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Hon. Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator
April 25, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT
Suffolk County legislator, Ed Romaine was our speaker this morning. Mr. Romaine is adamant that the need for sewers must be recognized and addressed. There are issues where the the county executive and him differ, but this is not one of them. Ed gave us some back-round on why county government has been gun shy about going ahead with sewers, but despite any previous reluctance, there is a consensus that we must move forward.
According to Romaine new development is severely constrained without this infrastructure asset in place. He noted that developers were required to build small sewer systems on the premises of their projects over the years and the result is a hodgepodge of 182 sewer districts that do not connect with each other, and are expensive to maintain. Romaine suggested that these sewer districts are an on-going expense and should be turned over to the county and maintained in a larger county owned system that the county can fully integrate, and operate at a lower cost. Having a good system will allow for housing density instead of continuing the sprawl development we have seen in the past. That in turn will make affordable housing possible.
Mr Romaine pointed out that sales tax revenues are diminished, and the county relies heavily on those taxes. There is a more stable property tax, but that only accounts for $50 million in a budget of 2.3 Billion, therefore sales taxes are of paramount importance.
The county has been on a pay-as-you-go basis. According to Romaine County Executive Levy is asking the legislature to approve borrowing to support the operating budget. Romaine isn’t buying it. Nor is he very happy with the proposal to capitalize the tobacco settlement monies.Under this scenario the county would give up about $25 million a year for a cash settlement. On the other hand he would be willing to securitize tax liens because that would be collecting money from the past and not eating into on-going future revenues. These issues are somewhat esoteric, and sometimes difficult to understand, but they are important.
Mr. Romaine was also critical of Mr. Levy’s proposed county land sale in Yaphank. Mostly because there has been no public discussion. In a discussion with me after the meeting Ed was critical of President Bush’s economic stimulus plan, saying it would be much better to invest in infrastructure. Putting people to work solves myriad problems. Of course, we at LIMBA, have been saying that all along.