The Rockland County Legislature’s last night approved resolutions for a 30 percent property tax increase, 3/8 percent sales tax increase and the elimination of 40 county jobs in 2012. The committee’s recommendations, which go before the full legislature tonight for discussion and vote, differ from the county executive’s budget proposal to eliminate more than 500 jobs next year.
Instead of accepting the county’s executive’s one-time $160 property tax assessment, the legislators decided the additional revenue measure was actually a tax increase requiring an override of the state’s two percent tax cap. Under the plan, the Summit Park Nursing Home would operate for the entire year not eight months as initially proposed.
The 30 percent tax increase results from the two percent increase included in the County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef’s budget proposal combined with his one-time property tax assessment. Budget & Finance Chair Ilan Schoenberger said the committee members believed the assessment would be needed for more than one year.
“The recommendation is that it be treated as a full tax increase of 30 percent,” he said.
The committee members agreed to ask the state legislature for permission to bond the county’s deficit over 10 years. A portion of the proposed 3/8 percent sales tax increase would be directed toward paying off that bond with the first payment occurring in 2013. Legislator Joseph Meyers disagreed with that approach and said he did not think the legislature was making the tough decisions required to reduce the county’s $52 million deficit.
Schoenberger said the committee’s proposals restore:
- $1 million each for the Narcotics Task Force and Intelligence Task Force
- Sheriff’s Transport Unit
- Partial funding to contract agencies
- Reinstate 10 proposed January layoffs
- Reinstate 41 April layoffs
- Reinstate 477 August layoffs
- Increase contingency fund by $959,000
- Reduce insurance payments
Schoenberger characterized the Sheriff’s Transport Unit as “probably the most efficient service this county supplies.” The officers working in the unit do not receive benefits, overtime and are paid hourly. He said if the Sheriff’s Patrol took over the duties as proposed by Vanderhoef, the overtime would consume additional funds.
The 40 positions recommended for elimination would be cut in January and April.
The jobs proposed for elimination in January are in:
- Environmental Health - three
- Cancer Care Institute - two
- Environmental Res - two
- Tourism - one
- Employee Rights & Training - one
- Finance - one
- Youth Bureau – one extended to May
- Department of Mental Health:
- Emergency Clinic - one
- Young Adult Center – nine
- Transportation - nine
- Medical Library – one
The eight positions proposed for elimination in April are in the Methadone Maintenance Treatment program. Under the committee’s recommendations, there would not be any layoffs in August. When applause broke out after the announcement, Schoenberger cautioned that did not mean Summit Park would operate indefinitely.
“We intend to look very closely at the hospital and how it’s operated,” he said. “We don’t believe the layoffs could be accomplished in the county executive’s budget.”
He said obtaining permission for the bond will have to be a cooperative effort.
“It is our intention to work very closely with our state assemblymen and state senator to attain this deficit bond,” Schoenberger said.
Prior to Tuesday night’s meeting, he expects to have a letter from the state controller’s office regarding the lifting of the two percent tax cap.
Sixteen of the legislature's 17 members attended the session. Several legislators spoke about the concerns they had.
Legislator Ed Day said the branches of county government were not working in tandem. Legislator Robert Jackson spoke about the unions taking an active role in helping to improve the county’s financial situation.
“I don’t see that hospital lasting three or four more years,” said Jackson. “We need partners in this endeavor.”
Joseph Meyers said he will offer a different amendment, which includes 30 more job cuts in the County Clerk’s Office, Youth Bureau, Tourism, County Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. He collaborated on some of the ideas with Legislator Ed Day and John Moroney.
“I am going to vote against breaking the tax cap,” Meyers said. “I am in favor of raising the sales tax to raise money. We have to make deeper cuts. The county can’t go on this way.”
Residents, who attended the meeting, expressed dismay with the committee’s actions.
“The county employees should pay for prescription drugs,” said Joe Tarangelo of New City. “It’s ridiculous what’s going on.”
MaryAnn Pennell opposed the tax increases.
“This is insanity,” said the 45-year resident of Pomona.
Joan Kaye of New City said, “Shame on them for a 30 percent tax increase. This is really a crisis for the county. I blame my fellow citizens for not being more pro-active.”
The meeting of the full legislature to consider the committee’s resolutions begins at 7 p.m.