UPDATE: Legislature Votes in Favor of Layoffs

About 150 positions were abolished in Tuesday's vote


Cries of “disgusting” and “for shame” were hurled from a few in the crowd at the packed Rockland County Legislature office Tuesday night as the legislators voted 14-2 in favor of abolishing 140-plus county jobs.

While there are 17 legislators, only 16 votes were cast Tuesday night because Legislator Philip Soskin was absent from the meeting. The cuts come as part of the legislature’s voting on measures to close the county budget deficit through measures proposed by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. The positions -- which come from departments including Board of Elections, County Executive’s office, Health, Social Services, Environmental, Human Rights, County Attorney, Office for the Aging, Personnel, Planning, Sheriff, Highway, Mental Health, General Services and Hospital -- were picked for cuts after members from the county executive’s office met with various department heads.

However, two positions on the list of layoffs were taken off for further discussion next week. Deputy County Executive Sean Mathews asked the legislature to remove a human rights specialist and a principal assistant county attorney from the list at Tuesday’s meeting so the executive’s office could have a bit more time to discuss whether or not the two positions are critical. 

“I deeply deeply regret this night,” said Chairwoman of the Legislature Harriet Cornell.

Many of the legislators spoke at Tuesday’s meeting about the difficulty of the decision they faced, with a few, such as Legislator Alden Wolfe, calling it the worst night of their time in public office.

“Government failed you on this occasion and I think that government failed you, but not necessarily for bad reasons,” Legislator Joseph Meyers told the audience. “We’ve known about our fiscal problems for four years, three years, two years, one year. We didn’t do enough about it when we should have.”

He went on to say that he thinks many of his colleagues were hoping the recession would be more short-lived and the sales tax would return, so they wouldn’t have to lay anybody off or increase taxes. This, Meyers said, shows what he considers a compassion for county workers.

Legislator Patrick Moroney made a motion Tuesday night to table the vote on layoffs another week in hopes that the unions and county executive could strike a deal during that time that would help save money. The motion failed 14-2, with only Moroney and Legislator Doug Jobson voting in favor of it.

“I’m afraid if we put this off, we are putting the final nail in our coffin as a county government,” said Legislator Ilan Schoenberger. “I hate to say it, but I’m afraid. This is a difficult and heartbreaking discussion.”

Schoenberger warned the other legislators about putting off taking action because credit rating agency Moody’s, which recently downgraded Rockland’s bond rating to just above junk bond status, is watching what the county does closely.

“They’re watching us to see what we will do to solve this county’s problem,” Schoenberger said.

He added that if they didn’t bring enough to the table for their upcoming meeting with Moody’s and other agencies, it could spell disaster for the county. With the poor rating, the county needs cash to pay its operating costs and planned on using revenue anticipation notes to do that. At Tuesday’s meeting, acting Commissioner of Finance and Budget Stephen DeGroat told the legislators investors are holding back until the county meets with Moody’s and other agencies on June 14th to see if Rockland will be downgraded again.

DeGroat said that Rockland is currently on “negative watch,” the lowest form of non-investment grade. The agency has 30-90 days to take one of two options, DeGroat said: lower the rating to junk bonds or take the “negative watch” off.

“The only way we can get that negative watch removed and stay in the investment category is we need to give them things, for example, like this residential energy tax,” he said.

DeGroat added that’s why it was important for the legislature to vote on the layoffs Tuesday night one way or the other.

Rockland County CSEA President P.T. Thomas said he was surprised with how Tuesday’s vote went, and just how many legislators voted in favor of the layoffs.

“Recently we had been talking about how the employees in the county are the ones that bring the revenue into the county, and I thought the legislators all understood that and agreed on that,” he said. “This legislature is usually very friendly with CSEA, but they acted in another way tonight.”

