By Michael Riconda
New City – In a significant change from last year’s packed and occasionally tense hearings, only a handful of people turned out for a series of public hearings on Rockland County’s 2014 budget on November 19.
In total, three hearings were held, with speakers’ arguments covering multiple points across all three topics. The first was a general discussion of the county budget, the second specifically addressed the override of the state-imposed tax levy limit and the third addressed the Rockland County Deficit Reduction Act.
Two people spoke generally on the budget, both of whom were highly critical of waste, irresponsible borrowing and undue burdens on Rockland taxpayers. Jim Flynn argued the budget contained instances of double counting of taxes and did not include items such as vacation pay and the contracted union furlough, which was part of last year’s budget controversy.
Flynn was also highly critical of the $96 million deficit bond, which he stated was only a temporary fix which meant more long-term debt and did not cover the deficit completely.
“Why don’t we put up the money to pay the bills and admit how bad everything is, and then fix it?” Flynn asked.
Ruth Ivey specifically criticized the 9.9 percent property tax increase, characterizing the budget as unacceptably burdensome and ultimately damaging to homeowners. Like Flynn, Ivey argued the budget required more program cuts, layoffs and buyouts to show the county is fiscally responsible.
“This county’s out-of-control financially,” Ivey said.”There are no plans for a civilized budget, only a budget that knows how to borrow and tax and borrow and tax.”
Additionally, Civil Service Employees’ Association President P.T. Thomas spoke specifically on the transfer of mental health services to Nyack Hospital, which he argued would result in layoffs. Thomas requested the legislature examine options for placement of these employees.