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RBA Consultants Examine Rockland’s Fiscal Crisis And Recovery Options (VIDEO)

Researchers hired by the Rockland Business Association recommend ways to get the county out of deficit spending mode

 

Rockland County government officials can follow several different paths to bring the county back to a solid financial footing according to recommendations put forward by Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress. The Rockland Business Association (RBA) hired the research firm after its board of directors determined an in-depth study of the county’s mounting debt and how it got there was needed. The research covered a six-year period.

RBA President and CEO Al Samuels unveiled the 35-page document at a press conference Monday morning. The researchers, Jonathan Drapkin and Adam Bosch, recommended the county obtain financial assistance and oversight through one of several mechanisms: secure deficit reduction bonds through the state, create a county deficit reduction task force, elect an independent treasurer or comptroller, form an audit advisory committee or participate in the state comptroller’s fiscal stress monitoring system. 

Drapkin and Bosch pinpointed specific actions to stem the growth of the budget shortfall.   Use of year to date receivables would create more realistic sales tax and mortgage tax projections. In the past, they said county officials increased projected revenues without any validation.

“Time and time again over these years, the legislature’s own consultants warned them that the estimations for sales and mortgage tax were too high,” noted Bosch. “I want to add that those consultants warned them with a great degree of accuracy. Time and time again the legislature did not adopt their suggestions to change the projected revenues which is why ultimately you end up with these big shortfalls.” 

Bosch said sales tax revenues have been over-projected by $70.3 million and mortgage tax revenues have been overestimated by $12.4 million.  The cumulative shortfall of $82.7 million may be higher once 2012 ends.

Summit Park Hospital & Nursing Home have had operating deficits of $139 million.

“That only adds to (the) fiscal stress of the county,” he said.

Another misstep on the county’s part was projecting revenues before the mechanism was in place to receive them. Bosch pointed to red traffic light fines caught on camera and sale of Summit Park through use of a Public Benefit Corporation. He said these amounted to $38 million in unrealized revenue forecasts.  Bosch said all the deficits added together totaled more than $250 million. 

Another potential solution would require a hard look at non-mandated services and possible elimination of them to cut costs. 

They commended the county executive for moving forward to sell the Summit Park Nursing Home and Hospital and recommending the closure of the county pharmacy and free prescriptions for county employees.  According to the analysis, the county could benefit from a re-examination of the Sheriff’s Police Unit and county Department of Public Works and how their services could be incorporated with the towns and villages to lower costs and create greater efficiencies.

Additionally, the report called for the county to form a Council of Governments with elected leaders from the towns and villages to meet regularly and discuss more cost effective ways to deliver services without passing costs down from one level of government to another.

Drapkin said the county's low bond rating, one level above junk bond status, is a continuing cause for concern. 

"When Standard & Poors and Moody's both conclude that the bond rating ratings for Rockland County are the worst in New York State, it matters because the overall deficit for the county is over $100 million," said Drapkin. 

He said it is widely believed that when the deficit reaches 10 percent of an annual budget it is significant, however, Rockland's deficit is exceeding 14 percent. 

While addressing how to handle the budget deficit, a shift in the county’s demographics was noted. More than 21 percent of the county’s residents are eligible for Medicaid, the highest percentage of any of the surrounding counties in the lower Hudson Valley.  Formation of a county task force to set up job skill training programs and job creation was suggested. 

Samuels said the RBA underwrote the $20,000 study because of members’ concerns about the county’s attractiveness to new businesses. He said the cause of the current financial situation must be understood so corrections can be made to avoid recurrences in the future. Samuels said they want to work with the county and the RBA’s executive board will meet at the end of the month to discuss the report.  

When reached late Monday afternoon, the Chairman of the Rockland Legislature's Budget & Finance Committee Ilan Schoenberger said he had not seen the report. 

The spokesperson for the County Executive's office Ron Levine said, "It is interesting that the RBA released its report to the media,on a Federal holiday, when county offices are not open in observance of Veterans Day. We will be happy to respond when we receive a copy of the report." 

“We will as an organization adopt what we will do,” he said, adding he hopes the reports is a catalyst for business and government to work together.

The report is available online at the association's website and has been sent to government officials, civic groups, senior citizen organizations and other community groups.  

