Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef released his proposed 2013 budget on Tuesday, which cuts 70 positions through program eliminations, offers early retirement incentives to another 55 workers and increases county property taxes by an average of $157. Vanderhoef said the tax increase was the only fee increase and that it and the staff reductions were driven by the need to meet an additional $33 million in state mandated costs.
“There are no other fee increases in this budget,” said Vanderhoef. “There are no increases other than a property tax increase.”
Vanderhoef explained the property tax increase will raise about $15 million, which is less than half of the new state mandated costs. The added costs include $16.7 for pensions, $5.6 million for 14 new officers at the jail, $2.65 million for Medicaid and about $8 million for early intervention, pre-k and probation.
“There will be about 70 positions removed from Rockland County government as a result,” said Vanderhoef.
He said the rest of the needed funds came from shifting, innovation and cutting expenses. Most contract agencies’ funding remains at the 2012 level, however, some small arts and cultural organizations were removed completely from the budget. Department budgets remained flat or decreased.
“We’ve added only one position to the budget (in the) Veteran’s Agency,” he said, adding that was for a counselor.
Vanderhoef detailed some of the budget reductions. He proposed outsourcing the laundry and radiology services at Summit Park, security at county buildings and food services at the jail and eliminating the respective employee positions. Vanderhoef said moving security to an outside vendor would save $1 million and doing the same with food services would save $350,000.
Closing the employee pharmacy would save $2 million and eliminating six highway department positions would save $350,000. Other positions targeted for elimination were in corrections and the Sheriff’s patrol. The county would spend $750,000 less by ending the Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol and by no longer funding the Narcotics Task Force and Intel Unit it would save $1.5 million. Another $3 million in saving would be realized if 55 employees opt for early retirement at the end of 2012.
Vanderhoef said the county is taking away programs not positions and he thought it adhered to the contract provisions signed with CSEA and the other unions.
“I’m sure CSEA will have something to say,” said Vanderhoef. “We’re in a position where we can’t keep taxing the residents.”
CSEA President P.T. Thomas said the proposed budget violated the contract and the union would be prepared to take all necessary steps to fight it even taking legal action
Vanderhoef said if his recommendation to the legislature to create a Local Development Corporation for the sale of Summit Park is passed, the county could receive money to begin paying off its estimated $96 million deficit. He said it is possible the LDC would make a $12 million prepayment to the county in anticipation of the sale of Summit Park. He asserted that funds would be applied to deficit reduction only and would not be used to offset operating expenses.
The proposed budget was submitted to the legislature Tuesday afternoon and its Budget & Finance Committee meets at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss it. The legislature already scheduled a Nov. 20 public hearing on the county budget, which must be finalized by Dec. 7.