By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
Rockland County wouldn’t be the high-quality place to live without its non-profits.
Our non-profit agencies and the dedicated people who run them do everything from feed and clothe the hungry and working poor to providing services for people with disabilities to enhancing the great cultural offerings we all enjoy.
The 2017 budget I have proposed calls for spending $16.3 million on non-profits – about the same as last year.
Funding these agencies is a win-win for you the taxpayer and the agencies themselves.
These organizations provide vital services that might otherwise fall to government, and cost more in the process. That’s why funding agencies like Meals on Wheels, which will get $1.83 million in county money under my budget, makes good financial sense.
Of course we want our elderly and homebound residents to get hot, nutritious food every day. An organization like Meals on Wheels can do this so much more effectively and efficiently than the county ever could on its own.
Or the Rockland Mental Health Association, which stands to receive $2.3 million in my proposed budget. This agency provides a wide variety of assistance to people with behavioral health issues, often intervening to prevent their entry into a very expensive penal system. Again, providing this type of care is this agency’s sole purpose – no doubt they do it better than government could itself.
There are so many other agencies that are worthy of county funding. And they will get that funding: United Hospital of Rockland, Head Start, Jewish Family Service, Catholic Community Services, the Rockland Center for Safety and Change, Nyack Center, VCS, just to name a few.
Over the past year, my administration has continued to improve oversight of the funding given to many of these nonprofit agencies and community-based organizations. This enabled the county to get an additional $1 million in reimbursement. That means the same level of funding and the same services for $1 million less of your county taxes.
Many community groups that had to wait every year to see if they would get funding are now part of the county budget and their funding is assured along with oversight and a set of performance expectations.
The budget I have submitted is very tight and, I’m proud to say once again, sticks to the state’s 1.17 percent property tax cap for Rockland. That means a monthly tax increase of less than $1 for most residents.
It also cuts spending by 3.5 percent, a reduction that comes a year after I cut spending nearly 6 percent – the largest cut in recent Rockland history.
By necessity, this is a very tight budget.
In August, I submitted a proposal to the Legislature to consider an over-ride of the property tax cap if necessary. The Legislature failed to act upon this request.
As a result, we had to make difficult choices.
Because the Legislature did not authorize exceeding the cap,
I regretfully report that there will not be funding for a handful of non-profit and community organizations known as “224s.”
Funding for and oversight of these agencies falls to the Legislature.
This funding, a total of $1.3 million, a very small percentage of the $16.3 million we have allocated to non-profits, is now in the hands of the Legislature to address.
We don’t mean to say that none of these agencies are worth funding. Many of them most certainly are.
But again, you elected me to fix this county’s finances. That means I had to make hard choices.
This budget keeps the promises I made to spend your money wisely while continuing to provide high-quality services without big tax increases.