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Identifying ways Suffolk can save millions

Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone at Farmingdale State

Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone at Farmingdale State College. (Jan. 20, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

The head of a new group charged with making Suffolk government more efficient says the cash-strapped county can save millions of dollars by moving workers from rented office space and by re-examining everything from computer software licenses to opportunities for state social services aid.

Deputy County Executive Tom Melito appeared Thursday before the legislature's government operations committee for the first progress report since he was appointed to his $160,000-a-year post in March. County Executive Steve Bellone laid off 12 county attorneys to hire the performance management team and new economic development leaders.

Melito, of Babylon, said he and his four-member group have spent considerable time trying to lessen the impact of 302 layoffs throughout county government that will take place June 30.

The group also has launched 20 cost-saving projects, including an effort to hire a consultant to maximize use of computer software licenses. A similar review saved New York City $50 million by eliminating duplicative technology, Melito said.

Another initiative focuses on the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. The county building can house as many as 500 more employees, Melito said, and his team has identified six government divisions that could move there from leased office space, saving $2.5 million a year.

"It's well underutilized," Melito said. "It's our asset and we want to maximize use of it."

Suffolk also could secure more in state social services reimbursements, he said. Police or district attorney cases that involve social services may be eligible for that aid, and Melito said the county will seek that money going back three years.

"I'm very pleased," said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), who had requested Melito's report. "The priorities seem very good."

The team also is researching the best way to launch a county traffic violations bureau, which is pending state approval.

One option is privatizing ticket processing work, but lawmakers urged him to consider using county staff.

"I want to make sure you're making it a priority to use the folks we have here," said Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).

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