(Hauppauge, NY-June 13, 2013) A report released today by County Executive Steve Bellone's Performance Management team recommends that Suffolk County eliminate the separate elected offices of County Comptroller and County Treasurer and consolidate the two functions into the office of an elected Chief Financial Officer. This consolidation would save Suffolk County taxpayers $1.07 million in 2014 with an estimated five-year savings of $5.7 million.
Currently, Suffolk County is the only county in New York State with both an elected Comptroller and Treasurer. While the Performance Management report notes that the consolidation can occur without a referendum, Bellone supports giving the public the say with a referendum this November.
"Suffolk County voters should have the opportunity to support consolidating government, saving more than $1 million each year and improving efficiency," County Executive Bellone said. "All too often, we complain about mandates from other levels of government, yet we have burdened ourselves with being the only county in New York State to have separate elected offices for Comptroller and Treasurer."
Merging these two offices has had longstanding support. The Suffolk County Charter Revision Commission recommended the consolidation in a 1999 report. At the time, the Commission advocated that the current model splinters the financial management duties of the County which “hampered the growth of an effective fiscal management system which would encourage communication and cooperation.”
According to today's Performance Management report, "Consolidating these two financial departments into a unified financial department would result in more efficient financial management through economics of scale, consolidation of functions, streaming of operations, increased and improved application of technology and more accurate and timely cash-flow analyses."
Among the benefits of consolidating the offices cited in Performance Management's report:
· Save $1.07 million in 2014 with an estimated five-year savings of $5.7 million by eliminating duplicative management positions.
· Improve cash flow and coordinate monitoring of finances by combining the Treasurer's office which enters revenues, with the Comptroller's office. which records expenditures.
· Improved IT services-- Treasurer currently maintains two full-time systems analysts while Comptroller has none. This forces Comptroller's office to dedicate audit staff away from critical functions to system maintenance.
· Bring new office into the Countywide Federated IT model. One example of savings is that Treasurer's office currently has a contract for an offsite hosted system that could be hosted in the County and produce an additional $200,000 annual savings.
· Create a unified land record system. Currently the County has multiple databases that provide the same function but don't interface. A coordinated system would simplify and streamline the processing of land record information and provide more insight into the status of property tax collections, and land record revenues.
· Performance Management and Budget will work with the new office during the first year to identify additional operating efficiencies.
The report debunks issues have been raised in the past about such a consolidation. The office would retain its independence through an elected Chief Financial Officer. One example cited in the past was Orange County, CA where a lack of separation of powers led the county to bankruptcy as the result of poor investing. However, the comparison is not apt because Suffolk County retains a separation of powers through the Legislature, County Executive and the new CFO. Investments are approved through resolution on an annual basis with approval from both the Legislature and County Executive.