Assembly Budget Plan Includes New Language for the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) announced that the Assembly Budget Resolution released last week includes the "Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act", as requested by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. The Act, if adopted in the final 2023 State Budget, will create a dedicated fund to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen, pursuant the Suffolk County Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan. The fund would finance wastewater projects, including nitrogen removing I/A septic systems that will restore the quality of local groundwater and surface waters. The fund would be financed by a 1/8% county sales tax, which would be subject to a county-wide mandatory referendum. In addition, the legislation would permit Suffolk consolidate its existing 27 sewer districts in to one district. The new language will not affect the East End, as there are no county sewer districts in the five East End towns. Existing town and village sewer districts would also be unaffected by the legislation. Finally, the act also would extend the existing ¼% sales tax dedicated to financing Suffolk’s Drinking Water Protection Program. Both sales taxes would expire in 2060.
At least, seventy-five percent (75%) of the revenues from the new fund will go to individual septic systems projects, including maintenance. The remaining revenues may be used for new sewage treatment infrastructure. The 1/8%sales tax increase will generate an estimated $3.1 billion in revenue from 2024 through 2060. Additionally, the extension of the Drinking Water Protection Program through 2060 will generate approximately $1.9 billion for drinking water projects, including open space acquisitions. Funds generated by the water fee will also be leveraged by the County to obtain more federal and state funding for its water quality improvement projects.
Assemblyman Thiele stated, “This act will create a recurring local revenue stream to reverse the disturbing trend of declining water quality in Suffolk County. It will also supplement the efforts of the East End to fund critical water quality projects under the CPF. Up to 20% of the CPF can be used for water quality improvement projects. There are approximately 360,000 individual septic systems in Suffolk. This fund will permit the County to scale up its efforts to remove nitrogen from our waters that will finally reverse decades of declining water quality.”