Martin Deane June 06, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Blame C. Scott Vanderhoef, He has created this mess over his entire time in office. Fake money in budgets, one shot financing .no long term plan,cronies on the payroll. I noticed that his fervent supporter who writes articles for the journal news is not included in layoffs (tourism director with a $200,000 package in the finance dept)The positions selected for removal based on an inaccurate accounting of costs, which has to be on purpose, on second thought maybe steve degroat is that incompetent, Moody's ,Fitch and S&P will see this as the half baked last minute attempt to appease them that is and our Bonds will be Junk by this time next month.Hello State Board goodbye Legislators
Yehbut June 06, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Why is it that when it's time to cut budgets, it's the front line worker that gets the ax? Do you notice that when cuts are necessary, management almost always gets a pass. In schools, local government, and in private companies, the higher you go, the safer you are. The fact is the meatier savings are found in management. In addition they won't be missed nearly as much as the lower level worker because services will still be provided, and the dirty little secret is they really don't need management anyway to do their jobs. It's sad, but it seems the higher you can climb above water level, the safer you are in a sinking boat and in your career.
George C June 06, 2012 at 12:52 PM
It's not only Vantertax, it's the legislators that have been there for years and keep approving his budgets. The taxpayers have had enough. I feel bad for the people that lost their job, but unchecked spending, coupled with too generous wages, benefits and pension have lead us to this. A few questions needs to be asked, first, why not get rid of the free prescription durgs for the employees, how much money and jobs would that save? How many department heads were on the list for layoffs? Is CJ Miller on the list? Somehow she always seems to find a new position in the county. How many political patronage jobs are on the list? It's time we seriously restructure county government, local government as well. The taxpayer can't keep paying to clean up the mess. Voters also need to hold the representatives accountable. They also need to hold the party "leadership" accountable as many of the legislature races had no opposition.
Chris June 06, 2012 at 01:42 PM
They make you pay money now to apply for a job with the county. Then something like this happen and a whole mess of heads are gonna roll. Rockland County government is dysfunctional and should be ashamed of the way they let things get. There are too many overpaid chiefs and now the little people are gonna suffer.
Don June 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Blame the county for wasteful spending. Near me, they just paved about a half mile of a road that was absolutely perfect (Convent Road). I'm sure that was the cost of a county worker's annual salary.
what the taxpayers should "all" do is every day at a given time say at 12..everyone reachs for their phone and call every town and county phone number and say nicely" I want my taxes lowered" be courteous...say good day...just say what you want heard...instead f marching the call your town officals will be easier..look up the numbers and each day everyone tell your neighbors..."today at 12" the 99% will be heard..again be nice ask for the head Honcho...of course they may be at lunch or coffee break...but maybe all across the "nation" 12 will be the "taxpayers voice" maybe just maybe if people all over the country voice their feelings this way..its safer....no protesters getting hurt by overzealous police... just talk nicely and say..no more taxes increases!!! so at 12 be heard..lets start this say on Friday!!!tell others...this way everyone will feel they are being heard!!!! the 99 at 12!!!
call your state senators...maybe they will start to feel some pressure that many taxpayers are not happy..in this new era why march?????use your phones!!!!leave your number and tell each of them you want them to call you back!!!!!!this way they will have more responsiblity to do their jobs!!!if they dont call you back ask them each week when amI going to hear from you?
Mike June 06, 2012 at 04:08 PM
The following says it all: "“Government failed you on this occasion and I think that government failed you, but not necessarily for bad reasons,” Legislator Joseph Meyers told the audience. “We’ve known about our fiscal problems for four years, three years, two years, one year. We didn’t do enough about it when we should have.” He is absolutely correct. Now its up to you-the citizen/taxpayer. Do you continue to act in partisan way or do you vote these incompetents out when they are up for election? Further, DEMAND that the management and leaders in the County Finance department be FIRED for their incompetence. If this happened in private sector, they would have been canned.
Michael N. Hull June 06, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Re: Getting rid of free prescription drugs for the employeess, how much money would that save? That would be a good start considering those that are paying for this benefit do not have the benefit themselves. My understanding is that this program costs about $2.5 MM which is approximately 3% of the $80MM problem they have. I can not confirm this but a source in this area told me that of the two top drugs dispensed Viagra is one. Someone might see if they can confirm this. If true, the whole program should be canned.
Clarkstown life June 06, 2012 at 04:54 PM
do you actually think things through before you type?? and if so, do your comments sound rational...to you?
Watchdog June 06, 2012 at 08:10 PM
They will do as little as they can to protect the already putrid bond rating....they couldn't care less what you think since people like Cornell and Schoenberger know you will vote them in at election time. WE ARE DOOMED, no matter what happens. The Hasids and the Unions control the County. If you live in Clarkstown or Orangetown, you really have no say as to what goes on in the Legislature, no matter whom you vote for. WE ARE DOOMED!!!!
RJ June 06, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I am ashamed to say that I have always supported reducing the number of county jobs but my thought was to cut the fat; the patronage jobs that pay the most and do the least for the citizens of Rockland County. For the first time I feel a kinship with government workers. I am sorry for those that will lose their jobs. I also feel so helpless. Our elected officials just don't care about anything or anyone but themselves and those who can help line their pockets. What can we do? It is a sad day for us all.
John Taggart June 07, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Maybe its time for the towns to become the towns again, and the county to go away.
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 12:27 PM
It will NEVER be any different. If you live in Clarkstown or Orangetown you ARE helpless. From inception with John Grant, the elements in the Northern part of the county who receive most of the benefits, the BLOC and the UNIONS, CONTROL your destiny and there is NOTHING you ca do about it, NOTHING.
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 12:30 PM
John, that is the only way out but as I understand it, the Legislators would have to agree. GOOD LUCK. WE ARE DOOMED TO FAILURE. THERE IS NO HOPE.
Mike June 07, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I have raised this question to Andy Stewart, the Orangetown Supervisor, but have not received a reply. I have seen the same answers as below that in order to secede from the County, the Legislature would have to allow it. Now, I raise this as a serious question: can the Patch, the JN, Constitutional lawyers, anyone with knowledge look into this and provide us with answers on how this could posiibly be done.


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