County Legislature moves for more action on overdue payments

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature approved on Tuesday a resolution which they argue will press county agencies into more timely payments of their obligations.

The law, which passed unanimously, requires the county to pay for vouchers, requisitions, purchase orders, debt, contractual and legal obligations within 60 days of any agreement. It seeks to address what many legislators have complained is a frequent problem where money is not relayed to parties which do business with the county, even when the money is ready and checks have been written out.

The resolution saw some discussion in prior months, but has changed significantly from its initial form. Originally, the proposal included a 90 day deadline with penalties for overdue payments. However, upon the request of County Executive Ed Day, a compromise was reached on the deadline and the penalty was scrapped.

“The penalties were taken out because the county executive expressed a concern that it would just result in county taxpayers paying more money,” Legislator Ilan Schoenberger said. “If for some unforeseen reason the payments couldn’t be made within 60 days or the state money we were expecting wasn’t received within 60 days, we shouldn’t have to pay a penalty. After discussing it, I would agree with him.”

There is a penalty of sorts, but it is not as overt as a monetary sanction or withdrawal of county support. Instead, the county commissioner of Finance will be allowed to publicly report delinquencies to the Legislature.

“That’s a public document and people will know,” Schoenberger said. “The public will now know whenever a payment is not made within 60 days. It is a form of scrutiny that is a penalty in itself.”

The County is not the only entity whose obligations were addressed. In a move mirroring the new law, a memorializing resolution was also passed requesting timely payment of obligations from Albany. Though the resolution has no legal weight, Legislator Alden Wolfe explained it was moved to demonstrate consistency.

“I think it goes without saying that a significant part of our cash flow problem comes from the fact that we don’t get reimbursements in a timely fashion,” Wolfe explained. “We’re going to hold ourselves to a particular standard and ask that the state hold itself to that same standard.”