As Suffolk County lawmakers Friday decide whether to approve moving an extra $20 million from a rainy-day fund to cover pension costs, County Executive Steve Levy lashed out at the proposal, claiming they would use it as a one-shot fix to avoid layoffs at the county-owned Yaphank nursing home.
In a news conference Thursday, Levy - who has been trying to close or sell the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility since 2007 - called the proposal irresponsible and a raid that would lower the county's bond rating. Levy said he has included $30 million in his proposed 2011 budget that would cover unexpected increases in pension costs.
Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said it is too early to say whether he would use the $20 million to save the home, though he would if he had to. He said he wants to avoid laying off some 250 workers there. "This facility has been in the county's inventory for over 100 years," he said. "It serves a very specific population. I want to solve the problems with it, not dispose of it." He called Levy's 2011 budget a fantasy based on speculative revenues that will likely never materialize.
Levy said his proposed budget is sound, though it requires legislators to make "difficult, but logical, decisions." He criticized the $20 million transfer, calling it a one-time fix for a facility that has been bleeding money for years. He said he wonders how the county would fund the site in the future. "What happens in 2012, 2013?" Levy said. "Reject this bailout."
Lindsay said this is an empty accusation, that Levy has previously fixed budget gaps with so called "one-shot" revenue boosts.
"Suffolk County residents have been putting millions of dollars into the reserve fund for years just in case we ever encountered a rainy day," Lindsay said. "Well, it's pouring and we intend to use the tax stabilization reserve fund to do exactly that-stabilize taxes." Levy wants to sell the nursing home to a private company for $36 million. His budget calls for closing the facility because he has not had enough legislative votes for the sale.