After weathering over a year of restrictions and inactivity, Rockland’s economy is still going strong, and investors are starting to notice. Increased tax revenue and prudent government spending have convinced a major credit rating service that the county’s economy has not only survived the pandemic, but will thrive in its absence.
“The financial discipline practiced by all the partners in County government has greatly contributed to our short- and near-term goals of better budgets and fiscal operations, so it’s gratifying to see Moody’s recognize the bipartisan work that has gone into this effort,” Legislator Michael Grant, chairman of the Budget & Finance Committee, said.
Despite the onslaught of Covid-19, many revenues have remained strong.
Grant said that ultimately that is going to help the County government add to its fund balance, which serves as an emergency or rainy day money to cover unforeseen expenses and prevents the need to borrow to cover those costs.
Rockland County Legislature Chairman Alden H. Wolfe said the bipartisan collaboration on this year’s budget helped bear fruit, including in the form of Moody’s favorable credit rating. Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the County’s issuer and general obligation limited tax ratings to Aa2 from A1 and also stated that Rockland’s fiscal outlook remains stable.
“The fact that sales tax revenues were strong despite the incredible ravages of the pandemic across the economy aided our economic situation and I’m grateful for that,” Legislator Wolfe said. “I want to thank all of the partners in County government for their contribution to this success, from the County Executive to Legislators to our County government workforce, as well as Rockland County’s residents and businesses who continue to find ways to carry on through very challenging times.”
Sales tax revenues are currently trending about 33 percent higher than they were in 2020 and 14.65 percent higher as compared to this time in 2019. Mortgage tax revenues have also seen a dramatic increase, already bringing an estimated $5.18 million during just the first five months of 2021; they are budgeted to bring in a total of about $6 million for all of 2021.
“I’m proud that we were able to put together such a well-grounded budget particularly because we had no idea this spending plan would be even more important than usual due to the pandemic – funding social services, health services and so on,” Legislator Grant said.
The legislators said as the pandemic has required the County government to refocus certain efforts, launch new programs and fine-tune others, the budget has responded.
“Legislators have continued to be supportive of these important and necessary efforts,” Legislator Grant said. “At the same time, the crisis we have endured and continue to grapple with cannot simply be addressed by throwing money at it. We have and will continue to exercise prudence with revenues and expenditures for the greater good of all county residents and businesses. I’m grateful for Chairman Wolfe’s leadership and to all the partners involved – Legislators, the County Executive, County government workers, residents, businesses and many others.”
Both legislators expressed gratitude for the ongoing detailed work done by Legislative Fiscal Analyst Nicole Doliner and County Finance Director Steve Degroat.
Both also said the federal relief funding the County is receiving also benefits its fiscal situation. Rockland will receive $63.18 million from the federal American Rescue Plan and wants to determine the best way to utilize those funds. A new survey program is soliciting input from residents, businesses and community organizations so the County can understand and respond to their needs and priorities.