BY MICHAEL RICONDA
County Budget & Finance Committee Approves 2013 Budget, Legislature to vote on it tonight
New City – The County Legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee met on December 2 to approve the final version of the proposed 2013 budget, offering a look at what is to come should the legislature approve the proposal at its meeting tonight.
The budget proposal, which was one of two, was adopted by the legislature with opposing votes only from Legislators Frank Sparaco and Nancy Low-Hogan.
In total, $7,585,838 in cuts will likely be implemented. Restorations to various positions, programs, and other costs will total $6,169,173, leaving $1,416,665 left for a Legislative Appropriations Reserve, a special account saved for unforeseen expenses during the fiscal year.
$1.6 million was deducted from the original proposal, which reflects initial plans to lay off and outsource CSEA-covered laundry, cooking, radiology, and security services. However, the positions will not be subject to layoffs in the new budget
The proposal currently reflects savings, which exist with the retention of the CSEA employees. Legislator Ilan S. Schoenberger said that with this decision, the move would not breach the CSEA’s contract with the county.
“We can’t make a contract and then a few short weeks later break it,” Schoenberger said. “You can question whether we should have made the contract or whether we shouldn’t have made the contract, but we did.”
Proposed cuts to personnel and programs have caused considerable controversy, especially with organized labor. President of the Rockland County CSEA P.T. Thomas warned the legislature during their November 21 public hearing on the budget that if the county breached union contracts by eliminating positions that had been contractually excluded from layoffs, the CSEA would take legal action.
Other budget cuts include $1,480,658 in additional salary savings, $700,000 in cuts to unemployment, $1 million from the sales tax reserve, cuts to overtime for both the sheriff patrol and jail, and other miscellaneous cuts to the Department of Mental Health.
However, a number of positions and programs which were initially subject to cuts-such as mosquito control, Highway Department positions, and five positions with the Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol-were left in the 2013 budget upon the basis that they were too valuable to eliminate.
The proposal was one of two plans and included a measure, which restores part or all funding to various contract agencies, including Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Nathan Klein Institute, an expense of $188,515. The other plan did not contain this provision.
Disagreement arose on the issue of the contract agency restorations, with legislators speaking on the difficulty of making value judgments and failures to anticipate issues related to these matters in the budget. Legislator Alden H. Wolfe stated that the short notice did not provide a great deal of opportunity for the legislature to closely examine the restorations.
“While I think that there are certain contract agencies that deserve to be restored, in this fiscal climate I think that there are some contracts which shouldn’t be restored,” Legislator Alden Wolfe said.
The legislature will hold a vote tonight following public hearings scheduled to address the Rockland County Deficit Reduction Act, a tax limit override for 2013, the Rockland County Mandate and Taxation Information Act and the Rockland County Taxation Transparency Act.