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Suffolk GOP exec candidate calls for state fiscal control board

James O'Connor, a republican candidate for Suffolk County

James O'Connor, a republican candidate for Suffolk County executive, speaks in his office on Tuesday in West Sayville on Sept. 22, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

Republican County Executive candidate James O'Connor called Tuesday for a state fiscal control board with the power to freeze salaries and oversee county finances.

At a news conference, O'Connor, an attorney who lives in Great River, criticized County Executive Steve Bellone's $2.9 billion budget released last week for being balanced in part by borrowing and a nearly 3 percent increase in police district property taxes for residents in the five western towns.

O'Connor specifically pointed to rising costs of the police union contracts Bellone negotiated. "These sweetheart contracts are going to break Suffolk County, and something needs to be done," he said. A control board "will allow us to rip up the outrageous police contract."

Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers said in a statement "a state control board is clearly a step in the wrong direction." He said Suffolk has reduced the size of its workforce and presented a budget under the state's tax cap for four years.

The Suffolk PBA, the largest county police union, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority was created by the State Legislature in 2000 and has the power to oversee county spending and finances.

O'Connor, a former North Hempstead Town Board member, said he wouldn't mind working with state appointees. "I'd welcome the opportunity to work with six fiscal experts," he said.

Republican lawmakers, while critical of Bellone's budget, did not back O'Connor's proposal. Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said he would not support a state control board or freezing salaries.

But Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said the county was fiscally stressed. "If we were a business, we'd be in bankruptcy."

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