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Letter: 'Raid' of fund was no such thing

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about his

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about his just-released county budget at his office in the Dennision Buiding in Hauppauge. (Sept. 20, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In criticizing Suffolk County's borrowing from the quarter-cent fund for stabilizing sewer rates, Newsday also claimed that an improper "raid" was effectuated during my administration ["Noxious money grab," Editorial, Nov. 18]. Not true. The Pine Barrens Society misled the public, saying money was diverted from the open space fund.

An audit noted there were hundreds of millions of extra dollars in the sewer fund -- even after money was reserved for stabilizing sewer rates for the next 20 years. Environmentalists wanted money for septic and sewer upgrades to protect our water. So we allocated most of the surplus for those purposes and a small amount for tax stabilization -- not as a one-time revenue boost but as continuous revenue over 10 years.

Rather than leaving millions of dollars in the fund unused, we proposed funds for sewers for the Ronkonkoma Hub, downtown Smithtown and Riverhead, and the Mastic-Shirley area, which has septic problems.

While a referendum would be preferable, the deadline to have a question on the ballot had passed. Both the county attorney and the legislative counsel agreed the changes could be made via resolution, as New York City had done.

What you describe as a raid was a landmark proposal that allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to needed sewer projects that Newsday and environmentalists have long supported.

Steve Levy, Bayport

Editor's note: The writer is the former Suffolk County executive.
 

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