County Executive’s Corner: Politics Over People

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By County Executive Ed Day

Now, a full nine months after I proposed the sale of the Sain Building as part of this year’s budget, the Rockland County Legislature has finally taken action.

A vote at Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislature essentially approved my plan. But with caveats that unnecessarily make the sale harder and endanger Rockland’s financial health

The Legislature wants to put out a request for bids for the Sain Building, putting the plan back at square one.

Why?

We want to get the best price for the taxpayers. We have been working on this sale since October. We followed the legal process.

The Legislature has done absolutely nothing for nine months.

And now it’s the 11th hour and the Legislature is finally taking action. But that action is designed to chase away a legitimate buyer.

We already have an offer on the table from a well-respected company that is willing and able to write a check for $4.51 million – more than its appraised value – to knock down this dilapidated building.

The company wants to replace it with senior housing – something desperately needed in Rockland.

The Town of Clarkstown will have a final say over what it permits to be built on that land.

Supervisor George Hoehmann supports the idea of senior housing.

And the Town of Clarkstown, the Clarkstown school district as well as the county could have put $470,000 into their budgets when the Sain Building property, prime New City real estate, went back on the tax role.

Why start all over?

The Legislature this week also failed to take action on a bond that would have provided funding to get our county workers out of the crumbling Sain Building and into Building A in our Pomona campus.

We want to do the right thing by our workers and move them into more comfortable offices. Why doesn’t the Legislature?

Minority leader Lon Hofstein informed us that “While we fought for the principle of doing right by the taxpayer, the Democrats played games of procedure. Due to a technicality of the rules and a procedural error on behalf of the leadership, it appears that a resolution to solicit new bids on the sale of the building was supported unanimously. Nothing could be farther from the truth. ”

The Legislature’s failure to move quickly on this sale and insistence on starting again at square one means the sale likely will not be completed by the end of the year. That makes it very likely that we will end the year with a deficit since we won’t have the $4 million that should have been earned through the sale of the building.

It was irresponsible planning that earned Rockland the unwanted distinction of the most fiscally stressed county in New York.

We have worked hard to bring the deficit down from $138 million when I took office two years ago to the current $19 million.

We will not go back to the bad old days of allowing the Legislature to run up budget deficits.

We now have no choice but to implement austerity measures for the remainder of the year in order to fill the hole in this budget created by the Legislature.

Of course we don’t want to see cuts in services, cancellations of contracts, suspended roadway projects, reduced or eliminated payments to community organizations.

Of course we also don’t want to see a likely property tax increase to make up the budget gap caused by lost revenue from the sale of the Sain Building.

The average Rockland resident doesn’t want services cut and taxes increased. We agree.

But that is what is likely to happen due to the actions taken by the Legislature.

If that pain affects you, you will know who to blame: the Legislators who sadly chose to put politics over people.

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