While the bulk of Suffolk County taxes are spent in the five western towns, County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday that his $2.9 billion recommended county budget for 2016 will have some benefits for the East End.
The budget will freeze general fund taxes for the fourth consecutive year, Mr. Bellone said, and will include $1 million more in revenue sharing with the East End police departments.
The county general fund is paid by all Suffolk County taxpayers, including those in East End towns and villages. It does not include the Suffolk County Police District tax, which is one of the largest costs in the county budget. The five East End towns, and some incorporated villages, rely on their own police departments.
But East End residents do pay for some county police services in the county general fund tax, such as homicide investigations, arson squad and medevac helicopters.
And some East End officials have complained over the years that the county was gradually shifting more of the cost for its police department into the general fund, a contention that Mr. Bellone appears to agree with.
“For years, the East End was not treated fairly and was unfairly subsidizing public safety in other parts of Suffolk County,” Mr. Bellone said in a press release. He said he worked with the two East End representatives on the county legislature — North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchougue) and South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Hampton Bays) — to come up with a plan that would increase revenue sharing with the East End police departments by $1 million per year for three years.
The proposed 2016 increase would be the second of those three increases. The $1 million increase represents a 13 percent increase overall, he said.
“Revenue sharing is about fairness and all residents can be assured that public safety dollars are being fairly disbursed to all local police departments,” Mr. Bellone said. “And I will keep my commitment in next year’s budget to continue to treat the East End fairly, as well.”
In Riverhead Town, that increase would amount to $178,900, bringing the total up to $1.536 million.
In Southold Town, the proposed $134,400 increase would bring the total to $1.15 million.
Mr. Bellone said his proposed 2016 budget, which needs approval from the County Legislature, freezes the general fund tax for the fourth year in a row.
He said county government has 1,100 — or 10 percent — fewer positions now than it did when he took over in 2012.
In Riverhead and Southold towns, the Suffok County tax rate last year amounted to only about one percent of the total property taxes paid by property owners, while school taxes amounts to about 60 percent and town taxes were around 20 to 30 percent.
Photo Caption: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a 2014 press conference. (Credit: courtesy photo)