NEWSDAY REPORTING THAT Environmental groups have sued Suffolk for diverting almost $33 million from its Drinking Water Protection Program to balance the county’s budget.
The money from a voter-approved quarter-percent sales tax increase was sold to the public first in 1987 and approved five times by voters, most recently in 2007, as a way to protect drinking water and stabilize sewer district rates, according to the lawsuit.
Instead, the redirected money, which comes from the sewer stabilization portion of the sales tax, was a one-time way to cover operating expenses in the county budget. The move was approved by Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Legislature.
The Pine Barrens Society and Long Island Environmental Voters Forum filed the lawsuit in Riverhead against the county, Bellone and the legislature.
Bellone, who has made water quality a top priority of his administration’s agenda this year, is negotiating with environmental groups to guarantee that the money is repaid.
County officials said a plan to eventually pay money back into the fund could be reached as soon as Monday.