BUDGET DYSPHORIA IN ROCKLAND COUNTY

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Rockland County Democrats and County Executive Ed Day continue to clash not only over policy but over basic outlook on fiscal reality.

Day vetoed all but four technical amendments made to his budget by Democrats on the Legislature. The Democrats have 11 votes in hand (including Republican Douglas Jobson, Jr.), but require 12 votes to override any of Day’s vetoes. The Dems sent out a press release urging voters to call Republican legislators and persuade them to flip their vote.

The Democrats’ budget has several million dollar more in spending than Day’s, but also has a small tax cut. That’s because Democrats have counted on $1.5 million more in sales tax as well as made other diferent interpretations of the fiscal situation. The Dems included sale of the Sain Building as an assumed fact, and budgeted any monies from the sale of the building toward deficit reduction. The county has $16 million in deficit left to obliviate.

In a press confernce held Wednesday, Day expressed particular outrage at the Democrats’ inclusion of $4 million in Sain sales money, since in his view the Dems have held up the sale of the building from the lone interested bidder. After nine months the bidder has indicated his intention to move on to other potential sites.

“I cannot in good conscience allow amendments from the Democratic majority, which are funded by phantom revenue, to go forward,” he said. “We have worked too hard to climb out of a fiscal hole to travel down the same road that led this county to a staggering $138 million deficit and near insolvency.”

Day further criticized the Democrats for not taking heed of suggestions from Albany that sales tax revenues will go down in 2017. The Dems counter that the county is running a surplus this year even though the county did not sell the Sain Building.

That is partly due to Day imposing austerity measures in the wake of the Legislature’s rejection of the $4.5 million offer, but sales tax revenues also are over projections for the year. Day said one week of bad weather can change sales tax numbers for the year and given the experience of the late 00s and early 10s when eight digit annual deficits were the norm due to overprojection of sales tax, conservative projections should be the rule.

Chairman of the Legislature Alden Wolfe (D) spoke on behalf of the Democratic majority in rebuking Day’s vetoes. “The amended budget was adopted after hours and hours of detailed review and verification of expected revenues and expenditures,” Wolfe said. “For the first time since the recession hit in 2008 we produced a budget that offered relief to taxpayers.”

Wolfe said the failure to allot deficit reduction funds is a failing in Day’s budget that will capture the attention of the state Comptroller. The Legislature’s amended budget set aside $4 million for such action, in response to the Comptroller and in adherence to a county law requiring the pay down. They are counting on the sale of the Sain Building for that revenue.

“The amended budget corrected the County Executive’s lack of deficit reduction,” Grant said. “It restored important public safety funding omitted from his budget concerning the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department, Consumer Protection and the Mounted Unit.

“It cut $1 million in unnecessary spending, including the $50,000 he set aside for his own office to do mailings in an election year,” Grant said.

The County Executive said that the budget proposed by the Legislative majority counts on a total of more than $7 million in money that does not exist, including double counting $1 million of Social Services revenue that has already been allocated.  Such a move would guarantee a $1 million deficit.

Legislative Democrats contacted by the Rockland County Times were unable to counter Day’s argument on the matter of this $1 million.

Other amendments that Day is vetoing include proposals by the Legislative majority to:

· Eliminate the proposed Inspector General position but keep in place the funding – namely a 2 percent surcharge on contracts with companies doing business with the county without any associated cost savings.   

·  Put $723,554 in the budget for union contract settlements. Our negotiators object to such a move, which signals how much the county is willing to allocate for raises.

– Eliminate $50,000 for mailings from the Office of the County Executive. Day noted  the Legislature spent nearly $90,000 in mailings over the last three years.   

·  Abolish positions that Day said are either funded by grants that could endanger future grants, including those associated with  the new Tappan Zee Bridge or designed to save taxpayer money.

Day’s budget eliminates funding of certain non-profits called “224s.” The Legislature’s budget funds these non-profits, many which are popular.

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