WHITE PLAINS, NY -- More than 250 people attended last night’s public hearing on County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s Proposed 2013 Budget, which was held at Mamaroneck Village Hall. The hearing, hosted by the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL), took place under the auspices of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations (B&A) Committee, chaired by Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont).
Dozens and dozens of concerned county residents told the BOL members that Astorino’s proposed budget, which will cut important programs for parks and youth programs while also eliminating all funding for neighborhood health centers, simply is not right for Westchester.
“I’m impressed that so many people would take the time to express their concerns about the spending decisions being made by the County Executive,” said Myers. “Their input is an essential part of the County’s budget process. The public knows we share their concerns, and it’s both gratifying and humbling to hear them speaking from their hearts about issues that matter deeply to them.”
The next public hearing that the BOL is hosting on Astorino’s Proposed 2013 Budget is Thursday, November 29 at Cortlandt Town Hall in Cortlandt Manor. The hearing is set to being at 7 PM. Open, public discussions with County department heads and other staff members at the BOL’s B&A Committee meetings began the day after the 2013 budget was presented to the public on Wednesday, November 14. (All BOL meetings are streamed live and archived on the BOL website, www.westchesterlegislators.com.)
No one at the hearing spoke out in favor of the County Executive’s proposed budget.
A member of the County’s Planning Department staff said at the hearing that personnel cuts would result in a “brain drain,” and that laying off the department’s only expert on flood mitigation, as Astorino proposes to do, is especially foolhardy. Another County employee testified that staff reductions would hamper the ability to complete important ongoing environmental projects. A CSEA union member noted that one-third of those working for the County, many of whom Astorino has targeted for layoffs, earn less than $40,000 a year and qualify for the assistance in the social services programs they are helping to administer.
Grace Beltran, representing one of the neighborhood health centers, noted that Astorino makes a point to speak some Spanish at public events but is now intending to cut programs that benefit low-income residents who are predominantly Spanish-speaking. Ellen Farrar from Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP) lamented Astorino’s wrong minded insistence on raising the family share for subsidized child care to unaffordable levels. And Julani Davis, a 16-year-old Greenburgh resident and one of several teenagers who defended funding for the Westchester County Youth Councils (as part of Family Services of Westchester), said the program exposed him to a large range of issues in his community involving environmental awareness, prejudice and poverty, as well as how to tackle problems “head-on” and make a difference.
“Once the County Executive submits his budget, it becomes the ‘people’s budget,’” said BOL Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon.) “Being able to fully gauge their concerns is the point of our open, transparent budget process, and I encourage all concerned Westchester residents and business owners to attend the next two public hearings or view them online.”