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Brewing bus tension
The announcement that deficit-torn Nassau County is going to kick in only $2.6 million to fund its bus system in 2017, the minimum it can spend to still receive its $66 million in state funding, is going to give Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone another rallying cry. Bellone is almost certain to renew his objections that Suffolk bus service gets the shortest shrift imaginable from the state and is forced to spend far too much to fund its own service.
Nassau Executive Edward Mangano says county funding of the Nassau Inter-County Express service will be cut by more than 50 percent, from about $6.4 million in 2016 to that minimum $2.6 million. It’s part of a move to find $21 million in savings mandated by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority after it rejected Mangano’s 2017 budget as unbalanced, and the reduction will likely lead to cuts in some low-ridership routes.
Bellone continually argues that Suffolk gets far less in state aid for bus service than any other suburban county, which is true. In 2016, Nassau got about $62 million from Albany for bus service, while Westchester received $51 million. Suffolk, however, was sent just over $24 million. For 2017, Suffolk is budgeting $34.9 million on the service and expects to receive $25.9 million from the state.
Some of the disparity exists because Suffolk serves far fewer riders each year. Two other reasons, however, go back to the state’s habit of supporting Nassau County in general because of the power of then-State Senate leader Dean Skelos, and Nassau bus service in particular because the service until 2011 was provided by the MTA. A fascinating question is how much of that might change with current Senate leader John Flanagan, a Suffolk guy, and MTA operation of Nassau’s buses a fading memory.
Picking an office
Congressman-elect Thomas Suozzi, so closely identified with Nassau County, is considering opening district offices in Suffolk and Queens.
The former Nassau County executive told The Point on Tuesday that he’s looking at a main district office “on the Nassau-Suffolk border, probably on the Suffolk side.” Although he won’t say, that pretty much means somewhere in Huntington.
He might also set up a satellite office on the district’s western edge in Queens, he said.
Queens, which makes up just 15 percent of the 3rd Congressional District, voted heavily in favor of Suozzi in both the primary and general elections.
Water-usage fee timetable
Environmentalists are spearheading a push to let Suffolk County hold a public referendum next November on instituting a water-usage fee to provide funds to help homeowners replace failing cesspools and septic systems.
The Long Island Clean Water Partnership — founded by the Pine Barrens Society, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, The Nature Conservancy and the Group for the East End — is working with stakeholders on the enabling legislation and the specific language and terms of the referendum. Not having that nailed down was part of what sank County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposal this past spring.
Key issues: When would homeowners be required to convert to high-tech septic systems? Which communities would be prioritized for conversions? Would assistance for homeowners be in the form of tax credits, a tax deduction, low-cost loans or something else? What would the surcharge on water use be?
The goal is to have both the bill and referendum ready as soon as possible after the State Legislature begins its 2017 session, and to get the referendum on November’s ballot.