WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) reacted with guarded optimism and concern today following County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s release of a proposed $1.7 billion budget for 2013. The legislators were pleased to see that the proposed budget would not raise the county’s tax levy or dip into the fund balance, but issues regarding pension costs and workforce reductions raised worries.
“The Board of Legislators has adopted budgets that reduced the proposed tax levy from the County Executive while preserving essential services,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The budget, as proposed, will be closely reviewed and prioritized to do what is right for Westchester. We certainly agree with County Executive Astorino that moving forward there should be a budget that doesn’t increase taxes or jeopardize the county’s triple A bond rating. As we look more carefully at this proposed budget we’ll undoubtedly find areas of agreement and places where we’d like to see some changes.”
Jenkins added that two major concerns about Astorino’s proposed budget deal with plans to amortize $35 million of next year’s $91 million employee pension bill, and bonding $13 million of court-ordered tax certioraris. “Westchester County has never bonded for tax certioraris, and the practice has caused great problems for places like Nassau County.”
“A power point presentation isn’t a budget—a budget is about people,” said BOL majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah). “We’ll now start the process of listening to the people of Westchester to ensure that their needs are met in a cost-effective manner. Under Legislator Judy Myers’s leadership as chair of the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, we’ll go through all 6000 lines of the budget and evaluate the spending and revenue proposals with an eye toward making sure they’re right for the people and business owners of Westchester.”
Astorino’s proposed budget calls the elimination of funding for neighborhood health centers and raising the parent share for subsidized daycare up to 35%. Several curators and the programs they manage at county parks will be eliminated as well.
In 2011, the BOL was able to double tax the relief proposed by the Administration (overriding Astorino’s veto of their budget to do so) while continuing to invest in services and infrastructure that are right for Westchester. Last year, the BOL approved a budget with a 0% increase in the tax levy.
“The County Executive’s proposed budget, given to the Board of Legislators today, will receive public examination and line-by-line scrutiny it deserves,” said Legislator Myers. “In the weeks ahead, we’ll be holding meetings and public hearings in order to make sure that our taxpayers, our Westchester families and businesses have plenty of opportunity to make their concerns and ideas about the budget known. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are up to it.”