Featured letter: Suffolk County, the next Detroit

Credit: Flickr/Cave Canem
Credit: Flickr/Cave Canem

To the editor:

I am writing as a ‘Regular Joe’ taxpayer. I am just a middle class Suffolk County resident and taxpayer who is very troubled by the state of Suffolk County’s finances. Our county Legislature and County Executive Steve Bellone recently signed off on and approved multiple police contracts that will cost taxpayers $372 million through 2018. It was also recently reported in Newsday that the highest paid Suffolk County employees and overtime earners were corrections officers working for the sheriff’s office in our county jails.

The county was recently sued by environmental groups for diverting more than $30 million of water quality funds into general funds to reduce the county deficit. The county is also borrowing $87 million this year alone just to meet county pension liabilities. Meanwhile, our county legislators are poised to earn over $100,000 a year in 2014, making them by far the highest paid legislators in New York State.

Suffolk County faces mounting deficits, with this year’s shortfall exceeding $100 million. I suspect that once the extent of the structural deficits, financial shortfalls, and longterm debt obligations in Suffolk County become fully known to the bond markets that Suffolk County may be placed under a similar financial oversight authority, like Nassau County’s NIFA. I personally believe the sooner this happens, the better.

Suffolk County is in danger of becoming the next Detroit: essentially bankrupt with public services deeply cut, declining real estate values and a collapsing infrastructure. I am calling on New York State elected officials to intervene now and provide some sense of financial sanity by creating a Suffolk County Interim Financial Authority (SIFA) to provide the financial oversight and constraint we need.

Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead