Rockland County Legislators passed an amended $761 million
budget for 2014 by an 11 to 6 vote. The budget total and tax increase of 9.9
percent are the same as the proposed spending plan submitted by County
Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef in October but numerous revenues and expenditures
were adjusted, some to comply with the state comptroller’s recommendations.
They also voted to override the two percent property tax cap by 13 to 4.
County Executive Elect Ed Day (R-New City/Pomona) was among those who voted against the amended budget. He said his was a symbolic “No vote” because he believes the 9.9 percent tax increase, which was included in both budgets, is unfair to taxpayers. He also said his 10 percent salary cut was symbolic.
“But it does give people the sense of where I’m coming from,” he said.
Other legislators insisted that a “No vote” was one in favor of a budget that did not fulfill the recommendations of the state comptroller’s office and could jeopardize the $96 million deficit reduction bond authorization signed by the governor last month.
“A yes vote will follow that letter (from the comptroller) and allow us to get that bond,” said Legislator Jay Hood (D-Haverstraw).
Budget & Finance Committee Chairman Michael Grant (D-Garnerville) said the amended budget increased the amount of expected sales tax revenue from $177 million to $180 million based on a forecast from the county’s accounting consultant, which estimated the county could realize up to $180.5 million in 2014. He described the committee’s process in reviewing and revising the budget and the steps it took to meet the comptroller’s recommendations.
The comptroller determined the county did not need to set aside funds in 2014 to begin paying off the budget deficit because the $96 million bond would meet that obligation. In 2015, the county will have to set aside money to pay down the deficit, which is estimated to reach $140 million this year.
The committee lowered the amount of residential energy tax revenue by $5.2 million. It reduced the revenue estimate for bon premiums by $750,000 and put $3 million from tax certiorari borrowing in a separate fund to pay down future obligations. The committee also created a tax overlay account of $1 million to cover unpaid taxes.
The 2014 budget reflects a salary reduction of $15,509 for the county executive’s position, which Day had requested, and a cut in the salary of the director of real property services of $20,900. A similar request to cut the salary of the county clerk by 10 percent was rejected for several reasons one being it is a revenue-generating department brings in more money than it costs to operate.
The amended eliminated new positions for a savings of $297,597, abolished vacant positions saving $66,610 and cut a legislative post saving $66,610. Reductions were made for utilities, office supplies, printed materials, operational supplies and postage amounting to $615,760.
Legislator Joe Meyers (D-Airmont), who voted against the budget, said, “I don’t think this budget balances.”
He predicted the budget will be off by several million dollars and said legislators need to make harder decisions in order to start paying down the deficit in 2015. Legislator Aron Wieder (D-Spring Valley) said his vote against the budget was a vote against Albany and the unfunded mandates it has imposed.
Legislator Alden Wolfe (D-Suffern) gave a different opinion and said the budget reconciles every single variance identified by the outside auditor and closes all the holes that existed in the county executive’s proposed budget.
He described it as a “100 percent balanced budget for 2014.”