There’s a long history of bad financial decisions in Rockland, decisions that led to a $138 million budget deficit that I inherited when I took office two years ago.
I was elected with a mandate to fix our finances, which earned Rockland the distinction of being named the most fiscally stressed municipality in the state of New York.
And I did.
Through hard work and plenty of belt-tightening, we reduced that deficit to $19 million -a fraction of what it was.
But we still have a lot of work to do.
We’re not about to go down the path toward fiscal ruin again: We’re not going back to the habits of the old days.
Preventing the sale of the Sain Building to a company that is willing to pay $4.51 million to knock it down would steer us toward fiscal disaster.
That’s why I took the painful but necessary steps of announcing immediate budget cuts to make up for the $4 million hole in our budget that would be created by failure of the Legislature to authorize the sale of the Sain Building.
That $4 million hole translates into a deficit and approximate 4 percent county property tax increase created by the Legislature.
These cuts will be felt throughout government as we institute a hiring freeze, curtail overtime, delay scheduled highway work, cancel or delay purchasing orders and cancel mass mailings.
We’re prepared to make further cuts, including reducing hours at county parks, canceling the incoming police academy class and ending funding of community organizations that receive county money directly from the Legislature without additional oversight.
The legislature, for no apparent reason, won’t even bring the sale of the Sain Building to a vote. This is the same body that clearly saw in my proposed budget submitted in October the plan to sell the Sain Building.
This is the same governmental body that approved a budget in December that relied on the sale of the Sain Building to make ends meet.
And this is the same body that spent $109,000 to pay an auditing firm to analyze my budget.
And this is the same body that stood by as Rockland sank deeper into debt.
The Legislative chairman has complained that lawmakers have not gotten enough information about the sale.
They got all the information we had and if they felt it wasn’t enough, why did they vote for it? What stopped the Legislature from commissioning its own studies in the nine months since I introduced this plan?
Now the Legislative chairman is telling the people of Rockland not to worry – that sales tax projects are up and that revenue will make up for the deficit left by the failure to sell the Sain Building.
That is precisely the kind of magical thinking – relying on overstated revenue projections – that led Rockland to be classified as the most fiscally stressed in the state.
Even if those projections turn out to be true, why only look at one side of the ledger? What of other costs – anticipated or otherwise – that we have to cover with the budget?
Rockland really can’t afford to leave money on the table. Especially when that money is $4.51 million.
And the Legislative chairman, a Ramapo Democrat, keeps asking why we don’t sell Building A in Pomona instead.
As we’ve said repeatedly, it’s simply not feasible to sell a building aptly called the “Tower without Power” that is attached to other county buildings. Ramapo zoning allows housing on that property.
Would the chairman like to see private housing in a building attached to county offices where people go to get TB tests and vaccines?
Moving the county offices now located in Building A would require millions to relocate the medical examiner, the entire MIS department, purchasing offices, among others.
Moreover, selling the “Tower without Power” would result in the expense of rewiring the building and reconfiguring computer and phone lines and rerouting electrical power.
All of those things cost money, money Rockland taxpayers don’t have to spending – especially when there is a simpler solution to fill the budget gap, whittle down the deficit, relocate county employees to a better building.
Consider this as well: under my administration we have gone from over 3,000 employees to 1,950 with no decrease in our facilities. Getting rid of the Sain building would allow us to use our space more efficiently.
All facts point to one solution: Sell the Sain Building.
In the meantime, we will have no choice but to tighten our belts to deal with this shortfall.
So if you go down to Haverstraw Bay County Park to take a walk by the Hudson River at sunset and encounter a sign that says “Closed,” you’ll know who to blame.
Give your legislator a call: 845- 638-5100.