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May 13, 2012

Suffolk County Economic Woes

Steve Bellone has been trying to narrow Suffolk County's 533 million dollar deficit, but according to Newsday he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

In the past two weeks, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone sent layoff notices to 315 workers, won approval to compel political appointees to pay up to 25 percent of their health insurance and got county lawmakers to endorse his deficit-reduction plan unanimously.

But when Bellone appears before Wall Street rating agencies Monday for an annual review, he will have to tell them that for all his labors so far, Suffolk is still far from closing its looming $530 million budget chasm.

In part, it is because Bellone inherited a $60 million deficit -- double what he had anticipated. While layoffs will save $11.4 million this year and $24 million next year, those savings were already included in the 2012 budget and do nothing to narrow the shortfall.

Bellone's deficit-cutting plan, which needs time to gear up, will only close $20 million of the estimated $149 million hole for this year, aides said. Because some parts still need state or local legislation, his plan only deals with $136.4 million of next year's $350 million gap. The unanticipated $30 million deficit from last year, plus the gaps this year and in 2013, mean that the county still has a $373 million shortfall to close.;jsessionid=B589764E48E3D2C8B9F0FCF760885B90?site=newsday&view=top_stories_item&feed:a=newsday_1min&feed:c=topstories&feed:i=1.3715771

What does this mean for the Islanders chances of getting an arena in Suffolk County?  It means that a deal for the Islanders to land in Suffolk will not include public money.  The Islanders would most likely have to find a to become part of a private development.  There are a few ways that this could happen:

1) One option could be is joining the Shinnecock tribe with their casino deal.  The tribe is planning to build two casinos in Suffolk County.  Charles Wang does have a history of trying to work with the tribe.  He tried to get a casino built on his Plainview property.  There were also stories about Wang and the tribe wanting to build a casino and arena at the Belmont racetrack.

2) Another option is for Wang trying to join a project that is near development.  One example of a project like this is the Heartland Project.  The Heartland project is a three phase project that will be six times larger than the failed Lighthouse project proposed by Wang.  One thing that might give this option a glimmer of hope is the fact that the Islanders signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006 for a plot of land in the project zone.  The Islanders were willing to move to Brentwood where Suffolk Community College is located.

3) Another possible option is that Suffolk is willing to allow Wang to build the Lighthouse project on a piece of land in Suffolk.  One problem with this idea is the amount of time left before the Islanders need to make a decision by the end of their lease in 2015.  There is a lot of work that would need to be done to make this happen, but nobody knows what is really going on behind the scenes.  Bettman has said that the league and the Isles have been talking to other municipalities in New York.

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