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Steve Bellone trims Suffolk community college budget request

Suffolk County Community College is pictured in 2016.

Suffolk County Community College is pictured in 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday

County Executive Steve Bellone has trimmed the Suffolk County Community College trustees’ request for a 2.5 percent increase in the county’s contribution to the school, by sending the county legislature a budget that hikes the county share by only 1.5 percent.

Bellone’s version of the $220.9 million college budget provides a $42,414,805 county contribution to the two-year school — $417,880 less than trustees sought.

Bellone said he based his decision on an April report by an executive-legislative-college committee that recommended a 1.5 percent increase for the college in each of the next five years. Anything more would not be “sustainable,” the report said.

“I’ve decided to stick to that recommendation,” Bellone said shortly before the spending package was sent to county lawmakers Wednesday afternoon.

In his budget narrative, Bellone said he had to consider “the county’s fiscal condition,” and a 1.5 percent hike “is as much as Suffolk County residents can afford at this time.”

College spokesman Drew Biondo said, “We’re extremely disappointed but understand the county’s fiscal position. However, we do have a mission to fulfill and our trustees want to keep tuition affordable.”

College trustees already have proposed a $100, or 2.1 percent, increase in tuition for next year. That will bring the annual cost for full-time students to $4,870.

To make up the shortfall due to Bellone’s budget through tuition would add another $21 to the students’ tab, said Gail Vizzini, college fiscal vice president.

The college, which has proposed using a record $6.3 million from its $21.8 million reserve fund, could increase the use of reserves to $6.7 million, Vizzini said. It also could consider staff or equipment cuts, she said.

Officials say the problem with using one-shot revenue from reserves is that the college will have to replace it in the next budget year, while meeting other rising expenses. Bellone said the reserve fund balance over the past eight years has averaged $2.7 million — more than the college estimated.

College officials say the trustees’ budget committee is trying to schedule a meeting to review Bellone’s spending package and develop options to offset the reduced county aid hike.

Trustees will take up the issue at their June 15 meeting. The county legislature is expected to act on the college budget at its July 25 meeting.

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