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LI Regional Planning Council gets $250,000 state funding

John Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional

John Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. Credit: handout

The head of the Long Island Regional Planning Council Tuesday announced $250,000 in state funding -- and the prospect of additional financial support from other sources -- that will provide a needed cash infusion for the financially strapped bi-county advisory group.

"That funding will help us continue our operation and pursue our mission," council chairman John D. Cameron said during Tuesday's meeting. He said the state budget included a $250,000 line item for the council, "and we look forward to that continued support."

He thanked state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) "for advancing that initiative," and the Assembly and governor's office for their support. Skelos could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The council's fate was in question after Nassau County withdrew its $200,000 contribution to the council's $500,000 annual budget in March 2011, citing the county's budget woes.

Suffolk County gradually phased out its funding as well, noting the council was supposed to be funded equally by both counties. Money the council had in its coffers and grant money not tied to specific projects were used to keep the council operating. It currently has two paid staffers, down from three.

"We've been living on fumes," Cameron said in an interview. But he smiled Tuesday, saying the council's demise "has been greatly exaggerated." He said other funding sources are available, adding he has commitments from both county executives that he plans to detail next month.

The council has existed in some form for more than 40 years, issuing reports about the region's development and analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data. The 12-member volunteer group is made up of town supervisors, village mayors and business and nonprofit executives. Currently, it has two vacancies.

As a follow-up to its 2010 report on strategies for enhancing the region's economic future, the council plans to unveil an educational and interactive website in the coming weeks. The website will focus on the need for affordable housing and its importance in retaining young people for the region's workforce, Cameron said.

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