By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
While we’ve enjoyed beautiful weather recently, we must not forget it’s the heart of the 2015 hurricane season. The names Sandy, Irene, Floyd and Gloria serve to remind us that our lives – and properties – can change quickly this time of year.
Whether pummeled by a tropical storm or buried by a blizzard, the residents of Rockland County have come to depend on our dedicated first responders and municipal workers to help protect lives and restore normalcy. Recent history also shows that our local nonprofit agencies respond to crises without hesitation, providing food, shelter, housing and other critical needs. It’s these agencies I wish to spotlight here.
Last week, Rockland County signed an agreement with United Way of Rockland County to establish an exclusive, long-term relationship to respond to the needs of our people during and after any natural or manmade disaster.
Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the County, while directing local response to disaster relief, will request that United Way provide assistance to residents seeking help. As part of the mutual agreement, Rockland County will coordinate disaster services with local, state and federal government agencies, while the United Way coordinates relief services among various local nonprofits, from People to People and Meals on Wheels to Head Start of Rockland County and the County YMCA.
Additionally, United Way will manage a centralized disaster relief fund and will oversee the release of funds to those in need. This coordination and accountability will make certain that donations made to help our neighbors during time of need will get to them… no matter which agency received the funds.
Building a strong community requires strong partnerships, and this agreement the United Way is a good example of how county government is enhancing relationships with local nonprofits to keep our people safe in the wake of a disaster.
Throughout our community, many not-for-profit agencies enhance our quality of life in Rockland County. As you will learn during my 2016 budget announcement next week, we have made great strides to ensure that those delivering contract services for the county continue to receive funding through a rigorous, transparent, “best value” process.
A new framework will allow County departments to evaluate the performance of contract agencies in a systematic and timely manner. Gone is the era of “earmarks” and member items to fund pet projects and “connected” organizations. While we all have our favorite agencies, it’s simply not responsible to subsidize funding on the backs of our property taxpayers without strict evaluation and accountability.
Under the dark cloud of a $138 million deficit, Rockland County must carefully scrutinize all contract agencies to ensure that they are using County tax dollars lawfully and efficiently to deliver services.
When our residents need a helping hand, it’s good to see County government and local nonprofits working together for the people. Whether it’s something unusual, like a hurricane, or something more commonplace, like special services for a child, it’s good to know your tax dollars are being spent wisely on services that will make a difference.