Dispute over bonding resolutions continues

Dispute over bonding resolutions continues

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
6/28/2018


SUFFOLK COUNTY—Tensions within the Suffolk County Legislature continued last week when the Republican caucus urged county executive Steve Bellone to “stop playing political games with public safety and critical infrastructure.”

For the second time this month, the county executive bundled together numerous bond resolutions for various projects into three all-or-nothing bills. Republican legislators have since demanded the Bellone administration return to voting on one bond resolution at a time—a practice they say has served the county well for 40 years. 

“At a time when the county’s debt has reached historic levels, the county executive is attempting to limit the valuable fiscal oversight individual bonding resolutions provide,” said legislator and leader of the Republican minority Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip). “We are watching every penny being spent and we will not be bullied into voting for unnecessary borrowing.” 

During the latest general meeting of the Legislature on Tuesday, June 19, a resolution was introduced to fund the installation of multifaceted mobile data terminals in police vehicles. The resolution was passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. 

However, the Republican caucus voted down the bond resolution that would pay for the $3.5 million project. The Republicans say the move came as a result of the project being bundled together with $7 million worth of various unrelated projects, which also includes $2 million to provide the county with an unlimited, perpetual licensing model for the RAVE app, which is said to reduce emergency response time in schools and help coordinate emergency response efforts.

Democrats frequently criticize Republicans for voting in favor of a project but against the bond that would pay for it. In the past, Cilmi has addressed this notion by saying, “[Republicans] believe that county executives should manage this county’s finances and use some of the taxes [residents] already paid, rather than spending taxes they haven’t even collected yet.”

Legis. Steve Flotteron (R-West Islip) says the failure of the project’s bond “rests solely on the shoulders of the county executive, who acted like a schoolyard bully by attempting to dictate to the Legislature how to discharge their duties in funding county projects.

“Changing a 40-year practice of voting line by line on bonding without consulting with the Legislature is nothing more than political grandstanding from the county executive,” Flotteron added.

Earlier this week, Bellone fired back by saying the Republicans are “playing politics—first by refusing to fund school safety measures, and now holding law enforcement hostage with their refusal to fund cutting-edge technology for police vehicles. 

“If Tom Cilmi and his Republican allies want to continue using a nonsensical rationale as the basis for their obstruction, then they will have to answer to the thousands of teachers, parents and police officers who stand to benefit from these important projects,” Bellone added.

Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) says the safety of the county’s children, teachers and staff is among his party’s highest concerns. “However, lumping bonds together prevents the Legislature from being able to pass singular bonds instead of multiple bonds in a county currently dealing with a deficit,” Sunderman added. “Bundling bonds is not in the best interest of the residents we represent. Had this been separate like common practice before the last meeting, it would have passed without an issue.” 

In response to this argument, Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) pointed out that the majority of counties in New York State, including Nassau, bundle bonds the same way. The move, he said, is “critical for moving county government forward.” Calarco also stated his belief that the Republican minority isn’t voting down the bond resolutions due to their concerns about the county’s finances; they’re voting down the bond resolutions in order to make an unknown “political gain.”

The bond resolution also included $225,000 to upgrade the Suffolk County Police Department’s core systems and network infrastructure, which are currently no longer supported by the manufacturer, as well as $160,000 for the replacement of equipment used in police investigations that is at or near the end of its use. 

“It is disheartening that we must continue to ask the GOP caucus to support funding for critical investments that shouldn’t be prolonged, specifically bond resolutions for our local police departments,” said Legis. Bill Lindsay (D-Holbrook). “I urge my colleagues to change their minds and vote in favor of these bond resolutions when they are presented to the Legislature in the future.” 

The disputed resolutions will be introduced, once again, during the next general meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday, July 17 in Riverhead.