BY MICHAEL RICONDA
The Rockland County Legislature discussed and set December 4 as the date for a series of public hearings addressing the deficit and taxation in the county.
To be discussed at the hearings are the Rockland County Deficit Reduction Act (RCDRA), a law which will allocate money toward eliminating the deficit, the legislature’s decision to override the tax cap for 2013 and other budget information.
The RCDRA, which was first announced by Legislator Ilan Schoenberger in the early fall, is designed to address the deficit gap from a requested $80 million deficit reduction bond from the state. The law will require the county to commit $10 million toward reducing the deficit each year.
The funds, the source of which has not been determined, can only be used for the specific purpose outlined by the law. “This is a local law that says that money that is allocated will be allocated to a reserve account where it can’t be touched and it can’t be used,” Schoenberger said.
He stated that the law is an effort to be proactive. “I’m still hopeful that we will get it [the bond] either later this year or next year, but in the meantime, if we get it, then we won’t be needing this law,” Schoenberger said. “If we don’t get it, we still have to deal with the issue of the deficit.”
Referral 9481, which was sponsored by Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, set a date for a local law which will override the tax levy limit for 2013, in order to address expenses from unfunded mandates. Chairwoman Cornell said that the county had received $25-30 million in mandates from the state, necessitating a bypass of the tax cap.
Cornell also sponsored Referral 9475, which is separated into two distinct proposals. The first proposal, known as the Rockland County Mandate and Taxation Information Act, will inform Rockland County residents about items which are mandated by the state.
The law would provide fliers through the mail with tax bills, which will itemize and explain the mandates, with the ultimate goal of educating residents on the purpose of mandates and how tax dollars are spent.
“When people get the tax bill and there’s a little figure there, it will show that so many millions of dollars have been mandated for early intervention or so many dollars have been mandated for other kinds of programs.” Cornell said.
The meeting was the first one since Hurricane Sandy and a subsequent nor’easter struck New York. As part of the Public Safety Committee’s report, Legislator Jay Hood announced a forthcoming discussion on issues discovered during and after the Hurricane.
During her opening comments, Cornell took the opportunity to thank county, state, and federal workers for their hard work and sacrifices in the continued effort to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, expressing gratitude for not only first responders but also for non-emergency personnel such as Orange & Rockland workers and employees from the Highway Department.