County Executive’s Corner: A return to madness?

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By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

It’s no secret what earned Rockland a $138 million budget deficit and the shameful distinction of most fiscally stressed municipality in the state of New York.

It was dishonest budgeting based on phony revenue and expense projections.

Now, nearly three years into my administration with a deficit that has been reduced to $16 million though our hard work, our colleagues in the Legislature seem – unbelievably – determined to repeat the errors of the past.

The Legislature wants to put in place a budget that once again relies on phony revenue and expense projections.

The legislative majority Tuesday night put in place a series of reckless amendments to my fiscal plan for 2017 that falls back on smoke-and-mirrors to create a budget.

The Legislature seems not to have learned from its previous disastrous mistakes.

The budget they came up with relies heavily on non-existent money.

Namely:

  • Counting on a $4.5 million sale of the Sain Building for a second year after blocking the transaction for 14 months.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious that AFTER doing everything in its power to block this sale and AFTER counting on the revenue to balance the 2016 budget, the Legislative majority wants to count this income for 2017.

Instead of this nonsense, how about a firm commitment to sell this building to the buyer who has TWICE offered above the appraised value?

The Legislative majority was given a chance to make that commitment Tuesday night. They refused.

  • Double counting $1 million of Social Services revenue. This year my administration made many former contract agencies subcontractors for DSS, which earned state and federal reimbursement for part of their services.

This saved the taxpayer over $1 million. We allocated this $1 million in the 2017 budget, a move that we shared with the Legislature on Oct. 7.

Would you count the same paycheck twice when figuring your own weekly budget? That is exactly what some in the majority are doing: they want to pay for their amendments with the $1 million that has already been allocated – creating a $1 million deficit.

  • Some of our esteemed legislators think that they are better at predicting sales tax revenue than the Comptroller of the State of New York. The Legislative majority wants to plump up the sales tax revenue by $1.5 million above the projections that the comptroller said were reasonable.

This is a bad rerun – the same tactic that led Rockland down the path to financial disaster.

  • Their budget inexplicably eliminates positions that save taxpayer money as part of our county operations redesign. At the same time, the Legislature restored positions that duplicate services (petroleum bulk storage, HIV clinic supervisors, etc.) Why would the Legislature want taxpayers to pay for the same service twice?
  • Restored $1.3 million to “224” contract organizations. My budget provides $16 million in funding to nonprofits. We have nothing against these other contract organizations. But since the legislature failed to vote to lift the budget cap, we just can’t afford to fund them.
  • Eliminated the Inspector General position but left the funding mechanism – 2 percent surcharge on contracts – intact, essentially creating a hidden tax on firms doing business with the county with no chance of savings by imposing an extra set of eyes.
  • Put $723,554 in the budget for union contract settlements over the specific objections of the administration and our negotiators. Rule #1 of contract negotiations: don’t signal upfront what you are willing to pay.
  • Restored $150,500 for the Sheriff’s Mounted Unit, an amount that we don’t think will cover the costs of the horses, creating yet another shortfall.
  • Eliminated $50,000 for mailings from the executive branch while more than doubling Legislative mailings.

There you have it: the Legislative majority wants to increase expenses and then pay those expenses with imaginary money.

That tax decrease will not occur if even one of the impossibly incorrect revenues do not pan out. In fact, these amendments have potential shortfalls that would translate into an approximate 6 percent tax increase for next year.

Common sense says you can’t spend make-believe money, which is what the legislature is trying to do.

I will review this budget line-by-line and make financially sound decisions that will sharply contrast the Legislature’s financially reckless actions that put you, the taxpayer, at risk.

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