News Feature | July 3, 2014

After Raiding Water Fund, Long Island Officials Agree To Restore $30 Million

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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A Long Island county that tapped its drinking water fund for other projects has reached a deal with the environmental lobby, which had protested the decision. 

"[In June], Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and environmentalists touted a deal that would resolve their differences over the county's practice of borrowing from its drinking water protection fund," Newsday reported

The agreement "ends a three-year legal battle and restores $30 million taken from the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program that was diverted to balance the county’s budget," the Long Island Press reported

Environmentalists had argued that the county had illegally raided the fund to fill holes in the budget. 

"On November 13th, 2013, The Suffolk County Legislature voted 13-3 to raid the Drinking Water Protection Program to the tune of almost $33 million dollars in order to balance the budget. This was unacceptable then, and now," Save The Great South Bay, an environmental group, argued in a blog post last month. 

In announcing the deal, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone appeared with members of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (LIPBS) and the Group for the East End.

To be ratified, the agreement requires a change in the law, which voters will have the chance to approve or disapprove it in November. "Bellone says he wants taxpayers to decide how the funds will be spent. He announced his support to put the decision on a referendum for voters in November," News 12 Long Island reported.  

“Every resident of Suffolk County should feel good about this settlement and not just for its environmental benefits,” said Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, in the Long Island Press

“What this agreement demonstrates is that no matter how difficult the challenge, government can and does rise above the status quo when it is moved by an organized, mobilized citizenry that acts with purpose, passion and persistence," he said. 

Image credit: "Lack of money is the root of all evil - George Bernard Shaw," artist in doing nothing (self unemployed) © 2011, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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