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GOP move to trim Suffolk's Social Services budget fails

A Republican proposal directing Suffolk's Social Services officials to develop a plan to cut 10 percent from the department’s $660 million budget failed in a 3-3 vote in the county legislature’s human services committee this week.

The tie vote developed Tuesday when Democratic lawmaker Louis D’Amaro joined Republicans Leslie Kennedy and Robert Trotta in supporting the measure.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, committee chairwoman Monica Martinez and Legis. Kate Browning opposed the resolution.

The measure required four votes to pass.

The vote came after John O’Neill, social services commissioner, told the committee that the department is so hamstrung by federal and state mandates and relies so much on outside aid that it would be impossible to cut 10 percent from its budget.

The department has only about $85.4 million in discretionary spending and even that includes federal aid, O’Neill said. He also said the agency is working with 100 fewer workers than in 2012, while the county has made a union agreement barring further layoffs.

D’Amaro said he backed a cutback plan so that lawmakers can face the “hard choices” needed to reduce the county’s anticipated $176 million shortfall.

Browning said she opposed the resolution because it is not workable. Noting the department is already “cut thin,” she said, “If we had a few more employees we might be able to create more efficiencies.”

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), the resolution’s sponsor, said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the vote.

Referring to efforts to merge the comptroller and treasurer’s office, Cilmi said, “It’s amazing to me that we’ve spent so much time talking about the consolidation of departments that would save the county less than $1 million and dismiss the chance here to save tens of millions of dollars.”

O’Neill said social services has made cost-cutting a priority and focuses efforts to economize on areas such as the Safety Net program for long-term public assistance recipients, where the county has to pay 71 percent the costs.

“The department is very serious about stretching each dollar,” O’Neill said.


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