Proposed changes pass Budget and Finance Committee unanimously; Democrats likely have votes to pass budget

Nonprofit and Sheriff's Department supporters applaud legislative rollbacks of job cuts
Nonprofit and Sheriff’s Department supporters applaud legislative rollback of job cuts

BY DYLAN SKRILOFF

Earlier forecasts of a united Republican front in Rockland County budget negotiations have turned out to be overstated and barring another change in the political winds, a county budget will likely pass the Legislature with enough votes to withstand Ed Day’s anticipated vetoes on most items.

As of this time only two votes, Chris Carey (R) and Joseph Meyers (D), can be firmly counted on to support a compromise budget proposed by Carey, which would cut 14 Sheriff’s jobs and 25 percent of funding to contract agencies, while paying $7 million on the county’s deficit. Day had backed the compromise.

A budget that restored cuts to the Sheriff’s Dept. and contract agencies and pays $5 million on the deficit passed the Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday night and will be voted on in whole Thursday. The budget restores 36 Sheriff’s Department positions and eliminates one vacant position which Sheriff Louis Falco agreed to sacrifice, resulting in a 90 percent restoration.

The budget also preserves laundry, security, and radiology positions through the year. The plan protects them against oft discussed outsourcing plans and effectively preserves the jobs at least until the sale of Summit Park is expected to be finalized next year.

To pay for the restorations, the legislature opted to lower the deficit reduction allocation against the wishes of the County Executive, who has stated the actions could be perceived poorly by credit rating agencies and on the market. Though the minimum deficit allocation was reduced to $4 million, the legislature opted to allocate $1 million more than that this year to signal their seriousness about paying down their deficit in a timely fashion.

Elsewhere in the budget, the legislature slashed new, unfilled positions, salary bumps in existing jobs, and reduced and shifted around other miscellaneous expenses to reverse the controversial job cuts.

In addition, the legislature asserted that O’Connor-Davies, the consulting firm the county contracts to review the budget, identified an error which amounted to an understatement in expenses related to payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), meaning the budget was $100,000 over the two percent property tax cap. However, according to Leg. Ilan Schoenberger, the shortfall has been effectively filled with redirected funds and the budget is now expected to stay within the tax cap.

Legislators Pat Moroney (R) and Douglas Jobson, Jr. (R) have been noted by Day as being on the fence about the vote, while former Day budget supporter Frank Sparaco (R) has shifted his support to the Democrats. The Rockland County Times has no information on the vote of John Murphy (R), but other sources in the Legislature have told the newspaper the Democrats have a total 13 – 15 votes on their side.

Day will have an opportunity to veto changes to the budget item by item and the Legislature will then have an opportunity to override changes one by one, which will require 12 votes each.

All county legislative seats are up for election in November 2015 and the people will have a chance to weigh in on their legislator’s vote at that time. The Rockland GOP is expected to consider running primaries against legislators who do not support Day’s budget. John Murphy (R) has told everyone except the media that he is retiring at the end of this term.

Sparaco was recently arrested on felony charges relating to allegedly spurious names on a petition ballot he carried, charges he has confirmed he will fight in court. Sources in the Legislature told the Rockland County Times that Sparaco feels he is the subject of a political persecution at the hands of enemies, including Day. Sparaco would not comment on the matter.