The 2021 Recommended Operating Budget presented by Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone features significant cuts to various services and positions throughout the county system. The total budget is $3.197 billion, representing a decrease of $33 million compared to the 2020 Adopted Budget. The 2021 Recommended General Fund budget is $2.249 billion, representing a decrease of $50 million.
“I urge the [Suffolk County] Legislature to adopt this budget, as submitted, and to work together with my administration towards a strong and safe future for our residents,” Bellone wrote in a letter addressed to presiding officer Rob Calarco and the Legislature in October.
The letter, which is included in the relevant 2021 budget documents, indicates that a lack of federal disaster relief is the direct cause of these cuts.
“We are contending with a financial emergency that is an unfortunate and inevitable byproduct of having shut down the economy, following federal guidance,” wrote Bellone, continuing on to point out that the magnitude of the financial concern in the county over the next four years is projected to result in a $1 billion deficit. “The combined deficit for 2021 and 2022 is $437 million.”
Bellone said that the Bellone Administration is focusing on finding financial solutions now to minimize the projected burden. Cuts to police, health and transportation services and considerable county staffing cuts are deemed noteworthy. However, Bellone and the county voiced the concern once the economy was shut down.
“I have been raising the alarm about the need for Washington to deliver the appropriate and justified level of disaster aid for state and local governments for months now,” Bellone added. “This is a simple matter of fairness. As a region, we send billions more of our tax dollars to Washington every year then we ever see in return. We are simply asking that they return a small fraction of that amount to help our region recover as quickly as possible from this natural disaster.”
The budget also indicates the gravity of sales tax on this year’s budget, compared to the 2020 budget, considering the effects of COVID-19 and the shutdown of the economy. It is anticipated that the county will collect 9.2 percent, or $140 million less sales tax from its residents than last year. (The breakdown of the 2020 loss in sales tax estimates a 15 percent loss November 2020 through January 2021, compared to the 21.6 percent decrease from May through July 2020.)