By Legislator Alden H. Wolfe (D- Montebello)
Rockland County Legislature
Each year, beginning in October, the Rockland County Legislature gets to work on the annual budget for the upcoming year. The budget process is spelled out in Article 4 of the Rockland County Charter. By law, the process begins with the County Executive submitting his proposed budget by October 1st:
“The County Executive shall submit to the Clerk to the Legislature, for consideration by the County Legislature…a proposed expense and capital budget for the ensuing fiscal year.”
The Charter also spells out the role of the Legislature to review, change and adopt a budget:
“The Legislature or a committee designated by it may review and hold hearings on the proposed county budget…After the conclusion of the public hearing, the Legislature may strike items of appropriation or anticipated revenue from the proposed county budget or reduce items…The county budget as changed, altered or revised shall be adopted by resolution of the Legislature.”
This process of checks and balances is integral to ensuring that the budget is crafted and approved in the most transparent manner possible. The Legislature – be it in Rockland or any other County or local government – is always tasked with the heavy responsibility of budgeting because it is the people’s representative body.
In Rockland County, we hold numerous public meetings in which Legislators go through details of all County department budgets, and the public provides input every step of the way. This deliberative, public process is how members of the public have a say in shaping the budget.
The Legislature also provides crucial oversight, a role that has become more necessary in recent years to protect taxpayer funds. As part of the deficit reduction law, the State Comptroller reviews the County Executive’s proposed budget to ensure that it meets standards of fiscal responsibility and accuracy.
Since this requirement has been in place, the Comptroller has identified deficiencies and areas of concern with proposed budgets. Working with the Comptroller, the Legislature has resolved those deficiencies to arrive at a responsible and honest budget for Rockland’s taxpayers.
While there is always debate on financial priorities during each budget season, our first priority must be to provide the public with a transparent process that enables them to provide their input. Each year, the Legislature has taken that input and amended the budget to meet the needs and reflect the values of our residents. This year will be no different, and I look forward to receiving the County Executive’s proposal and working with you – the people of Rockland County – to pass a budget that gets the most bang for your buck.