a 9 percent to 10 percent share of traffic fines and expects to receive double that under the new agency, while administrative expenses will decline, Montes said.
The new agency will have an executive director, a staff of 19 and six part-time prosecutors. Nassau's traffic violations agency has 80 staff members and generates about $28 million a year, with the county receiving $11.5 million, Montes said.
Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) asked at the Public Works Committee meeting Monday whether the administration had considered using space in the Perry Duryea building in Hauppauge that already is equipped to handle traffic court operations. Montes said the state already has plans to move its local Taxation and Finance Department office into the space.
Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), deputy legislative presiding officer, said he expects lawmakers to back the emergency resolution when it comes up Tuesday. "It's in the budget and it will move us forward by generating revenue for the county," Horsley said.
The new traffic violation offices will be located in space now occupied by county civil service and disability services employees in Hauppauge.
Suffolk Traffic Violations and Parking Agency
Start-up costs: Include $3.6 million for office renovations and $2.3 million for personnel.
Revenues: $8 million to $10 million in the first full year, though the agency will only break even in that period because of start-up costs.
Tickets: Expected to process 150,000 moving violations each year, but will not handle tickets for villages or the East End. The county will receive about 20 percent of traffic fines.
Source: Suffolk County