The County of Rockland faces a projected, unaudited budget deficit of $145 million. To help move the County forward, my Administration has undertaken a series of aggressive cost-cutting measures since January, including: 1) the identification and correction of critical inefficiencies 2) the ongoing “flattening” of the government workforce 3) the borrowing of $96 million to help in reducing the deficit.
In March, Rockland County earned a premium of $11 million on the $96 million deficit financing bond. This week, I sent an urgent letter to all County Legislators calling for the swift approval of aresolution allowing the application of these monies directly to the County’s general fund deficit.
Applying the proceeds of the premium to pay down the deficit has received the full support of Capital Markets Advisors, LLC Founder Richard Tortora, County Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat, current County Auditor and former County Finance Commissioner Robert Bergman, former County Finance Commissioner Harold Peterson and counsel from the Office of the NY State Comptroller.
Our decision to use the premium to pay down the deficit demonstrates strict fiscal discipline. This course of action, along with the County’s ongoing structural reforms, will be key drivers to an upgraded bond rating and a reduction in future interest costs. These carefully considered efforts to restore the County’s fiscal stability will be widely recognized by the financial markets.
Opinions differ on the best use for the $11 million premium. In different times, this Administration might have elected to set the money aside to cover future interest and principal payments. But, these are not “normal” times. Rockland County is engaged in a protracted fight for financial survival.
Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poor’s rate Rockland County’s credit worthiness at one level above junk status. We have been labeled as the most fiscally-stressed county in New York by the Comptroller’s Office.
With all the expert guidance we have received, I feel confident we are doing the right thing and the smart thing. We cannot keep deferring the inevitable. My Administration will not “kick the can” down the road, an expectation clearly endorsed in the November election. By facing the hard choices and taking bold action now, we will build a stronger, healthier foundation for the future.