Everyone loves open space and wants to protect our drinking water, but Proposal 5, which is on ballots in Suffolk County on Election Day, is about cash flow ["Yes on repayment to water fund," Editorial, Oct. 16]. It's wrapped in pretty packaging, but this proposition would divert resources from water quality.
The proposition would permit Suffolk County to raid more than $100 million from a sewer reserve fund to pay the county's bills. It would also authorize the borrowing of nearly $30 million, primarily for open space.
The county executive's budget states that 70 percent of the nitrogen pollution in our water comes from unsewered residential homes. Additionally, we spend millions of dollars annually on open space preservation and will continue to do so for years to come regardless of whether this proposition passes. Why then would we allow the depletion of the sewer reserve and borrow more money for more open space? If most of the pollution stems from the absence of sewers, wouldn't we want to use the sewer fund to address that problem?
This is simply a way to balance the budget this year while pushing off paying our bills to our children and grandchildren!
Proponents of Proposal 5 say that the $30 million would repay money taken from the open space program. That's a lie. The bottom line is that $30 million was taken out of the sewer fund, not the open space fund. If anything, we should be repaying that fund, not purchasing more open space. Using money in the sewer fund to expand sewers would protect our environment and promote jobs.
Whatever money we use in the sewer fund must be paid back by 2029. Not surprisingly, there is no plan in place to repay the $100 million-plus that will be raided. In 2013, the bonds for the Southwest Sewer District were paid off, but despite the fact that the sewer fund has collected more than $100 million in excess reserves, there has been no reduction in sewer taxes, nor has the reserve fund been used to make necessary repairs to the system. When does the taxpayer get a break?
As if the deceit embedded in this proposal isn't enough, as a final slap to voters, the legislature has been asked to circumvent Election Day and pre-authorize the $30 million in borrowing.
A fund established to protect taxpayers and our environment should not be turned into an ATM.
Robert Trotta, Tom Cilmi, Kevin McCaffrey, John Kennedy
Editor's note: The writers are Suffolk County legislators from, respectively, the 13th, 10th, 14th and 12th districts.