COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – We’ve seen bitter budget wrangling in Nassau County, but now Long Island’s county to the east, Suffolk, is getting hit with its own budget crisis.
The projected gap is historic, and a fiscal emergency has been declared, with layoffs possible in June, reports CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“It’s now clear that Suffolk County is facing the greatest fiscal crisis in its history,” County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday.
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Suffolk County’s budget gap is, indeed, staggering. That’s the finding of a blue ribbon panel. It will be an estimated $530 million by the end of next year. The new county executive delivered the budget bomb on Tuesday.
“The truth is worse than we could have imagined,” Bellone said.
The gap is two to three times higher than what was projected, and there were already more than 450 layoffs planned. Now workers from the Fleet Garage to police precincts are bracing for possibly hundreds more.
“My phone and my texts are ringing off the hook from workers who have heard their jobs will go,” said Cheryl Felice of the Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees.
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Why is there such a badly broken financial picture? The panel blames spiraling pension costs and sales tax revenue surprisingly among the lowest in the state. Bellone declared a fiscal emergency and ordered an immediate 10-percent spending freeze.
“The numbers that you have presented are truly staggering,” Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory said.
Lawmakers are floored by the numbers and workers said it’s now a gut-wrenching waiting game. Pink slips are being drafted and no one yet knows to whom.
The county executive will meet Wednesday with union leaders and will ask for steep concessions.
“I think a demoralized workforce is now devastated,” Felice said.
Everything is now on the table, from video lotteries to red-light cameras, and possibly even a higher sales tax could be employed to pull Suffolk out of its massive hole.
Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who just left office, weighed in Tuesday, saying the budget would have been balanced had the county closed its nursing home as he proposed.
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