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Steve Bellone to agencies: Withhold 10% of spending

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his office

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his office in Hauppauge. (Dec. 4, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Monday ordered departments not to spend up to 10 percent of their budgets as a cost-saving measure.

It's the third straight year Bellone has issued the order, which is allowed under the county charter, according to his office.

"This gives us the flexibility, starting at the beginning of year, to make strategic cuts throughout the government," said Jon Schneider, deputy county executive. "It's a sign that we continue to face fiscal challenges and we're not yet in structural balance."

Schneider said the order gives the executive and budget offices greater control over which positions are filled.

The Suffolk County Legislature in November passed a $2.76 billion budget for 2014. Bellone said the county ended 2013 with a deficit of $10 million to $13 million, after closing 2012 with a $155 million shortfall.

In 2013, the county saved $29 million through the order. Not all county agencies will have to cut 10 percent, Schneider said.

Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said Bellone should put the reduction in the budget, rather than issuing the memo after the budget, passed in November, has gone into effect.

"It's about honesty and about transparency, and not deceiving the public if the budget is that bad," Kennedy said.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he expected legislators to question the process that permits Bellone to issue the order, although he supports Bellone's move.

"We all certainly realized that going into this year, there were going to be tight fiscal constraints," Gregory said. "There's no surprise the county executive took this measure."

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