- Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone
announced the formation of the Budget Review Task Force which will be conducting a thorough and transparent review of the state of the County's finances. County Executive Bellone expects a Task Force report within a month. The task force is made up of experts in finance who are donating their time to assist County Executive Bellone with getting Suffolk County's finances in order.
County Executive Bellone announced the creation of the Budget Review Task Force in response to inheriting county finances that are structurally unsound and imbalanced, funds more than 600 positions for only six months and caused Fitch Ratings to recently issue a negative outlook for county bonds, the second ratings agency to do so in the past year.
"We need a better understanding of the budget because we have two branches of government disagreeing about the size of the deficit, hundreds of positions funded for just six months and tens of millions in potentially speculative revenues," County Executive Bellone said. "If you can't agree on the problem, you certainly can't agree on the solution. The Budget Task Force is comprised of experts who will volunteer their time to provide taxpayers with a detailed, transparent analysis which will be able to withstand any scrutiny."
"I advocated for many years that everyone responsible for our County's budget needs to work together and the task force proposed by County Executive Bellone is a positive step," Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter
said. "I am pleased to offer whatever assistance I can to ensure that all Suffolk County residents can have trust in the accuracy of the budget."
"The Budget Review Task Force is an absolute necessity and will be a great opportunity for the Legislative and Executive branches to work together to gain a clear picture of the county's fiscal situation," Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay said. "The Legislature did its best to give County Executive Bellone a balanced budget and a functioning county government when he took office but we recognize that there are great problems with the existing budget. It is my hope that the task force will be able to determine exactly where Suffolk stands fiscally and chart a definitive course for the future."
"This is a critical first step toward identifying the serious financial straits Suffolk County is in," Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said. "By tackling these problems head on, we make sure we avoid becoming anything near what happened to Nassau financially."
The Budget Review Task Force will be made up of Richard Halverson, former Deputy Comptroller of the City of New York and former Assistant Deputy Director of the New York City
Financial Control Board; Michael Solomon, Managing Director in the Public Finance Department at Ramirez and Co. and a 25-year financial industry veteran with experience working with state and local governments; Nathan Leventhal an expert on municipal budgets who has served as a confidante to no fewer than four NYC mayors; Stuart Klein, a former First Deputy Director of New York City's Office of Management and Budget; Chuck Stein, a former Suffolk County Deputy County Executive for Finance and Chief Deputy County Comptroller; and Edward W. Moneypenny an Advisor to 7-Eleven Inc. who previously served the company as its Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance. The Budget Task Force will consult with Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, Treasurer Angie Carpenter, Deputy County Executive for Finance and Management Fred Pollert, Executive Office of Budget and Management, and Legislative Budget Review Office to determine the size of the deficit facing Suffolk County for 2012 and 2013.
"I think it is very important that the new County Executive wants to address the fiscal situation immediately," Halverson said. "Delay only grows the problems, so I am hopeful the committee can help bring about some positive actions."
Earlier County Executive Bellone announced a bipartisan Government Operations task force to provide his administration and the public with a clear state of the County's operations. This will serve as the first step to make government more efficient and do more with less. County Executive Bellone will seek information from the task force in order to create action plans to strengthen the County's finances and reform government. Serving on that committee are Legislators Ed Romaine
, Lynne Nowick, Kara Hahn and Dwayne Gregory.