REPORT BY MICHAEL RICONDA
During a heated debate on environmental concerns between county executive candidates at Clarkstown Town Hall on April 18, candidate and Suffern Mayor Dagan LaCorte might have not only dropped an incorrect park budget figure, but also failed to grasp the scope of funding going to Rockland parks.
Both during and after the debate, county executive candidate and legislator Ilan Schoenberger called LaCorte out on his claim that only $2,700 was budgeted for county parks in the capital budget. In a letter to debate moderator and Rockland Water Coalition member George Potanovic Jr., Schoenberger explained LaCorte’s quoted figure was the remaining fund balance after $150,000 was bonded and spent on renovations to the Dutch Gardens and Haverstraw Bay Parks.
Furthermore, the bonded $150,000 is part of a total $450,000 allotted for park renovations in the capital budget and does not encompass all park-related spending. For example, the operations budget also contains expenditures related to park personnel.
“We have employees in the parks department, we have a supervisor for the operations of the parks, we have park rangers, and we have other staff,” Schoenberger explained.
Not only did LaCorte misstate the figure, but he also failed to notice other funding mechanisms as well. In addition to the $450,000 in the capital budget, a total of $23,000 was designated for the Department of Environmental Control in their 2013 budget for parks improvement and management.
Schoenberger used the misstep to question LaCorte’s knowledge of county finances. Though LaCorte’s $2,700 figure was meant to offer a contrast between LaCorte’s goals and the goals of his opponents, LaCorte’s attempt to tie a figure to his stated plan to invest in county planning and environmental programs might now suggest to voters that he has given only a cursory reading to county finances.
In response to Schoenberger’s assertions, LaCorte expressed a desire to return to other points of debate, specifically a potential credit downgrade faced by the county.
“The position was made clear and rebutted,” LaCorte said. “I think there is so much to talk about beyond this one small point, and I think we need to get to that.”