Suffolk County lawmakers have approved the creation of a new traffic court that will redirect much of the about $20 million in annual traffic violation fine revenue from New York State back to county coffers.
The legislature approved the measure 16-0 at their meeting Tuesday and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has signaled his intent to sign it into law. The new court will replace the state Department of Motor Vehicles-run facility in April.
“That revenue can be used for enforcement and public safety at a local level,” said Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), noting that the money will go into the general fund before being allocated.
He said under the current system, most of the revenue generated by traffic fines in Suffolk goes to Albany. Under the new model, the county will get the bulk of the revenue but the state will still get a piece.
The bill passed this week authorizes renovations to the first floor of the H. Lee Denison Building in Hauppauge, where the new court will be established—across the street from the current court. Another bill will be required to hire up to eight clerks, a director and an assistant to start.
County workers laid off this year getting first dibs at the new jobs. Those new hires don’t include part-time hearing officers and prosecutors. And there will likely more clerk hires to come.
The approximately 20 employees in the current court system are expected to be transferred to other DMV facilites, Calarco said.
Calaraco, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, said the Suffolk County Traffic Violations Bureau will be similar to one in Nassau County, which is also locally controlled. He added that the county may later add an administrative surcharge to tickets that wind up in the court.
The bill’s passage marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise for the freshman legislator.