County lawmakers say Levy’s budget is $124 million short

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Presiding Officer William Lindsay, left, said Tuesday County Executive Steve Levy's budget is shorty by nearly $124 million.

Ten days after Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy presented his 2012 preliminary budget, some county lawmakers said on Tuesday they believe it’s off balance by more than $124 million.

During a press conference in Hauppauge, Presiding Officer William Lindsay said the Legislature’s bipartisan budget working group has found Mr. Levy’s spending plan has a revenue shortfall of about $90 million and an expenditure shortfall of nearly $35 million.

“If he’s right and we’re wrong, then we’ll be very, very happy,” Mr. Lindsay said, adding that Mr. Levy’s budget overestimates sales tax revenue by $30 million. “Our analysis just doesn’t show that it’s there in this tough economy.”

Mr. Lindsay, along with fellow Democrats Vivian Viloria-Fisher, Ricardo Montano, Wayne Horsley, DuWayne Gregory and Independent Jay Schneiderman, said while “everything is on the table” as they proceed with finding a solution to balance next year’s spending plan, raising property taxes won’t be a realistic move because the new mandated 2 percent tax cap would only generate about $1 million.

Mr. Lindsay also said a preliminary analysis of Mr. Levy’s budget shows it doesn’t include $5 million in unemployment insurance for the 700 county worker layoffs proposed in Mr. Levy’s spending plan. Mr. Lindsay added that he believed that if those layoffs were to move forward, then the county won’t be able to plow snow from county roads and health clinics would be severely cut next year.

After the press conference, county Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, a Southold resident, described Mr. Levy’s projections for next year as “unreasonable.”

“I agree with the working group that Mr. Levy left a bomb for the Legislature to work with,” Mr. Sawicki said. “It’s a horrific budget and full of revenue gaps.”

The Legislature has until November 9 — the day after Election Day — to come up with a budget. Mr. Levy needs 12 out of 18 votes from the Legislature in order for his budget to gain approval.

“We’re way beyond cutting the fat,” Ms. Viloria-Fisher said about tackling next year’s budget. “We’re now cutting into bone marrow.”

First District Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said in a telephone interview that he disagrees with Mr. Levy’s method of determining the layoffs.

“Mr. Levy made cuts across the board, which means there was no priority,” Mr. Romaine said. “I believe we need to maintain core county services, such as Social Services and Public Works.”

Mr. Romaine said he’s meeting with his fellow GOP legislators this week to discuss the preliminary budget and will ask them to consider consolidating some county services with other townships.

“I believe we need to rethink how we deliver county services,” he said. “We’re facing the worst budget crisis the county has seen in a long time.”

Mr. Levy blasted back at the Legislature Tuesday saying his past projections have always been conservative and “more accurate than the Legislature’s.”

“For eight years, I have balanced the budget and held the line on taxes while legislators have made the same claim,” he said in a statement. “Mr. Lindsay is cagily crafting an excuse so they can raise taxes as a buffer for a new county executive and claim they had no choice. This is a balanced budget that doesn’t rely on speculative revenue from the state and actually implements layoffs if union concessions don’t materialize.”

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