By Kathryn G. Menu
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was able to move a bill aimed at providing equal distribution of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety funding out of committee and onto the floor of the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday. However, the East End legislator cautioned he had no intentions of forcing a vote on the measure, but instead hopes to build support for the law both within the membership of the legislature and on the East End, citing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s opposition to the bill.
The bill, sponsored by Schneiderman and the other East End Suffolk County Legislature representative, Ed Romaine, demands that East End police forces, independent of the Suffolk County Police Department, be given their fair share of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety based on population.
East End police departments, based on population statistics from United States Census data would be entitled to 10.4 percent of the funding. That figure, noted Schneiderman, does not take into account the throngs of people who call the East End home in the summer months, which does impact public safety.
A similar bill was passed by Schneiderman in 2005, and vetoed by the County Executive.
By and large, police services on the East End are independent, with towns and some villages boasting their own police departments while a majority of western Suffolk is under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County Police District.
Starting in 1992, the county began using sales tax revenues to fund police services in western Suffolk, according to Schneiderman, and while eastern Suffolk police departments did receive some of those monies for public safety, Schneiderman said it was at a disproportionately low rate.
According to Schneiderman’s budget figures, with the exception of 2010, between 2005 and 2011, East End police departments have been shorted anywhere from $1.5 million in 2006 to almost $3.6 million in 2005. For 2011, Schneiderman calculates the East End is being shortchanged to the tune of $2.2 million.
Schneiderman said the County Executive had slowly increased funding between 2005 and 2010, when the East End towns and villages were actually earmarked for $900,000 more in funding than what the county was required to give them. However, this year’s budget made Schneiderman realize in these economic times he would need actual law to ensure the East End would not be shortchanged by the county in the future.
In total, Schneiderman estimates the East End towns and villages have lost out on $13 million in funding since 2005.
On Monday, Schneiderman said he would not push the legislature to vote on the bill, saying he wants to be assured of its passage.
“I want to get the Police Benevolent Association behind it, the Supervisors and Mayors Association and the police chiefs,” he said. “I will probably table the bill with the hope that two weeks from now it will pass.”
Schneiderman said even with the bill’s passage, he expects it would once again be vetoed by the County Executive, and hopes to build enough support to override any veto.
“The County Executive might have doubled funding on the East End in his tenure, but he has quadrupled funding to the Suffolk County Police District,” said Schneiderman, “All I can do is present the facts to my colleagues and everyone on the East End and hope we are treated fairly.”