Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented some pretty grim news to the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton on Friday, January 9. Schneiderman updated the CAC on the state of the county budget and legislative reforms for housing county sex offenders.
Schneiderman was a member of the budget working group that finalized the county’s 2009 budget. Nearly $1.2 billion of the county’s $3 billion yearly budget is garnered from sales tax. The budgetary group had predicted that sales tax revenues would increase by one percent for this fiscal year, but Schneiderman believes it will shrink for the first time since he was elected to the county legislature.
“Ten years ago, [sales tax revenues] were growing by seven or eight percent a year,” Schneiderman told the CAC. “[This year] there may be less goods sold than the year before and that would be devastating to the county in terms of delivering services.
This year, Schneiderman’s office reduced the number of grants it awards to various community organizations. Schneiderman’s grant money was decreased by almost $65,000. He focused his funding on organizations that provide necessities, like the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
“I tried to focus on groups that do relief work, so some of the historical societies and beautification groups have lost their money,” said Schneiderman on Monday. He added that these relief groups augment the strain on the county by providing services to needy members of the community.
Schneiderman also discussed with the CAC two pieces of legislation related to housing homeless sex offenders, which he is trying to pass in the county legislature.
Currently, all homeless Suffolk County sex offenders who require emergency evening housing are taken to a trailer in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverhead. Nightly, the trailer houses some 20 level II and level III sex offenders. Level III sex offenders present the highest risk and are considered the most likely to re-offend. Schneiderman has received claims from members of the Riverhead community that these sex offenders have been seen wandering throughout the town and reportedly near areas where children gather. By law, a convicted sex offender is required to stay beyond 500 feet of a school, playground or daycare center.
The first of Schneiderman’s proposed legislations would require that no more than four homeless sex offenders are housed in any given trailer without a monitoring program. If the number exceeds four, then offenders would be given a tracking device or would be chaperoned if they want to leave the premises at any point during the evening.
The second piece of legislation calls for the facility at Riverhead to house only sex offenders from the five East End towns. The other sex offenders, proposes Schneiderman, should be sent to a trailer set up at their nearest police precinct. There are seven precincts in the county, and Schneiderman noted with his legislation, there would be a total of eight trailers in the county.
Schneiderman drafted both pieces of legislation hoping that the county legislature will choose one as a solution to this situation.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t be compassionate, but you really don’t want these individuals near your children,” said Schneiderman. “Some of their victims are young children.”
The Sag Harbor CAC members agreed that the second piece of legislation was better. CAC member Eric Cohen wondered if the first piece of legislation, which is designed to hinder the movement of these sex offenders who have already completed their jail time, would present certain issues of legality.
Above: Jay Schneiderman speaks with Sag Harbor CAC member Shauna Conran on the County’s finances.Â