BY MICHAEL RICONDA
The Rockland County Legislature voted by a significant margin to override County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef’s veto of the amended 2013 budget at its meeting on December 18.
Of the 17 legislators, only Legislators Frank Sparaco, Nancy Low-Hogan, and Chris Carey voted against the override, a significantly higher tally that the seven which voted against the budget itself. The required supermajority was reached and the entirety of the legislature’s amended budget has become law.
The move was met by praise from supporting legislators and the Rockland County Civil Service Employees Association, whose members attended the meeting to support the override.
Vanderhoef’s veto reversed all but a few of the legislature’s changes from the original bill, though it did keep some altered items such as the retention of county mosquito control and the Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol.
If Vanderhoef’s veto was not overrode it would have meant the reinstatement of a $12 million revenue line in the 2013 budget from upcoming plans to sell Summit Park’s Nursing Home, the replacement of CSEA-covered county workers with outsourced labor, and the reinstatement of vacant positions which the legislature marked for elimination.
Legislator Ilan S. Schoenberger argued strongly for the override, stating that under Vanderhoef’s budget the deficit would be increased by $12 million because the hospital sale would not occur and proceeds would not be available until at least 2014. Hence, the general fund deficit would not see a reduction and the line would need to be marked as a deficit increase for 2013.
“Reasonable people can differ over what constitutes an appropriate veto, what should or should not be overridden, but I urge all of you to override this veto,” Schoenberger said.
Schoenberger also argued that laying off CSEA-backed workers who were guaranteed protection against budget-related job cuts would be a violation of the union’s 2013 contract with the county and that layoffs to Highway Department personnel would hinder the department’s efforts in situations such as Hurricane Sandy.
Legislator Alden H. Wolfe agreed with Schoenberger, saying that he was “puzzled” by a budget which he argued added to the deficit, opened the door to a lawsuit by the CSEA, endangered county residents by straining the Highway Department, and needlessly-restored vacant positions.
“I think that’s bad government, and that’s not something that I’m gonna support,” Wolfe said.
Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan voted against the override, stating that though neither budget met her expectations and the $12 million revenue line was inappropriate, her goal was to reduce the county’s expenditures as much as possible.
“While these are not the cuts I would have suggested, the Legislature’s budget essentially keeps this baseline the same, and this baseline is unsustainable.” Low-Hogan said.
County property taxes increase 18 percent under the 2013 budget, about a $170 increase in the county tax bill for an average household.
In addition to the budget vote, two other items of note under referrals 9488 and 9364 give legislative support to measures in other assemblies with an emphasis on Hurricane Sandy relief. Referral 9488 supports a bill in the U.S. Senate which will give tax relief to qualifying individuals who were financially-impacted by the storm, while Referral 9364 requests the New York State Assembly to pass a bill amending the education law permitting state aid to schools were not in session due to extraordinary weather conditions.