Steve Levy, County Executive
March 6, 2009 @ 12:00 am EST
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This morning our speaker, County Executive Steve Levy began by taking back to where he believes the problems of under funding began.
The county depends on having sales taxes. A 1-cent reduction in sales taxes causes a revenue loss of $12million. “Governments provide everything to everybody when times are good. The real problem comes when executives in politics need to make hard decisions. When that happens you need to maintain the intestinal fortitude to do what you feel is right.”
Mr. Levy cited the removal of regular police from the highways and replacing them with sheriff officers. These sheriffs are police trained personnel and are now patrolling the Long Island Expressway, but they earn about $42,000 less than a year than Suffolk County police. That savings amounted to $8 million. It also caused the police union to launch a campaign against him. He felt he had to hold his ground and not give in.
He likened controlling taxes as being compassionate. “How compassionate is it if taxes drive people out of their homes? He asked. According to Levy, there needs to be sacrifices made by the public employees. It is more important to serve the much larger public.
Mr. Levy also brought up the matter of the county getting out of the nursing home business. “This need can be better served by the private sector, we’re just not that good at controlling costs”
In general Steve expressed the opinion that public employees should be at no competitive advantage when compared to the private sector. “Handing over a check for $200,000 to pay a retiring police officer for his unused sick days is crazy. It does not happen in business.”
Mr. Levy supports the investment in infrastructure. He cited the improvements on County Rd 39, near Southampton. CR 39 had been a bottleneck for years. It took 40 minutes to travel 4 miles. Money was not available from the state to increase the overall width of the highway. Levy said we’ll reduce the lane size and rebuild the highway with our own funds. The planned lanes of 13 feet were built to a standard of 11 feet. Now the traffic delays are greatly reduced.
Another infrastructure issue is the bus system. He would like to expand it. The state cites low ridership of the existing service for withholding funds. His reply, “expand service and ridership will increase”
During the Q&A Levy was asked if should have a payroll tax to fund schools. “If you were stating from scratch that could be an answer, but the system in place would be difficult to replace”