County Executive’s Corner “Financial Tsunami”

By County Executive Ed Day

As we first began contemplating the shuttering of businesses and our economy back in March, I made clear that we were facing a financial tsunami. Months of reduced sales tax revenue and funding cuts from New York State have made clear that we are facing a true fiscal crisis; one that may be even more difficult than the Great Recession of 2008.

But unlike the lack of planning or concrete action in 2008 we began taking a number of actions to soften the blow as best we can now and going forward. We implemented austerity measures in March which permitted only COVID related and essential purchasing to take place. We instituted a hiring freeze in May except for essential personnel and those working directly on the COVID response.

We immediately applied for FEMA Disaster Assistance and were one of the first municipalities in the country to have our reimbursement portal for COVID related expenses up and running. We have also asked our Federal Representatives to include direct financial assistance for counties in any future federal stimulus bills.

We have closely examined every account within County Government and identified millions in funds that were not spent due to the COVID-19 pandemic; we are doing everything possible to protect your taxpayer dollars and will continue to do so.

And this week the County Legislature is expected to pass a resolution we submitted which eliminates 18 vacant and/or unfilled positions and will save us nearly a million dollars this budget year. We closely vetted the vacant positions before recommending they be eliminated to make sure critical services would be maintained.

While we are taking action and will continue to look for ways to save money, we do not have a magic wand. Last August we announced a General Fund or savings account balance of $32.2 million. It is possible that this entire account could be wiped out by the end of 2020.

But this is exactly why we have fought so hard the last 6 years to rebuild our savings. If we had not trimmed our expenses and been extremely conservative with our budgeting there is no doubt in my mind that we would be nearly bankrupt once again.

This is a challenging situation, but it is not hopeless. Within County Government we will continue to take whatever action is necessary to protect our county treasury and protect you from the double-digit property tax increases of the past. More adjustments and judicious cuts are on the horizon but just as we did a decade ago, we will get through this and come out stronger and more fiscally sound than ever before.