By Joe Kuhn
The Rockland Legislature has approved the county’s 2020 operating budget by a near unanimous vote of 15-2. The new budget, which totals more than 700 million dollars, includes raises for many elected officials, five million dollars for the construction of the new Hi Tor Animal Shelter, and more than 70 million dollars for state mandated programs and the Medicaid costs.
Though the new budget enjoyed bi-partisan support, a few members of the legislature voiced dissatisfaction with the plan, “a sign of a good compromise” observed legislator Lon Hofstein.
The main argument concerned the scheduled raises.
Legislator Grant expressed apprehension that a planned pay raise for the County Executive was not included in the initial budget sent by their office. Grant considered it “a transparency issue” that the raise instead had to be included as a last minute amendment during the legislatures meeting, prompting him to vote against adopting the budget.
Legislators Nancy Low Hogan and Douglas Jobson commented that the scheduled raise was too high, Low Hogan arguing that the raise “should be more consistent with the consumer price index,” while legislator Harriet Cornell disapproved of granting stipends to committee chairs. Legislator Cornell clarified that she was hesitant to grant funds to committee chairs considering how poorly attended committee meetings have been. “We very often do not have a quorum,” lamented the legislator, who believes the stipends were “unnecessary”.
All totaled the 17 legislators will see a $16,913 increase to $49,500 for their position while the county executive salary will rise to $184,500.
Many of the legislators, Philip Soskin most prominently, argued that the raises were well deserved considering those officials had not received any pay increase “in more than 15 years.” They also observed that many Rockland officials were being paid significantly less than their counterparts in other counties.
Executive Day has five days to veto the budget before it is officially adopted.