County Legislature Approves 2021 Budget

Jennifer Korn

The Rockland County Legislature unanimously passed a series of amendments to County Executive Ed Day’s 2021 budget proposal during their last meeting on Tuesday evening.

Before stating the legislature’s recommendations, Legislator Michael Grant highlighted aspects of Day’s proposed budget that the legislature was in favor of.

“The good news is the proposed budget did not include any layoffs, it did not have a double digit tax rate increase, it did not have a property tax rate that exceeded the cap, it did not include a higher sales tax rate, and it didn’t rely on any cash from our fund balance,” said Grant. “It was balanced and the revenues and the expenditures were considered reasonable.”

CGR Incorporated, independent analysts, assisted the legislature with the examination of the proposed budget.

“CGR has served as the county’s independent analysts for the last three years,” said Grant.

After a thorough review of Day’s budget proposal, the legislature voted on five significant changes.

The first change is to reduce insurance expenses. “The Finance Committee recommends implementing a two percent reduction for savings of $1,380,900,” said Grant. According to CGR’s report, there has been a source pattern of actual benefit costs being “three or more percent below the budgeted cost,” said Grant.

The second resolution voted on by the legislature regards sales tax. Grant said that the 2019 sales tax receipts were nearly $20 million more than what was budgeted. “This is a continuation of a pattern that is significantly underestimating sales tax revenue by the Day administration,” said Grant.

The Budget Finance Committee recommended that the legislature amends Day’s proposed budget by increasing the sales tax by $1,050,000 for approximately 25 percent of the reasonably available estimate.

The Budget Finance Committee further recommended that the amended budget provide funding for the Water Task Force. According to Grant, a special assistant position is vacant in Day’s proposed budget and is currently funded at only $5. “The committee proposes to increase the funding of this position by $68,730 and make a corresponding reduction in the Department of Health’s relief expense line,” said Grant.

Legislator Harriet Cornell reminded her colleagues that the county received at least $390,500 in grants and donations for a water conservation plan. “Time is of the essence, for a start to implementation of the water conservation plan,” said Cornell.

The committee also recommended that the budget provides funding for public benefit agencies. Specifically, the committee recommended the addition of two not-for-profit agencies that were not included in Day’s proposed budget. The amended budget would allocate $7,500 to the Haverstraw African American Connection and $5,000 for Four Legs Good, an organization that provides spaying, neutering, and tagging of feral cats. To fund this, there would be an increase in the mortgage tax revenue line of $12,500, which according to Grant, is a minor change.

The final recommendation is a decrease in Day’s property tax proposal by $2,430,900. “The annual increase on the typical taxpayer’s bill would be about $12 rather than the $34 that the County Executive proposed,” said Grant.

Now that all of the resolutions have been passed by the legislature, they will be sent to Day for his approval. Day could veto individual amendments to the proposed budget. Grant said the legislators “need to meet before December 20 to consider any vetoes and hopefully that won’t be necessary,” said Grant.

Legislator Alden Wolfe encourages the public to submit comments to legclerk@co.rockland.ny.us

“We read everything,” said Wolfe.