A resolution that would have diverted monies set aside to preserve open space and farmland to instead plug Suffolk County’s budget gaps has been withdrawn, and a special meeting Tuesday aimed at scheduling a public referendum on that proposal was canceled.
“I want to thank County Executive [Steve] Bellone for withdrawing the legislation,” said North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who opposed the plan. “It was the right thing to do, even in the context of the acute budget issues that need to be addressed.”
In the wake of a potential $800 million county budget deficit, Mr. Bellone had proposed the scheduling of two voter referendums this fall. The two proposals, if approved, would have provided an estimated $50 million to help offset budget problems.
Mr. Bellone’s plan would have taken a portion of the Suffolk County Environmental Trust Fund for a period of three years. The stated purpose of the bill was to ease the county’s anticipated budget deficit caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lost revenues from a decline in sales tax.
It had run into opposition from environmental groups, and some legislators, including Mr. Krupski, a farmer.
The second proposed referendum proposed to take money from the county’s sewer stabilization fund – which offsets the tax burden on areas with new sewer systems – in order to fill the budget hole. That proposal was approved by the legislature on July 21 by a 14-3 vote and will be on the November ballot.
Mr. Bellone said in a statement that he withdrew the one proposal because he wanted to concentrate on getting the sewer stabilization referendum passed.
“Our office received hundreds of comments from residents from all over Suffolk County, asking me to vote against moving this legislation forward,” Mr. Krupski said. “They understand the importance of open space to our well-being, and of farmland to food security and the economy.
“This result is due to in part to the hard work and advocacy of many others, including the environmental community.”