Watchdog November 14, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Do you have a job that gives you 81 days off a year, meaning you effectively work 179 days out of 365 and pays $200,000 a year with outrageous pension and medical benefits? The Clarkstwn Police do!!
Kevin Roy November 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Jeff, I find it curious that in one comment, you can call someone stupid, a racist, and bitter and then gloat about your pension that is paid for by taxpayers. Don’t get me wrong, you were promised a pension so you should receive it, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…
Watchdog November 14, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Kevin, Gromack has already given away the store in the form of multi year double digit wage increases to the cops who are costing taxpayers over $200,000/year while working 179 days, essentially one-half the year. We need to furlough 30-40 of these cops to get in line with the per capita coverage in Orangetown. In addition they have to give back at least 40 of the 81 days off they get at taxpayer expense.
Kevin Roy November 14, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Seems outrageous, but I'd prefer our elected representatives start from the top and work their way down to get our finances in order. I read the RBA report and if you start the budgeting process with unrealistic assumptions, the rest of the process is of no value since the #’s will never balance out. At the end of the day, nothing will ever get accomplished if we point fingers and blame one group over another. Decisions should be based on facts and fairness determined by relative comparisons.
Watchdog November 14, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Good luck, glad you are connected and speaking out. Budget has been manipulated for years. Nothing will change. Read some of Mike Hulls blogs on PATCH . ...".A modest Proposal" is one. Cops are the biggest takers...that us why I mentioned them. They are killing senior citizens under the guise of protecting them. 86% of their calls are traffic related.
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Watchdog, You are a racist and a coward. If you wish to stand by your comments then sign them. You hate and you hide. JM Tuckahoe, NY
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Kevin Roy. I never gloat. This anonymous person who goes by the name "watchdog" has posted my pension many times on the patch. It is him who brings it up. For some sick reason he is obsessed with my pension. I live in no glass house. I will say what I say and I will sign what I say. I will never hide. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Watchdog, You are a racist and a coward. If you wish to stand by your comments then sign them. You hate and you hide. JM Tuckahoe, NY
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 08:12 PM
watchdog, you are lucky to live in a area protected by the Clarkstown PD. They are a excellent PD worthy every penny they work for. Your hatred for them and the Hasidism is disturbing. You hate and you hide. JM Tuckahoe, NY
Kevin Roy November 14, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Are there other organizations like Clarkstown Taxpayers that advocate for residents?
Robin Traum (Editor) November 14, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Kevin That is a good question if there are other similar groups. There are neighborhood civic associations that represent specific residential areas in Clarkstown and do speak out on issues and there are also chamber of commerce organizations representing business interests. Robin
Watchdog November 14, 2012 at 09:02 PM
It is apparent that you know little or nothing about Clarkstown, Rockland or the Hasidic Sect. Judging from your uneducated, angry and disallusional comments it is also now apparent why you never rose above the rank of traffic cop but unclear How you managed from that lowly position to squeeze a six figure tax free pension from taxpayers. Other than what is obvious to everyone reading your ranting comments, just what else is wrong with you to get a disability pension? Is it a mental disability? Please try to stay on the topic which is how the political hacks of minority and other parties conspired with the Hasidic Sect and the Unions to bring Rockland County into a bankrupt position with the Town of Clarkstown, soon to follow. Pay attention.
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 09:13 PM
watchdog, it always comes back to the pension. Such a sick obsession. Why don't you sign your name? What do you fear? You hate me. You hate the poor. You hate the Clarkstown PD. You hate the Hasidism. I have never met a person of such hate. You are consumed by hate. What is it about your life that emits such hatred and bitterness? You hate and you hide. Rather sad and pathetic. JM Tuckahoe, NY
a cop directing traffic in a sparely populated area is worth more in pay than out Gov????wow meyer get out more and read more you shouldnt sit all day inside.....NYC cops make far less and protect more valuable proerty and more diverse citizens as well as museums......train stations wall street for FAR LESS THEN THE SHINY CAR COPS WAITING FOR SPEEDERS ON BACK ROADS....AS PER PROTECTION VOLUNTEER FIREMAN PROTECT WITH THEIR LIVES FOR NO PAY....JEFF YOU NEED TO READ MORE WORLDLEY NEWS ...YOU ARE WAY OUT TOUCH
Michael N. Hull November 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Kevin: You are welcome to join the group. http://www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 09:58 PM
., for someone who is out of touch you and your buddy spend a lot of time dissecting me. LOL. My job is a testimony of the value of organized labor. That is why I was my union President for 11 years. BTW, I have travelled throughout the world. Not bad for a "uneducated" traffic cop in his 40's, wouldn't you say? JM Tuckahoe, NY
you still avoided my question..is a cop directing traffic worth more than what our gov cuomo makes???you are good at avoidence....is a cop in clarkstown worth more than a cop protecting say grand central station with hundreds of thousands of people,or the United nations or the port of authority? density alone should make a NYC cop worth more.....at least they dont sitin waiting on a back road..like so many up here do...a point last october storm the 2nd largest mall in amercia had no lights on rt 303 yet!!! a cop was sittingin his warm car on a side road waiting for what? the shiny cop cars with ALL THE CAMERAS...TOUGH JOB...ONLY WHEN MAPLE AVE WAS CALLED AND ASKED"WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING????????DID THEY SEND A FEW COPS TO DIRECT TRAFFIC ON RT 303
jeff meyer November 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM
