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Facing $10M budget cut, Suffolk bus services may be reduced

10/05/2015 5:59 AM |

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposed budget includes a $10 million cut to the county’s bus transit system, which could result in service reductions starting this spring.

No specific lines — including the S92, which loops along the North and South Forks from Orient to East Hampton — have been identified as being at-risk, deputy county executive Jon Schneider said. It’s unlikely an entire route would be cut altogether next year, he added.

Mr. Schneider said the county’s increasing expenditures for bus services has become unmanageable, particularly since the state allocation for transit has not increased at an equal rate as costs.

“You have to make hard decisions within the budget,” he said. “This area where you’re seeing this skyrocketing subsidy — that’s an area that clearly needs to be visited and now’s the time to do it.”

Lawmakers are still in the process of determining exactly how the system will be affected. Mr. Schneider said whatever cuts to“underperforming lines” are decided will likely go into effect next April or May.

In 2014, the S92 was the second-most popular bus route in the county with more than 420,000 riders, according to statistics provided by Mr. Schneider. The S58 and the S66, both of which service the Riverhead County Center, were also among the 10 most popular lines in 2014.

Legislator Al Krupski said he and other county officials are examining ways to save money without cutting funding.

“They’re looking at a number of underperforming lines, not so much to eliminate the lines but to cut some service on the lines,” Mr. Krupski said. “We haven’t adopted his budget yet, so we’ll see how this all plays out.”

County officials say they believe the state pays too little, thereby putting the burden on the county year after year to pay more to fund the transit system.

In 2006, the county paid $6.5 million to the transit system while the state provided $20 million, according to an email Mr. Schneider wrote to a budget working group.

During the next nine years, the transit system’s budget grew substantially while the state’s allocation was only increased in small degrees, he said. This year, the county’s portion is expected to be about $36.4 million while the state plans to pay allocate $24.5 million, he said.

“Over the past decade, Suffolk County’s subsidy has increased by nearly 560 percent while state transit aid has increased by 22 percent,” Mr. Schneider said.

In comparison, Nassau County receives more than 50 percent of its transit budget from the state and pays $6.5 million, he said.

“The numbers clearly demonstrate that Suffolk County, on this issue, has not been getting its fair share and that Suffolk County taxpayers have been shouldering a tremendous burden,” Mr. Schneider said. “If we had about half of what Nassau gets, we wouldn’t be looking at service cuts.”

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