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Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

 

Rockland County Executive Ed Day Presents $674 million 2017 Budget with $1 or Less Tax Hike Monthly, 3.5 percent Spending Reduction, Greater Efficiencies

NEW CITY, NY -- Rockland County Executive Ed Day today presented a proposed 2017 budget that keeps his promise to taxpayers by staying within the stringent state tax cap, reduces spending and whittles down the deficit he inherited.

The $674 million spending plan will result in a very modest tax increase of $1 every month for most residents. That small increase will be reduced further for two-thirds of Rockland residents in Sewer District No. 1. They will see a $12 annual reduction in their user fees because of a careful review of operations to find efficiencies, essentially establishing a zero percent tax increase.

“We have reversed the unsustainable tax-and-spend policies of the past,” Day said.  “The budget we are proposing is a solid, fiscally prudent plan that keeps taxes under the tax cap, lowers spending, increases efficiency.

He unveiled the budget to the public during a presentation at the Rockland Community College satellite center in Haverstraw.

Spending is reduced 3.5 percent, a reduction that comes a year after Day cut spending nearly 6 percent – the largest cut in recent Rockland history.

Under Day’s direction county spending has been cut by more than 9 percent, or $67 million, over the last two years. 

Rockland was on track to have its third consecutive budget surplus, but was forced to impose austerity measures due to the failure of the Legislative majority to sell the Sain Building for the $4 million that it included in this year’s budget.

Because of this failure early projections show that 2016 will end essentially flat or with a very small deficit.

The budget also reflects continuing restructuring of county government to make it more responsive and efficient. Some positions have been eliminated while others have been created.

On Jan.1, 2017, there will be 1,690 county positions, down from 2,161 when Day took office in 2014. The budget calls for a reduction of 11 positions which will translate into nine layoffs.

There has been a 22 percent reduction in positions since Day began reorganizing county government to improve efficiency.

“A big thank you to our very talented workforce, which has admirably adjusted,” he said. “We also thank our department heads, commissioners for their hard work.”

Day also announced that the $138 million deficit he inherited when he became county executive is now down to less than $18 million.

“Our recipe for fiscal health is working,” he said. “We are cutting spending, holding the line on taxes and making our government more efficient and responsive.”

Credit agencies have upgraded Rockland’s rating three times since Day took office and the county executive hopes that the fiscal restraint and responsible budgeting in next year’s spending plan prompts another upgrade.

Highlights of the 2017 proposed budget:

  • Creation of an Inspector General position, an independent person reporting to the County Attorney. This person will oversee county contracts and to make sure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. The IG will perform audits and conduct investigations as necessary. The position will be funded by a small charge on private contractors, not by taxpayers. Legislator Charles Falciglia helped develop this initiative, as did County Attorney Tom Humbach and Stephen Powers, intergovernmental relations director.
  • Other new positions include:  

-         A network administrator to beef up cyber security.

-         A Veterans Burial Coordinator to assist the families of Rockland’s heroes.

-         An associate planner to help evaluate proposals before the Planning Board to preserve the quality of life in this county.

-         Three armed guards to make sure public buildings are safe. They will be under the direction of Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco, who worked with the County Executive to develop the plan.

  • Phase out of services now being provided by the county that duplicate public services available elsewhere.

-         This includes a clinic in the Rockland Department of Health that treats patients with AIDS and HIV. Those patients will be transferred to services that are available at other taxpayer-supported agencies, like federally qualified health care centers in Rockland. No one will be left without care.

-         The county is also ending the petroleum bulk storage program run by the Rockland Department of Health. That function will be taken over by the state Department of Health, which performs petroleum bulk storage inspections for most counties in New York.

-         Positions will also be eliminated in the Department of Community Development as Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Penny Jennings undertakes a complete reorganization.

Over the past year, Day has continued to improve oversight of the funding given to some nonprofit agencies and community-based organizations. This enable the county to get an additional $1 million in reimbursement.

Many community groups that had to wait every year to see if they would get funding are now part of the county budget and their funding is assured along with oversight and a set of performance expectations. This contracted funding exceeds $16 million this year.

This group includes many senior citizen clubs as well as VCS, Venture, Catholic Charities, JCC and the Jewish Federation, People to People, SHARE, Head Start, the Martin Luther King Center, and many others.

By necessity, this is a very tight budget, Day said.

The County Executive in in August submitted a proposal to the Legislature to consider an over-ride of the property tax cap if necessary. The Legislature failed to act upon this request.  As a result, the Day administration had to make difficult choices.

The first priority is to fund all mandated programs. After those programs were funded, there was very little money left over under the tax cap.

Because the Legislature did not authorize exceeding the cap, the County Executive regretfully reports that there will not be funding for some non-profit and community organizations known as 224s.  Funding for these agencies has always come from the Legislature.

This funding, a total of $1.6 million, is now in the hands of the Legislature to address.

“There are sacrifices,” Day said. “We have to make hard choices, choices that this year unfortunately will not allow us to fund some of the community groups that county taxpayers have supported in the past.”

The budget plan is a prudent and fiscally conservative plan to provide high-quality services without large tax increases, Day said.

“I am keeping the promises I made to the taxpayers,” he said.

He  thanked Commissioner of Finance Stephen DeGroat and Deputy Commissioner of Finance Steven Grogan for their efforts preparing the budget.

County taxes account for approximately 9 percent of a typical property tax bill. The remaining taxes are levied by schools, municipal governments and special districts. The exact impact of the county tax levy on a property owner varies from community to community, due to different local assessments.

Unfunded mandates forced on the county by lawmakers in Albany continue to challenge Rockland's finances.

Medicaid, pensions and seven other unfunded state mandates will consume more than 90 percent of the county's tax levy in 2017. Medicaid along costs 60 percent, leaving less than 10 percent for local needs like parks, public safety and health care.

The 2017 proposed budget will be available on the county's website, Rocklandgov.com.

Residents are invited to submit questions about the budget to County Executive Ed Day via email at countyexec@co.rockland.ny.us.