It’s been at least a decade since a budget submitted by the County Executive won the unanimous approval of the Legislature.
The fact that the $684.29 million spending plan I submitted in October made its way through weeks of reviews essentially unchanged and was approved by every member of the Legislature speaks to the fact that it was a solid budget to begin with.
But the bipartisan support this budget earned signals something even bigger: We can work together. We can put our differences and ideological views aside to do the important work that the people of Rockland County elected us to do.
That bodes well for our future.
There is still a lot of work we have to do and we need to do it together.
The $138 million deficit I inherited is projected to be gone in the next year. We can all rejoice as the County continues its climb out of the red.
But let’s keep in mind that the elimination of the deficit essentially sets our checkbook at zero.
We have to start building our reserves, shoring up our finances to weather any sudden storm, like a downturn in the economy or unforeseen expense.
We all know that those expenses are out there.
There were projects that we wanted to pursue but had to put aside during the dark days.
Projects that are still sorely needed, like a new Highway garage, for example.
More immediately, we are in negotiations to settle numerous labor contracts with union representing County employees.
Some of these contracts expired as long as seven years ago.
And some of these contracts are potentially subject to binding arbitration.
I know these costs are coming. That’s why I set aside $4 million in the 2018 budget to cover these settlements.
We all know that $4 million isn’t going to do it all.
That’s why I was disappointed that the Legislature did not earmark an additional $4 million, which would come close to paying the cost of our contract settlements.
There’s a relatively easy way they could have found that money – it’s at 18 New Hempstead Road.
That’s right, the Sain Building. Just this week I put a padlock on the door to this now empty building.
Finance was the last County department to move out of the deteriorating and uncomfortable Sain Building into newly renovated offices in Building A at the Dr. Robert Yeager Health Center in Pomona.
All the offices once located in the Sain Building have now moved. That includes Finance, the Department of Personnel, Consumer Protection, Economic Growth and Tourism and the Youth Bureau.
We are taking steps to rent excess space in that building to nonprofit agencies.
Down the road, we can do even move the Department of Social Services into Building A and make other changes that will complement our vision of a health and human services hub.
One step at a time.
The Sain Building is now empty. Let’s sell it, settle our expired union contracts and move on to the next step.
Let’s do it in the same bipartisan spirit both branches of Rockland County government used to pass the budget.
We can do this – together.