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Bellone budget would add new jobs to Suffolk County executive's office

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone applauds as Governor

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone applauds as Governor Andrew Cuomo enters during a press conference regarding Long Island water quality and storm resiliency at St. John's University Oakdale Campus Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wants to add nine new positions to his office under his proposed budget, sparking criticism that he's making patronage hires at a time when county services remain stretched.

Six other new employees in information technology would work primarily with the performance management team, an initiative Bellone started to try and make government more efficient, county officials said.

The yearly salaries of the nine county positions, if fully staffed, total $438,071. The six IT positions would have salaries totaling $355,346.

The new jobs are among the 37 positions that would be added in the budget, which the county legislature will consider Wednesday.

The administration Monday defended the new positions, saying staffing in the executive's office is below recent levels.

"The office is smaller than ever before," said Justin Meyers, a spokesman for the county.

Meyers said the administration plans to immediately fund only three of the nine new positions in the office.

Some lawmakers criticized the new positions, noting that 1,100 county posts have been eliminated since 2012.

"The message to county workers has been to do more with less. He needs to lead by example," said Legis. Kate Browning, (WFP-Shirley)

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-West Islip) said he backs the proposed performance management positions. But he questioned other jobs, particularly those in management.

"Exempt positions are basically patronage positions," he said.

The nine new positions in the county executive's office consist of two secretaries; two county executive assistants; a government liaison officer for budget; a neighborhood aide for the Office of Women and a director of performance management, with an annual salary of $97,000 a year. County legislators also added two veterans services officers to the office.

Five of the nine new positions are exempt from civil service hiring rules and serve at the pleasure of the county executive. Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said Bellone "has been very frugal," with his office staffing. "If he thinks he needs those positions, I'm supportive of it."

The number of positions in the executive's office, which includes the budget office, has declined from 61 in 2011 to 49 this year. Bellone's recommended budget would increase the number of jobs to 56 in 2015.

Meyers said the county executive's office is "smaller than ever before. We are the managers of this government. We run the day-to-day operations of a $2.7 billion, 10,000 person budget."

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