Building back better
Despite the impacts of COVID-19 on our local economy, which included widespread business shutdowns, disruptions to various supply chains, and most notably a pause in many capital projects, we have put forward a budget we can all be proud of. The county executive’s proposed budget was an excellent starting point for the Capital Budget Working Group. Based on the needs of our constituencies, we added several projects that prioritize improvements to our county’s parks, infrastructure, water quality, and facilities. Below is a snapshot of key elements that make up the 2022 proposed capital budget.
Suffolk County is the fourth-largest agricultural-producing county in the state. In 1974, Suffolk County became the first county in the nation to start a Farmland Preservation Initiative to preserve 30,000 acres of farmland across the county. Since then, the county has preserved more than 20,000 acres. To further protect these vital lands and farms, we have included funding for the Farmland Preservation Fund in the 2022 capital budget. This initiative will allocate $100 million over the next 10 years to preserve the remaining at-risk farms across the county.
Water quality and infrastructure:
As a coastal community, prioritizing the health of our waters is paramount to the well-being of our county. Outdated septic systems and cesspools release nitrogen into our groundwater at concentrations greater than our coastal ecosystems can handle. To better understand and combat this issue, the budget includes proposals to continue our expansion of sewers across the county, including the South Shore Coastal Resiliency projects, Oakdale, Holbrook, and Kings Park. Additionally, we have added funds for a sewer feasibility study in Ronkonkoma and Farmingville. We will expect to be able to use funds from both the American Recovery Plan and the proposed federal infrastructure bill to complete sewer projects, including those slated for Patchogue. Protecting our water quality is not just an environmental concern; it’s also an economic one. These septic upgrades will help to keep our water clean, boost tourism, and bolster our marine industry while supporting small businesses in our community.
Investing in our county parks:
When the world shut down, and options for entertainment were limited, Long Islanders turned to explore our beautiful county parks and nature preserves in droves. With this increased utilization of our parks, we needed to make investments in our facilities. Improvements are planned at multiple county parks, including $75 million to replace the bridge and improve the basketball courts at Smith Point County Park, renovating the parking lot at Cedar Beach, and constructing a new pavilion at Cupsogue Beach.
Road safety improvements:
Road safety continues to be a priority in this year’s capital budget. In addition to improvements to CR 83, North Ocean Avenue, and CR 36, South Country Road, the turning radius and sight distance at the intersection of CR 85, Montauk Highway, and Atlantic Avenue in Patchogue will be improved, making this intersection safer for our residents.
Technological advances to the
Suffolk County Legislature:
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that many Americans worked. Record numbers of employees are working remotely. Americans also changed the way they interacted with their elected officials. For the first time, constituents were able to use Zoom to attend legislative meetings. In an effort to increase transparency and further engage with the public, the legislature has allocated $375,000 to provide video broadcasting in the Riverhead auditorium and $500,000 to the Hauppauge auditorium to modernize and upgrade existing technology.
Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Suffolk County is looking to end the year with an approximately $127 million surplus. As a result, the county will pay the full cost for 228 projects over two years, and will avoid $3.5M in debt service costs. In doing so, we will be reducing our debt ratio while still allowing the county to make necessary capital improvements and increase services provided to all of its residents.
While we still have a ways to go regarding COVID-19 recovery, I firmly believe that the finalized budget will work to uplift and support our constituents, our environment, and our overall quality of life in Suffolk County. Without the support of my colleagues, the administration, and the hard work of our budget review office, none of this would be possible. I sincerely thank all who had a hand in this process and look forward to completing these vital projects in the coming year.
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