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Suffolk legislature votes Wednesday on $3.88 billion county budget for 2022

Suffolk County Legis. Robert Calarco, presiding officer of

Suffolk County Legis. Robert Calarco, presiding officer of the county legislature, said the county's "strong financial position" represented an opportunity for investment in the county workforce. Credit: James Escher

The Suffolk County Legislature is scheduled to vote Wednesday on County Executive Steve Bellone's $3.88 billion budget for 2022, which includes funding to hire hundreds of new county law enforcement officers, officials said.

The budget would fill hundreds of county staff vacancies, repay millions of dollars in debt and boost reserves without raising property taxes for most homeowners, legislative Presiding Officer Robert Calarco said.

"This is an opportunity, because we are in such a strong financial position, for us to invest in our county and our workforce and that’s what you see in this budget," Calarco (D-Patchogue) told Newsday on Monday.

Suffolk has been awarded more than $570 million in federal pandemic aid since 2020.

The county will receive up to $173.1 million over 18 years from legal settlements with opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies.

The county also is expected to have a surplus in sales tax revenues of up to $407 million in 2021.

Calarco said Bellone’s budget was already "solid" and "structurally sound," and legislators plan to "make minor changes to set our priorities."

Amendments expected Wednesday would boost staffing in the county sheriff's department, increase homelessness outreach, raise salaries for Legal Aid Society attorneys and create a new gun violence prevention program, Calarco said.

Other amendments would increase revenue sharing with East End police departments and boost funding for the county Youth Bureau, which provides youth programming.

Three new deputy sheriffs would be hired to help secure the Westhampton Boeing Michigan Aeronautical Research Center, a former missile base also known as the BOMARC Center, after break-ins and thefts of all terrain vehicles and dirt bikes that had been seized by law enforcement, Calarco said.

Other amendments would revise some of Bellone’s revenue estimates for 2021.

For instance, estimated revenues from from Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. would decline from an estimated $25 million to $20 million.

OTB announced Monday it has provided Suffolk with $16.5 million so far this year, including a record transfer of nearly $9.4 million for the third quarter of this year.

Under Bellone's overall budget, homeowners who don’t live in sewer districts will see their county tax bill stay flat at an average of $1,473 in the five western towns – where residents pay into the county police district – and $237 in East End towns, which have their own police services, officials said.

Under Bellone's budget, the Southwest Sewer District tax levy would rise by 4.74%; all other sewer districts would impose a 3% increase in the tax levy.

Suffolk also would hire 340 new county police officers; 100 corrections officers; 60 deputy sheriffs; and 15 911 dispatchers by the end of 2022 to fill vacancies, according to an analysis of Bellone's budget by the legislative Office of Budget Review.

The county also would add 51 other new positions countywide, the legislative analysts said.

Bellone said Monday that between October and September 2022 the county will have hired a total of 705 new county law enforcement officers.

During that period, Suffolk will have hired 462 new police officers, 146 corrections officers, 20 probation officers and 77 deputy sheriffs, Bellone's office said.

Average total pay for a sworn police officer was $158,773 in 2020, according to a Budget Review report earlier this year.

The new hiring comes after sworn county police staffing hit its lowest levels in years due the significant number of retirements.

Suffolk has about 2,260 sworn police officers, compared with nearly 2,500 in 2018.

Legislators will meet Wednesday in the Hauppauge legislative auditorium at 1 p.m.

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