As my Administration moves toward the second half of 2014, I’m taking a few moments this week to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished during our first six months. My team and I have spent each day focusing on common sense, intelligent solutions to the County’s challenges. Our efforts have centered on three strategic areas: (1) solving the budget crisis, (2) growing Rockland’s economy, and (3) preserving our landscape for future generations.
We are moving at a high velocity to find ways to improve economic conditions in Rockland County. But, change will not come overnight. I have used my first days in office to begin laying a foundation that we can build on in the coming months and years. While we are off to a good start, the real measure of success will come when we look back after four years.
Making Tough Choices, Cutting Costs – To help address a staggering $140 million deficit, I ordered a series of aggressive cost-saving measures. We have reduced spending, cut travel expenses, deferred major purchases, limited contract work and restricted hiring.
“Flattening” of the County’s Workforce – We performed a Countywide organizational and salary structure review. We’ve consolidated Economic Development/Tourism and Human Rights/Community Development positions and are planning further departmental and agency consolidations. Several positions have been left unfilled and others have been abolished.
Installing New Leadership – At the time of this writing, we’ve seen a 40 percent change-out from the previous administration’s leadership. Going forward, any incoming commissioners must be experienced and battle-tested. Appointments will reflect my pledge to restore integrity and professionalism to County government.
Paying Our Bills On Time – We’ve chipped away at a mountain of unpaid bills by issuing an Executive Order reducing the payment period for vendors and contract agencies from 90 days to 60 days. This small, but important change will help end years of fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement by the previous administration.
Changing Perceptions – Early on, I initiated meetings with the Office of the State Comptroller and bond creditors Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to build market confidence in Rockland County. Ongoing structural reforms, along with improved market perceptions, will be key drivers to an upgraded bond rating and a reduction in future interest costs.
Mental Health Transfer – We oversaw the successful transfer of Rockland County’s Mental Health Crisis and Inpatient units to Nyack Hospital, saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
Other major accomplishments include:
The receipt of a low 2.70 percent true interest rate for the General Obligation Bond Sale on its $96 million deficit financing bond for the Series 2014A held on March 4.
The establishment of shared services dialogue with town and village police and highway departments.
The implementation of overtime controls, increased interdepartmental cooperation and a streamlined chain of command.
A comprehensive review of commissions and boards to ensure that appointments to County boards and commissions are open, fair and transparent.
An essential component of building an active and healthy workforce is ensuring equal treatment of all employees, including equal pay. Since January, we’ve updated our Personnel polices covering disability discrimination, reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. We also introduced interactive employee training content, developed with an actual EEO attorney. These policy and training enhancements are critical to restoring the pride in working for this county. We will change the culture!
I am proud of the early accomplishments my administration has made. I remain confident that we will continue to put our people above politics to build a stronger economic base for the next generation of Rockland County residents. With your help, we will make the next six months – and each day thereafter – just as productive.