As we turn the page on 2016, let’s look at the accomplishments we made together in this great county over the past year and set a path forward to continue on a promise I made when I took the oath of office … “Today we embark upon an era of renewal.”
I was put in office three years ago with a mandate to fix Rockland’s finances. We had earned the shameful designation of most fiscally stressed municipality in New York and our bonds were just a step above junk.
Working together, we set out to remake county government.
Now, three years later, we are seeing the fruits of our success. The year that just ended saw many of our efforts pay off.
We just passed a budget with a minuscule 1.17 tax increase, within the state tax cap – quite an accomplishment when you realize that in the three years before I took office we had double digit tax increases.
I have cut spending 9 percent. That is $67 million of your money I have saved while reorganizing government and maintaining services.
Our deficit was a shocking $138 million when I took office. It is now down to $16.3 million.
I’m proud of these accomplishments. But we’re not done yet. I’ve set the bar high that we will continue our era of renewal in Rockland in 2017.
Continue chipping away at the deficit. We could knock down $4 million worth of red ink in one step if the Legislative majority agrees to do what they voted to do … sell the Sain Building.
Move our hardworking county employees out of the deteriorating Sain Building and move them into Building A in Pomona. At the same time, we can start generating revenue with a plan to rent excess space to nonprofits and other organizations.
Build on our very successful Economic Development and Tourism initiatives. This year saw a number of businesses announce plans to move to Rockland or expand here, including Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Streit’s in Orangeburg, Warby Parker in Sloatsburg and Urban Electric Power on the old Pfizer plant in Pearl River, which was just awarded a state grant to help with its expansion.
On the tourism front, Time Hotel opened in Nyack, along with numerous restaurants and other attractions. Our work bringing Chinese tourists here to see the sights and possibly to make investments is also paying off, something we will continue in 2017.
Filming has brought revenue, as well as a measure of fame, to our county. We have aggressively courted the film industry and we will continue to do so.
Each new or expanded clean business we bring to this county expands our tax base – that means less of a tax burden for you, the resident.
On the home front, efforts to maintain the quality of life we all enjoy in Rockland have also met with success. We pushed the state to inspect private schools that were not filing required reports on fire safety.
We are protecting both families and firefighters from the greed of slumlords through our Health Department’s Rockland Codes (RCI) Initiative.
And the state has appointed monitors in the building departments in Spring Valley and Ramapo in response to our complaints about unchecked growth.
We had a drought this year, which again speaks to the fact that Rockland’s natural resources are not unlimited – there is only so much growth we can support.
You better believe that we’ll continue to take steps this coming year to maintain and protect our quality of life.
Finally, we watched in awe as the new Tappan Zee Bridge rose across the Hudson River. Rockland is proud to be home to the largest building construction project in the nation.
The new bridge will open in 2017 – a symbol of the era of renewal that will continue in Rockland.
May you and your family have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!