When I took office just three years ago, this county was on the brink of financial disaster.
We were a mere $42,000 away from default and had the worst score in New York on the state Comptroller’s list of most fiscally stressed municipalities.
Rockland’s score then was 86.7, a fiscal “F minus” as a result of years of unrealistic planning and too much spending.
After my first year in office our score dropped to 65.8 percent, less than a percentage point away from getting off the significant stress list altogether.
When the state comptroller earlier this week released this year’s list of fiscally stressed municipalities in New York, Rockland, unfortunately, was again on it. Due to financial accounting adjustments related to the closure of the Summit Park, we received the same score as the previous year. The Comptroller’s report does not distinguish these onetime adjustments and therefore did not reflect our actual operating results for 2015.
We are awaiting our audited financials for 2015. That was a tough year financially as we were forced to close the Summit Park nursing home after the buyer we had negotiated with for months backed out at the last minute.
Were it not for the accounting anomalies that were part of the nursing home closure, our true score should be 56.2 percent, taking us off the significant stress list. This new score will appear in our next review in 2017.
That will be a proud moment for me and a testament to the fiscally responsible course set by my administration.
But that moment has not come yet.
We will have wait another year to see the state publicly recognize the tremendous work we have done turning around this county’s finances.
We are about to release our proposed budget for 2017, which also speaks to my administration’s good work.
We’re still putting the final touches on it. But I can tell you that the tax cap set by the state is a very modest 1.17 percent. My budget will meet that challenge.
As a result, taxpayers will see a negligible increase, some none at all, in their tax bill.
I told the taxpayers of this county that I would reinvent county government, making small, less expensive and more efficient.
The budget that I am about to unveil will make good on all those promises as well.
We have once again cut spending and stabilized our workforce. We have gotten rid of old positions that no longer meet the needs of our changing county. We have created new positions that better serve our residents. We have done so with cost savings while maintaining, even improving, services.
Unemployment is among the lowest in the state. People have jobs, which means they also have money.
As a result, our sales tax revenue is up. Some businesses already in Rockland are expanding and others are moving to the county.
I am proud to say that we have turned a fiscal corner here in Rockland County.