WHITE PLAINS, NY — December 10, 2018 — After today’s affirmative vote by the Board of Legislators, County Executive George Latimer signed the $1.94B FY 2019 County Operating Budget. The budget stays well below the New York State tax cap of 5.7%, maintains the County’s reserves, funds vital County services which taxpayers rely on and begins the process of restoring fiscal responsibility to Westchester County Government.
Latimer said: “This budget comes from realities we all must face here in Westchester. Behind numbers are human beings and services that are essential to them. That is the correlation that people need to make, this budget is more than just the total cost of governing but rather the services provided.”
This budget was adopted, following unprecedented public input, with four main ideals at the forefront:
- Westchester County property taxes kept at or below the New York State tax cap;
- Basic Westchester County services and facilities maintained for all County residents;
- Establish a multi-year game plan to ensure long term financial solvency for the County; and
- Open and transparent communication with all.
Latimer added: “Tonight, I am going to stop by the south side of Mount Vernon and go down the street that I grew up on, look at that little house and be thankful I was born in this County and that now I have a chance to help this County in a concrete way.”
The adopted budget funds essential services for County residents, pays all County employees the 2019 State minimum wage of $12 per hour, increases support for our daycare and not for profit service providers and implements the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old. This is done with a modest 2% increase to the property tax levy – well below the 5.7% tax cap Westchester is afforded, according to an independent audit. Further, the modest 2% increase to the County property tax levy is well below what other jurisdictions have proposed and acknowledges the hardship the Federal Government has imposed on the people of Westchester through the loss of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction in the American Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins said: “This was the first time ever that the County Executive went out to hear from the public before the budget process even started. Today was a good day for the people of Westchester because things are transparent and moving forward.”
Director of Operations Joan McDonald said: “While County Commissioners and Directors have tried to make it work over the last several years, we are getting back to solid fiscal footing. These efforts are attributable to the County Executive and the Board of Legislators leadership.”
Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin said: “The people of Westchester won today. This is a budget that will move us forward to begin the process of rebuilding our finances, adding back to our fund balance and continuing to provide the services that the people of Westchester County need, want and must have.”
Budget and Appropriations Chair Catherine Borgia said: “This is a budget that starts to right the ship. It is the first of many years where we will have to find strategic solutions that will help regain the fiscal solvency of Westchester County and put us back into the position we have always traditionally been – an example of how to run County government effectively and efficiently.”
The 2019 budget, for the first time in recent memory, aims to fund the true cost of running County Government for the year. Previous budgets, like the 2017 Westchester County Operating Budget had run a $32 million general fund operating deficit. For 2018, the projected general fund shortfall stands at $39 million. This budget hole of $71 million is roughly a 50% reduction in the County’s rainy day fund. As noted by each of the three major rating agencies and the Office of the State Comptroller, continued reliance on these funds will only lead to further fiscal issues for the County and is why this budget keeps the entire fund intact.
About Westchester County
Westchester County, located in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley, covers 500 square miles and has a population of just under a million. Originally home to Native Americans, who were members of the Lenape tribe, it is today a rich mix of many cultures and landscapes. The County is a blend of bustling cities, quaint villages and picturesque towns as well as open spaces and a network of beautiful parks. Westchester is made up of 6 cities, 19 towns and 20 villages. Westchester County is known for top-notch public schools, and a high quality of life. The County is also an intellectual capital, boasting a highly educated workforce, competitive colleges and universities, Fortune 500 companies, world changing non-profits, and cutting-edge research centers. Westchester is led by County Executive George Latimer, who took office in January 2018 as the ninth County Executive. Using inclusion and openness as a foreground, Latimer is fighting to make Westchester a destination for all people to live, work and enjoy. Learn more about Westchester County by visiting www.westchestergov.com