Spring, that season of renewal, is almost upon us and it’s natural during this time of year to think about the future.
That is what I’m doing as I complete my first term as your County Executive.
I’m thinking about all that we have accomplished and all that I hope I will be able to continue to do as the leader of this great county.
Rockland’s story is well known: When I won your support as County Executive, this county was at a near financial meltdown.
We were just $42,000 away from default. Our deficit was a shameful $138 million, our bonds were just a step above junk and our residents were being hammered by double-digit tax increases as a result of a deeply entrenched tax-and-spend culture.
We had lost credibility with the rating agencies, the business community, New York State and most importantly, our citizens.
I remember the day I took office, Jan. 1, 2014. Rockland was in bad shape and I had been entrusted with your support to fix it.
At that very moment, I told you that we were embarking upon an “Era of Renewal” in Rockland County.
That we were rolling up our sleeves and tackling the many challenges facing this county. We knew there would be tough times, touch decisions ahead.
It hasn’t been easy, but now, more than three years later, I hope you will agree that I earned the trust you put in me as County Executive.
Let’s look at my administration’s accomplishments since I became County Executive.
Rockland’s deficit was $138 million when I took office. It is now a projected $10 million – 90 percent smaller. We are paying down our $96 million deficit finance bond without raising taxes.
If the Legislature approves the sale of the Sain Building to the buyer who has been waiting patiently to pay $4.51 million, we can use that money to reduce our deficit by another 40 percent.
We stayed within a very strict tax cap again this year with a 1.17 percent increase that was largely erased for the majority of residents by a cut in sewer fees. This is miraculous when you consider that state mandates, including Medicaid, make up almost all of our budget.
We have cut spending 9 percent during the last three years. That’s $67 million of your money.
We have reorganized our county government for maximum efficiency – abolishing jobs that are no longer relevant and creating new ones that are. Along the way we have reduced the size of our county government 22 percent.
Imagine that – government getting smaller. And more efficient.
Residents of Rockland County still enjoy top-rate services, even as we, like all counties in the state, transition from being a direct provider of many services to more of an overseer – contracting with agencies and facilities that can do the work more efficiently and for less money.
We are on the right path financially. This past year we came within a hair – 8/10ths of one percent – of being off the state most fiscally stressed list.
My goal for this year is to get off this list entirely.
We will do that by watching every dime that we spend.
We have focused on cutting spending, reorganizing our government and keeping our hands out of the taxpayers’ wallet – all promises I made and promises I kept.
We have been working for three years to transform this county from near bankruptcy with an unsustainable tax-and-spend cycle to what it is today.
I am proud of my accomplishments in my first term. But I know there’s still much to be done.
Given the opportunity, we will move forward to complete our “Era of Renewal.”