By County Executive Ed Day
Last week we received excellent financial news, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Rockland’s Bond rating to “A1.” While we expected our bond rating to continue upward, no one could foresee having it occur during such turbulent fiscal times.
As one of the reasons for the upgrade, Moody’s Opinion wrote, “given management’s conservative budgeting in recent years, particularly for sales tax revenues, reserves have improved significantly over the past five years ending fiscal 2019 at its highest level in nearly 20 years.”
This upgrade is a clear validation of the path we have taken to navigate our County over the past 6 years from being the most fiscally stressed county in the State, awash in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, to a solid fiscal position. They clearly approve of the proactive steps we have taken to the limit the fiscal damage caused by COVID-19 and this shows that we must continue down that path.
Since March we have implemented austerity measures, put in place a hiring freeze, eliminated positions, filed for FEMA reimbursements and have looked for every possible way to save money within County government; with a total of nearly $20 million in year over year savings through these actions, which we will continue.
But our job is not done and the decisions we will have to make as part of the 2021 County Budget will not be easy. The Moody’s Opinion noted the biggest issues facing the County in 2021 are sales tax and state aid revenues but concluded by writing, “given the renewed focus on conservatism in budgeting, we expect management will be willing to make the difficult decision necessary to put together a balanced budget.”
We will do exactly that, but we cannot and have not done it alone. I want to thank all of our hardworking employees who have learned to do things differently, often more efficiently over the years. It is thanks to their efforts that we were able to provide a high level of service to residents during the worst of this pandemic.
By continuing to work together and take the proactive steps I am calling for I have no doubt we will overcome this current challenge and emerge stronger than ever before.