When County Executive Steve Bellone said last year that Suffolk would allocate $1 million to help build a federal inspection station at Long Island MacArthur Airport for international flights, we applauded. When he said last month that Suffolk would spend $1 million to design sewer expansions around the airport and in Sayville and Oakdale, we approved of that as well.
Then it turned out that the $1 million for the sewer study was the same $1 million set aside for MacArthur, and that is not OK.
Now, budget snafus happen at all levels of government. Mistakes can happen. The county says miscommunication between lower-level staff and Bellone played a role, and that the money in the 2016 budget for MacArthur was not clearly designated.
Whatever the reason, it’s a mistake Suffolk can ill afford. The county has a well-earned reputation for diverting funds for purposes other than intended. Now it’s proposing an ambitious plan to reduce nitrogen in our waters that hinges on a public referendum to institute a fee on water usage to pay for the plan. And the top concern expressed by elected officials and the public is whether Suffolk would use the money as intended. This latest episode doesn’t help.
The good news is that Suffolk has been making progress on convincing everyone that the money from the referendum would be in a lockbox, as it must be. And Bellone still is committed to funding the sewer study and the airport customs station, both of which are worthy endeavors.
Moving forward smartly and swiftly on all three projects, and being clear on how they will be funded, is something deserving praise.
— The editorial board