Challenges Old and New
Every year in the fall as the temperatures begin to cool, we all take note of certain things, leaves changing color on trees, the return of football season or watching the Yankees make a playoff push. And those of us in government focus on one of our most important jobs; completing our budget for the upcoming year.
We have been able to share positive financial news with you throughout the year such as our continued bond rating increases and a growing surplus but we still have further to go to complete our financial recovery. Every year during the budget process we face challenges, some of which are familiar like the $13 million deficit bond payment we must make every year until 2024 or the rising cost of salaries and health insurance and decreasing reimbursements from the State and Federal government.
But some of the challenges we face this year are new, like the additional mandates that have been thrust upon us by New York State. All told we face an additional $4.9 million in new state mandates and program costs; that is the equivalent of a 4% property tax increase all on its own!
As New York State attempts to balance their own budget they are shifting many of their costs down to the counties and local tax payers. Instead of actually reducing costs and finding efficiencies, which we have done on the local level, Albany politicians are partaking in a shell game that further burdens residents across our state in a transparent attempt to make themselves look good.
We have seen new state mandates before but this year is the most horrific that I have seen in my tenure as County Executive. The local share we pay for Early Intervention and Pre-Kindergarten programs, which are crucial to making sure every child with special needs in Rockland gets the assistance they and their family require, went up 16% or $2.4 million in one year.
While we are doing our best to find efficiencies by incorporating these new mandates into existing programs, I will not sugarcoat the fact that crafting a budget that is fair to our residents and businesses is a significant challenge. But those who know me, know that I will never shrink from a challenge.
We will continue restructuring government, redefining positions to get the most from our employees and improve services for you, our residents. I truly understand what too many of those in government fail to realize. The residents of the community are the ultimate bosses, not the elected officials, not the employees or anyone else. Government works for you, the taxpayer. And I believe that your money belongs in your pocket.
Unfortunately, I know that New York State will continue to hand down unfunded mandates, leaving local taxpayers to pick up the tab. But I pledge that we will continue to find the most efficient, cost-effective ways to deliver services at the lowest cost to you. Together, as always, we will meet these challenges head on.