By County Executive Ed Day
This week I submitted a comprehensive and balanced fiscal plan with three Resolutions to the County Legislature which, if passed, will help us chart a course forward that protects both employees from possible layoffs and homeowners from the double-digit property tax increases of the past. We are facing never before seen impacts on our budget and need to do everything possible to decrease spending while finding ways to increase revenue. We have had some success and through our previous actions we have reduced year over year spending by more than $18 million through the end of June.
But between our predicted revenue shortfall of $40-50 million and NYS now cutting 20% of budgeted state aid and reimbursements we are being battered from all sides. If we just accepted this fiscal situation, it would likely result in property tax increases and the need for 200 layoffs.
We have an extremely lean and efficient organization; our county workforce has already been reduced by 21% since I took office from over 2,100 to around 1,700. Besides, a layoff is not a fair reward to our employees who have worked so hard during this pandemic and I will continue to do everything in my power to keep that from happening.
The first Resolution I submitted would finally authorize the sale of the Sain Building with all proceeds being used to offset financial losses caused by COVID-19. The second Resolution calls for the temporary addition of one-half of one percent to the local sales tax, a large portion of which is paid by visitors to our County. The third Resolution would push back the 2021 proposed County Budget submission deadline from October 1, to October 23, this will allow us to collect more data and make a more accurate projection for the Budget.
These Resolutions are just the latest actions we have taken to protect taxpayers from the fiscal tsunami caused by the pandemic. But the temporary sales tax Resolution is truly the lynchpin of our ability to successfully navigate these unprecedented times and the passage of all these Resolutions by the County Legislature and NYS Legislature will help us continue to chart a responsible path forward. We have already met with Legislative leadership and notified every Legislator of the criticality and need behind these Resolutions.
And while the Legislative Minority has already agreed to support these measures, and I thank them for that, their votes alone are not enough to see these Resolutions passed. I need your help to convince the Majority members of the Legislature to put these items on the agenda and vote for them during the next session of the County Legislature on Tuesday, September 1.
By working together, we can generate additional revenue from visitors to our County, help stabilize Rockland’s finances and allow for proper budgetary decision-making for 2021. We must avoid the mistakes of the past and take action now to secure our future. A failure to act will only result in devastating consequences for taxpayers and our employees.