Here we go again. The amended budget passed by the Majority members of the Rockland County Legislature is a return to the days of speculative revenue, over-estimating sales tax revenue and a refusal to modernize county government. In short, a budget like theirs could lead us back down the path of deficits and double-digit tax increases; a return to the sins of the past.
Last week I vetoed all their ill-advised amendments that added more spending to their budget. They now have until December 20, to attempt to override my veto. They will not have the votes to do so thanks to the support of the Legislative Minority. These seven Legislators; Minority Leader Lon Hofstein, Deputy Minority Leader Vince Tyer, Legislator Chris Carey, Legislator Charles Falciglia, Legislator Doug Jobson, Legislator Pat Moroney and Legislator Laurie Santulli are refusing to accept poor fiscal policy and are standing up to help me protect Rockland’s financial recovery. I sincerely thank them for this.
Among the most egregious amendments passed by the Majority was including $3.5 million in revenue and appropriations to ostensibly fund employee contract settlements. I fully support a fair and equitable contract settlement for our hard-working union employees. Over the past two years, my administration has allocated a total of $5.8 million for union contracts.
This $3.5 million included by the Majority is from the possible settlement of the ongoing Summit Park court case, which is currently undergoing an appeal. This appeal may take months or years to settle; we simply do not know what the outcome will be or when it will be finalized. Including this revenue of $3.5 million would simply be unfair to our unions; creating false hope and sabotaging contract negotiations. It is also poor fiscal policy and contravenes the New York State Comptroller’s recommendations to NOT use “one-shot” revenues for recurring expense items.
The Majority also amended the 2019 by removing the new deed verification program; eliminating an opportunity to begin verifying and correcting deeds and tax maps in order to protect new home buyers. This new deed program was strongly supported by all five town assessors and the County Clerk. This deed fee would have generated $1.2 million in revenue. To make up for the shortfall created by eliminating the revenue, the Majority simply increased the estimated sales tax revenue by $647,500, that amount of money is shockingly almost 30% beyond the highest projection proposed by their own financial consultant! They also cut multiple new positions to make up the difference, further burdening our hardworking employees.
The county’s budget was reviewed by the New York State Comptroller, and their office confirmed all our expense and revenue items. The Majority simply took a play from their past, failed playbook and increased sales tax rather than making realistic adjustments. I am calling upon the County Legislature to pass the needed local legislation to enact this new deed/mapping program for 2019.
Over the past several years my administration has migrated nearly all contract agencies within county departments for purposes of procurement, oversight and accountability. This is a far cry from the past when agencies were simply paid with little or no documentation and/or accountability. The Majority also altered the budget in an overt effort to bypass the County’s legally mandated process for procuring these contracts. A legal process that is intended to obtain the best services for the least amount of taxpayer dollars and, in the words of the New York State Comptroller’s Office, to provide “assurance that the County is paying the lowest possible price of acquiring services without favoritism.”
However, the Majority has seen fit to return to another failed policy of the past by sidestepping this legally mandated competitive bidding processes and allocating funds on a specific expense account within departments. Allocating money directly to these agencies is nothing more than an attempt by the Legislative Majority to score political points and buy the votes of these nonprofits’ supporters. The irony is that the services that these agencies provide have been and will continue to be fully funded by my administration but we will do so in a legal and proper manner.
The Legislative Majority’s amended budget was an insult to all the work we have done the past five years to improve Rockland’s financial well-being. I will not allow the Majority to return the County to the days of reckless, deficit spending that nearly led us into receivership. Thank you again to the Legislative Minority for standing up for what’s right.