., your question is a question that lacks intelligence and lacks a basic understanding of law enforcement. Do you really believe that police officers only direct traffic? Don't they have traffic lights were you live? The NYPD should be the highest paid Officers in the nation. Yet they are not. Clarkstown PD is not overpaid. It is the NYPD that is underpaid. Is your name ( . ). Are you like the artist formerly known as prince and use a symbol (.) to identify yourself? I have gone to numerous town and village and county board meeting to voice my opinion. A little advice; no one will take you serious or respect you if you fear to sign your name regardless of the legitimacy of your grievance. . Just like watchdog you will become a caricature of amusement. JM Tuckahoe, NY
Kevin Roy November 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Jeff, unions were created to improve working and living standards for American families and communities. Again you gloat about your pension by highlighting you're in your mid-40's and traveling the world. If you wonder why Watchdog is so angry, all you need to do is read your own comment. The reality is that there needs to be a balance. My wife and I work in the private sector and are lucky enough to be able to live a comfortable lifestyle. However, neither of us has a pension and we will have to save for the next 30 yrs so we can retire and hopefully "travel the world".
Watchdog November 15, 2012 at 12:15 AM
It is scandalous to even think that the people Who are being paid to protect us, do protect us on the one hand but hurt us on the other hand. It is not fun having to leave your home because you cannot afford to pay taxes slated for an increase in someone's pension. If it was the Highway Dept that received these ludicrous salaries and benefits I would speak speak about them, but it is not the Highway workers, it is the cops. I honestly cannot believe how some of them sleep at night knowing they have destroyed the lives of some elderly person that built the Town over the last 40-50 years. Now don't you have enough problems in Westchester without coming over here disparaging and cursing out concerned taxpayers?
Watchdog November 15, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Jeff, the fact is that our County, where you do not live, is broke. In case you do not understand it, it means we have no money to pay our bills.. We owe $100 Million that we do not have even when we charge residents an additional 30% on their taxes, charge back millions in services to our Towns(who then ask us for the money by increasing town taxes) and add a 4% charge to our already high Electric bills etc. etc.) In my opinion, which is shared by many, our Town, Clarkstown, is not far behind...we just had what amounts to a 9% tax increase after raiding our already diminished rainy day fund obtained when we sold some of our assets. That is like selling your car to pay your credit card, pretending everything is Hunky Dorey. If I have to irritate a few people to call attention to the fact that seniors are being taxed out of their homes so a cop can retire with a $200,000 pension, so be it.
Kevin Roy November 15, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Thanks, Michael. What are your thoughts on Ed Day? He announced that he's running for County Executive.
Watchdog November 15, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Kevin http://www.edday.us/
Watchdog November 15, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Jeff, if you can travel the world and retired on DISABILITY, just what is the DISABILITY have that entitles you to a tax free six figure pension in your early 40's?
Watchdog November 15, 2012 at 08:44 PM
They deserve a reduction for the disasterous way they handled the County finances. Are you aware tat we are bankrupt and have the lowest bond rating in the State? If this was a business they would be fired.
jeff meyer November 16, 2012 at 02:55 AM
watchdog, does your wife ever get jealous of all of the attention that you give me and my pension? I will make you a deal. I will tell you how I am able to travel the world if you sign your post with your real same instead of the cowardly anonymous name that you currently use. I still believe that you are Hirsch. Deal? Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
Andromachos November 16, 2012 at 12:33 PM
But Jeff - You see you a re a member of the establishment and in line with the powers that be and the status quo. It is easy to put your name on your opinions when you are on the side of power. Watchdog, to the contrary, states opinions adverse to those with power. Antagonizing government because of the benefits they receive can be hazardous. That is why we have a First Amendment, that is why there is a long tradition of anonymous comment in this country (the Federalist Papers comes to mind). It is the content of the comment, not the name at the end of it that is persuasive.
Watchdog November 16, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Jeff, Jeff, Jeff....now your beloved unions put HOSTESS Brands out if business....no more Twinkies for you Ding Dong. http://www.boston.com/business/news/2012/11/16/hostess-close-cites-nationwide-worker-strike/0vAtMu0NO1DEowNbsGLNWM/story.html Legacy pensions, Union rules....truckers cannot drive cupcakes and bread in the same truck...put them out of business. They struck...management told them it would be the END of the business...Bakers Union did not believe them and went on strike...company is now officially out of business. 18,500 people out of work because Union leaders are blind to the truth....just like you.
jeff meyer November 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Androwhatever, your comments are absurd. They lack substance and logic. Abstract ramblings wishing to be taken seriously. I realize it is in your interest to come to the defense of the bigoted "watchdog". You both rant anonymously and fear putting a name to it. Two peas in a pod. That is your right as per the PATCH. Your 'Establishment" comments are pathetic and they actually humor me. Thank you. JM Tuckahoe, NY
Watchdog November 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Jeff, you are so angry...have a Twinkie and calm down....oops.... no more Twinkies....they are out of business....UNIONS again....reminds me of GM, except this time Obama cannot give the Unions the goodies...there are no goodies left....except maybe a stale Twinkie or two. 18,500 people out of work before Thanksgiving and Christmas....no "package" no money .....just go home and tell your kids that you are proud of the Union leaders (like Jeff was) for sticking to its principles. This is what would have happened to Rockland if it was a business....

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