Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-NewCity) hopes to introduce his for getting Rockland County’s finances in order later this week. He announced the alternative approach several days ago. Zebrowski described it as a “complicated bill” and said he and his staff have been fine-tuning and revising the language.
“It hasn’t been introduced yet,” said Zebrowski on Monday. “The formal introduction will probably be toward the end of this week.”
He thinks the package of three bills with the additional oversight and enforcement and decreased burden on taxpayers will draw the support it needs from the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature.
“The assembly and governor’s office have both said they would consider it,” he said, adding the governor’s office specifically said it was concerned about the impact on county taxpayers. Once the wording is finalized, he plans a presentation to the governor’s office.
One of the key measures is a sale tax increase but a smaller percentage than originally sought by county government. Under the bill, there would be a one-quarter of one percent in the sales tax for three years, which must be reviewed every two years. The mortgage and transfer tax proposals, which had been initially passed by the county legislature and approved by the county executive, are not part of Zebrowski’s plan.
In all, his plan includes three legislative bills. Zebrowski said two measures are more preventative measures to prevent a financial crisis like this from occurring again — including a fiscal indicator system for county budgets and one could potentially save Rockland $1.3 million by lowering its pension costs.
He will propose a Rockland County Deficit Reduction Taskforce with nine members, who would not be paid. The governor would appoint four members and one of those individuals would be the chairperson. The temporary president of the state senate, speaker of the assembly, Rockland County executive, Rockland County Legislative chairperson and state comptroller would each appoint one member of the taskforce.
The Taskforce would remain in place for three years but it could extend its work by its own vote. All reports and recommendations by the Task Force would be made public and accessible.
According to Zebrowski, the Taskforce’s Powers and Duties would:
- Require the County to annually prepare and submit a balanced multi-year financial plan.
- Require the County to review the annual and multi-year budget recommendations of the Taskforce and make adjustments to the annual and multi-year budget for each recommendation. If the County Executive and County Legislature wish to reject any of the submitted recommendations, the County must enact a local law for each individual recommendation that it seeks to reject and must be approved by two-thirds of the County Legislature.
- Prepare quarterly budget reports and submit such reports to the governing board and chief executive officer of the County, the State Director of the Budget, the State Comptroller, the Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the Taskforce.
- Submit the County tentative or preliminary budget to the Taskforce no later than 30 days before the budget has to be adopted, for review and recommendations.
- Review the operations, structure and services of the Summit Park Nursing home and make recommendations for a long-term plan.
- Review the revenue sharing arrangement between the County, Towns and Villages and make a recommendation for long-term changes.
Additionally, the measures would creates the Local Government Fiscal Indicator System for local government finances to determine if they are experiencing fiscal stress. The legislation provides for appropriate state fiscal intervention in order prevent situations like Rockland County’s budget deficit from occurring in the future. It also requires all municipalities with annual budgets over $10 million to annually prepare and submit multi-year financial plans to the State Comptroller for review.
Zebrowski said he has discussed the major components of the plan with State Senator David Carlucci but would not comment further on Carlucci’s possible position on the bill.
Zebrowski said the plan would make major strides toward helping Rockland.
“I would hope this could prevent any layoffs,” he said. “I do think the county will have to tighten its belt. The county’s hole in its budget is astronomical.”
Ron Levine, a spokesman for County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, said Vanderhoef and others appreciate Zebrowski "stepping up to the plate" for Rockland.