Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has proposed redirecting funds for drinking water protection and land preservation to fill holes in the budget.
Suffolk County has faced budget shortfalls before, and this year it could be as high as $350 million.
Two proposals from Bellone could help plug the hole. One would forgive millions of dollars that the county owes to the water protection program, and the other would reduce funding for land preservation.
Dick Amper with The Pine Barrens Society, an environmental group that sued the county in the past for redirecting money from the water protection fund, says Bellone is using the pandemic as an excuse for years of fiscal mismanagement.
“How is he trying to get out of it? By taking the money the public put up for clean water. It's not immoral – it’s a sin.”
Bellone declined to comment.
Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Robert Calarco has not decided yet whether to support the measures. He says the Bellone administration is trying to avoid layoffs and disruptions to essential services, like police.
“How do we make sure that the county could continue to provide the services we provide? Because they are important services and a lot of them are not things that are discretionary.”
Voters would have to approve both measures if they pass the County Legislature. A public hearing will be held next month.