WCBoL Chairman Ken Jenkins
WHITE PLAINS, NY — The Democratic majority of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (WCBoL) presented its 2012 County Budget yesterday, delivering a promised 0% increase in the County Tax Levy and restoring 187 jobs to the County workforce that had been cut in the County Executive’s proposed budget.
After a day and night of negotiations with members of the WCBoL’s Republican caucus and with County Executive Astorino, the WCBoL’s 2012 County Budget was passed in a special meeting early this morning by a vote of 16-1. It now goes to the County Executive for consideration.
“After listening to several hundred residents in our three public budget hearings and then bringing their ideas and concerns into a careful analysis of the numbers, we have been able to create a budget for 2012 that is right for Westchester,” said WCBoL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “This budget preserves essential investments in our infrastructure and prioritizes the maintenance of important programs that protect public safety, public health and the environment.”
The WCBoL’s 2012 County Budget contains a $1.698 billion spending plan, which is a decrease of more than $91 million from the 2011 County Budget. Also, the WCBoL’s spending and revenue plans are balanced without using fund balance, which will help protect Westchester County’s AAA Bond rating.
“The only way we could justify bringing back 187 County jobs to the 2012 budget was to offset expenditures and find the funding within the confines of the existing budgeted numbers,” said BOL Majority Leader Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), who noted that additional revenue in the WCBoL budget includes additional revenue projected at nearly $8.5 million ($4.8 million from the Department of Social Services), over $1 million in reimbursements generated from health center funding and over $8 million in health care savings. “Bottom line is we have put $8.48 million of additions into our 2012 budget by creating $8.48 million in deletions,” said Harckham.
The strong degree of fiscal responsibility in the WCBoL’s 2012 proposed budget is also “right for Westchester,” noted Jenkins.
“We adopted a budget with a 0% increase in County Tax Levy, and there will be no use of fund balance,” said Jenkins. “It is our intention to protect County’s AAA Bond Rating, and the Board’s actions and financial decisions in 2011 are projected to return $15.8 million to fund balance, and I’m sure this will be viewed positively by the financial community as well.”
The community-minded investments that the WCBoL deems to be “Right for Westchester” include capital project funding for bridge repairs and flood mitigation, plus maintaining the six County Nature Centers and restoring funding for the Greenburgh Nature Center, the County’s deer management program and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
In addition, the WCBoL’s proposed 2012 County Budget reduces the parent share for low-income daycare from the County Executive’s proposed 35% to 20%. Funding is restored for ArtsWestchester, Youth in Education, and Community Capital Resources, a not-for-profit organization that provides small business loans to Westchester residents.
A number of investments that Westchester County makes in public safety, public health and the environment actually save money for county taxpayers, which makes them “Right for Westchester” as well.
“The $5 we spend in the Probation Department to monitor defendants each month saves Westchester County taxpayers over $300 it costs to incarcerate individuals in our corrections system,” Harckham pointed out. “Similar savings are found in eviction prevention programs that keep people in their homes instead of the County’s homeless shelters. Community health center funding is cheaper than giving primary care treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Child care support allows people to get off unemployment insurance and on to payrolls. And the many programs we fund for children and young adults have all been shown to decrease delinquency and improve academic success.”
Added Jenkins, “These investments are such proven money savers for taxpayers, it’s hard to understand why they were even cut in the first place.”
After reviewing the County Executive’s 2012 proposed Capital spending plan and identifying approximately 123 projects awaiting bonding authorization, it was decided to retain County engineers and Planning Department staffers slated for layoffs so the projects could be handled by experienced staff without contracting for outside professional help.
“It’s always prudent to retain institutional knowledge when possible,” said Harckham, “and keeping current County engineers involved will move these projects forward in an expeditious manner.”
Last year, when the Westchester County Board of Legislators doubled the County Executive’s proposed decrease in the County Tax Levy and cut $30 million in spending, their budget was tagged as an “historic” achievement.
The 2012 County Budget of the Westchester County Board of Legislators is, simply, heroic. It provides 0% increase in the County Tax Levy while retaining 187 County positions, including 71 in Social Services, protects County Parks and Nature Centers, funds community health care centers, keeps probation officers on the job—all without use of the fund balance!
It’s a budget that is “Right for Westchester.”