close
close

Suffolk is moving toward raising sales taxes to fund sewers

Suffolk County lawmakers moved one step closer Tuesday to allowing residents to vote in a November referendum on a proposed 0.125% sales tax increase to spur a major expansion of sewers and high-tech septic systems throughout the county. province to finance.

The county Legislature voted 17-0 to close a public hearing on whether to allow the referendum, clearing the way for lawmakers to vote on the proposal at their June 25 meeting in Riverhead. If the measure passes the full Legislature and is signed by Suffolk County Executive Edward P. Romaine before Aug. 5, it will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

If the sales tax increase — which amounts to $1.25 on a $100 purchase — is approved by voters in November, it could fund a significant expansion of sewers and modern septic systems throughout Suffolk, where 75% of the property is dependent on cesspools. Such systems do not actively remove nitrogen from human waste before it enters the soil, which can stimulate algae growth and reduce oxygen levels in ground and surface water.

“Today is the day we make history in creating a cleaner, safer and healthier Long Island for generations to come,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said during Tuesday’s hearing . “We long for the day when Suffolk County will no longer be known as the septic capital of the world.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature delayed the referendum measure last year, citing concerns about the funding formula that have since been addressed.

Legislative Chairman Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) has said putting the proposal before voters is the Legislature’s first priority this year.

At least one member, Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) has said he would vote against the measure. He cited lawsuits alleging the county illegally siphoned off nearly $200 million in past sewer funding, and said Suffolk should use that money instead of raising taxes.

Also on Tuesday, the lawmaker said:

— Heard from about a half-dozen representatives of good government and voting rights groups who spoke out against a proposal to replace Suffolk’s paper voting system with touchscreen-only voting machines.

Suffolk uses paper ballots that are entered into a machine and recorded. The County Board of Elections has requested $34.8 million from the proposed county capital budget to purchase new machines in 2025. The county has received a quote for 2,500 touch-only Express Vote XL machines from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software.

The New York State Board of Elections last year approved the use of touchscreen-only machines across the state.

Opponents of touchscreen systems testified Tuesday that using these machines can lead to longer wait times because votes take longer to process, and that such systems do not leave a paper copy if an audit is needed.

“Paper ballots are recognized nationwide as the gold standard… as the best way to vote in a safe, secure and reliable manner,” said Susan Greenhalgh, an Amityville resident and representative of the national nonprofit Free Speech for People , who advocates free elections.

The Legislature will likely vote on the capital budget at its June 25 meeting. A supplier contract for new voting machines would likely require additional regulatory approval.

— Held a public hearing on a proposal to ban eateries from distributing single-use plastic cutlery and condiments unless customers request them. The legislation aims to reduce plastic pollution.

— Confirmed John Imhof as county social services commissioner in a 17-0 vote. Imhof, a retired Nassau County social services commissioner, will earn $196,376 in annual salary. He also receives an annual state pension of $69,580, according to the state office.