The Rockland County Legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee approved a revised proposed budget for 2013 on Monday night. The reworked budget proposal does not eliminate the almost 70 positions identified in the county executive’s original spending plan. Instead it reduces overtime, does away with vacant positions, which were still accounted for in the county executive’s budget and cut contingency funding in half.
The committee’s budget proposal will go before the full legislature tonight. The budget remains at $736 million and still carries an 18 percent increase for property tax payers. But it restores the mosquito control program, highway department workers and deputies in the Sheriff’s Patrol and Mounted Units. It rescinds the layoffs of security guards, food service staff in the jail and laundry service employees.
Budget & Finance Chairman Ilan Schoenberger said, “All of those (services) consist of CSEA personnel who signed a contract with the county and were told there would be no layoffs for budgetary reasons.”
He said the county had to be accountable to its employees and could not tell them one thing and then eliminate their positions with plans to replace that service with an outside agency. The revised budget included a Legislative Appropriation Reserve of $1.4 million that would be put aside in case funds are needed. A resolution would be needed before any of the money could be used.
The vote to adopt the committee’s report on the budget was six in favor and three opposed. Legislators Philip Soskin, Harriet Cornell, Schoenberger, John Murphy Frank Sparaco and Toney Earl voted in favor with Michael Grant, Alden Wolfe and Nancy Low-Hogan casting votes against.
“My concern is we are not doing anything about the large looming deficit,” she said. “We don’t know what is going to happen in 2014.”
Schoenberger objected to Low-Hogan’s comments.
“To say we’re not doing anything about the deficit is not true, it’s not accurate,” he said. “Were moving and we’re fighting and we’re trying to reduce the county deficit.”
The committee vote on accepting the legislature’s vote was seven in favor and two opposed. Soskin, Cornell, Wolfe, Schoenberger, Murphy, Earl and Grant supported it. Low-Hogan and Sparaco voted against it.
Wolfe explained he supported the legislature’s budget because he felt it was better than the budget submitted by the county executive.
The legislature’s consultants determined in some areas the county executive’s budget understated revenues. The legislators indicated they relieved heavily on the recommendations of the auditor’s report and referred to it frequently during the more than two-hour long meeting.
Committee members also voted on restoring $188,000 of funding for contract agencies that had been cut in C. Scott Vanderhoef’s budget. They also discussed technical adjustments requested by the county executive’s office, which actually contract agencies that had been overlooked and not budgeted for any funding. The county’s finance commission said the $276,000 could be taken from the Early Intervention and Pre-K Programs budgets of more than $7.7 million because enrollment has been lower than projected.
Wolfe was skeptical about so much excess in those programs’ budgets.
The revised budget took out the $12 million of potential revenue from the sale of Summit Park Nursing Home & Hospital included in the original budget. Later this month or in January, legislators expect to discuss the recommendation to establish an LDC (Local Development Corporation) to handle the sale of Summit Park.
If the full legislature passes the revised budget, it goes to Vanderhoef who can approve it or veto certain line items. If he exercises line item vetoes then the budget goes back to the legislature, which can override his vetoes with a two-thirds majority. If they reject the revised budget then the original budget proposed by Vanderhoef goes into effect in January.
The meeting tonight begins at 6 p.m. with several public hearings prior to the discussion and vote on next year's budget.
Here is what's been discussed so far during this budget process:
- Proposed 2013 Budget Enters Final Phases
- Cornell Cooperative Extension Director Defends Department
- Legislators Debate Capital Projects Despite Absent Reps
- Consultants Point to Flaws In County Budget Proposal
- County Mosquito Program Faces Possible Cuts
- Public Speaks Out Against Proposed Budget At Legislature Meeting
- Rocklanders’ Reliance On Social Services Increasing
- Sheriff Makes Case For Restoration Of Budget Cuts
- Proposed County Budget—Public Safety Concerns (Highway Department)
- Proposed County Highway Layoffs May Reduce Service
- Legislature Debates Cuts In General Services