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Steve Bellone unveils plan to share municipal services

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about the

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about the draft plan of Suffolk Share where the county, towns and villages intend to save money under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's initiative to get local governments to streamline their operations, during a press conference in Hauppauge, July 31, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday unveiled a draft plan to share services with towns and villages, estimating it could save as much $37 million over the next two years and create greater future savings.

The plan, required of counties statewide under legislation championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, aims to streamline local governments through increased cooperation to ease the property tax burden.

The plan, dubbed Suffolk Share, will go to the county legislature for public hearings for review before a final plan is adopted by Sept. 15.

Bellone at a Hauppauge news conference said a “rough estimate” is that joint purchasing of equipment and goods could save $27 million for the county, towns and villages.

The county could save another $10 million through sharing anti-graffiti trucks, municipal gasoline pumps and truck cleaning facilities, along with other services.

Bellone called his estimate conservative because the plan is voluntary.

“There’s a lot of upside potential, but it will all depend on participation,” he said. “It will only be as successful as participants want to make it.”

Some officials said the plan could change the landscape so that municipal officials begin thinking about sharing services from the start before taking on new expenditures.

“Some counties are putting forward five to 10 projects to save money, but we’re creating a situation where we can put 100 things into effect,” said Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, who is heading the effort for Bellone.

Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said the draft plan could get towns and county to work closely.

“We’re all in the environment where we have to look at doing things differently than in the past to save for all our taxpayers,” Gregory said.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey, GOP caucus leader, said he read through the plan, “looking for real detail, but maybe you have to read between the lines.” McCaffrey said the plan “will shift the burden to the county, which we are not in a position to do.”

The county’s 10-point plan calls for creation of a “virtual municipal services store,” a computerized portal where local governments could chose from a menu of services and assets available for use. It also calls for a “Muni chat,” a cyber chat room where officials can exchange cost saving ideas.

The county also has applied for a $757,000 state grant to boost computer resources and set up the machinery to help put the new ideas into place.

Tom Melito, deputy county executive for performance management, said the county and the 10 towns have agreed to provide the $76,000 match for the $4 million in state funding available on a competitive basis to all counties outside New York City.

After hearings, the draft plan will be put to a vote of a 44-member panel composed of the county executive, the 10 town supervisors and 33 village mayors.

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