In the proposed 2012 budget of $701.8 million unveiled by Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, county employees would begin in January. In the first round of layoffs, 42 would lose jobs; on April 1 another 49 would lose their positions and then on August 1, an additional 453 jobs would be cut. The county faces a $52 million deficit.
“The large news is we are looking at layoffs for the first time in the county,” he said.
Vanderhoef said 91 positions are being laid off from programs that the county can no longer afford. His proposal also abolishes 230 vacant positions that had been included in this year’s budget.
“This budget is one nobody wants to touch but everybody must,” Vanderhoef said.
The bulk of the layoffs would impact staff at the Summit Park Nursing Home, which would no longer be funded as of August 1, 2012. Vanderhoef said the proposed budget is one percent less than this year’s budget. At a presentation Monday, he explained the proposal is the first step toward balancing the budget and paying off the county’s deficit.
One program he recommended for elimination is the prenatal program with Nyack Hospital, which would close by April 1. Chronic care programs for obesity, smoking, cancer and nutrition would be cut and the adult home closed. Officers from the Sheriff’s Patrol Unit would replace Transport Unit officers, which Vanderhoef said would save $1.3 million. Ranking officers would remain with the unit.
The sheriff is being asked to find $3 million more to reduce his budget overall by 10 percent. The parks department budget was slashed by 15 percent, which could mean recreation areas operate for shorter seasons with less maintenance. 20 housekeeping positions will be eliminated in April, as will 11 security jobs, which will be contracted out.
“There are no salary increases whatsoever in the budget,” said Vanderhoef. “There are no increases for anyone.”
He said staffing and budget remains the same for the legislature, leaving that funding decision for its members. The Department of Tourism would be eliminated however the director would join the Department of Budget and Finance as coordinator of tourism at the same salary.
“This budget begins to dismantle some of the very programs that we have had that are productive and successful,” Vanderhoef said.
The county executive said department heads were involved in the budget process. Programs not affected by the austerity budget include safety net programs and the highway department, which he described as being down to a core group. The capital projects budget was reduced by $8.7 million.
The proposed county budget does not exceed the two percent state property tax cap. The legislature does have the option to override it with a 60 percent majority vote.
“The legislature may in its wisdom pass legislation to exceed that tax cap,” said Vanderhoef.
Vanderhoef suggested other revenue streams:
- A one-time approximate $160 surcharge on county tax bills for homeowners
- Transfer fee of $2 per $500 of value for homes being sold
- Hotel/Motel tax of three percent
- Sale of two county properties – the Chase Bank building in New City and Rockland Community College campus in Spring Valley to raise $5 million
- Raise mortgage tax by one-quarter percent
- Institute fees for civil service exams
- Charge towns and villages for their share of election costs
- Impose a wireless surcharge for 911 of 30 cents per month
The $160 surcharge is necessary to repay a tax deficiency of $18 million that is due next year. The original plan had been to raise that money by turning Summit Park into a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). The county continues to look at options for the nursing home such as creating a Public Benefit Corporation, selling or leasing the nursing home or creating a PBC.
Vanderhoef is also looking for concessions from the unions and said unpaid furloughs could be a possibility along with another 140 layoffs.
The county must fund state mandated programs such as Medicare whose costs steadily rise. The county’s revenues have not met expectations leading the deficit to increase over five years.
Vanderhoef delivered his proposed budget to the legislature on Monday and met with legislative leaders. The legislature must hold a public hearing on a proposed budget in November and have a final budget by December 7. The budget proposal should be available online for review on Tuesday.