County Executive Ed Day spoke at the Nanuet Library this morning at 11:00 a.m. and outlined the budget he will present to the County Legislature for its adoption as the county’s 2016 fiscal plan. The budget calls for a $42.6 million reduction over last year’s from $769.9 millions to $727.3 millions and is one Day believes builds for the future by saving money, paying down debt and continuing to deliver essential services.
Day stated, “This is a responsible fiscal plan that begins the historic redesign of county operations. Our goal is to create affordable government. We’ve made the hard choices to set our county on a path to prosperity.”
Day asserted that without any of the savings measures that have been put in place since he took office, residents of Rockland County would have faced a 20% tax increase in this year’s budget. If not for constraints resulting from “sins of the past” and the failure of the expected sale of Summit Park Hospital, Day stated he would have delivered a budget that actually lowered taxes in 2016. Citing those same constraints, the final proposed budget calls for 4.95% tax increase which equates to an average increase of $4 per household, per month.
The key points in Day’s presentation were as follows:
- The deficit payments have been incorporated into the actual budget and these payments will be accounted for in future budgets as a normal operating cost until paid in full.
- All departments met the CE’s request for a 5% cut in their budget except for the Sheriff’s Department.
- The CE’s budget does not propose funding for the Sheriff’s mounted patrol. Additionally, the Sheriff’s department is being asked to take over the responsibilities of all the current non-armed security patrol individuals, who will be laid off.
- Failure of the buyer to close on the sale of the Summit Park Hospital means that the hospital will be defunded within the next month. However, sources close to several legislators have told the Rockland Voice that some of them are working on a plan to continue to pay for full hospital operations at Summit Park throughout 2016.
- Through cost savings and fiscal efficiency improvements over the past two years, a tax increase of 20% has been avoided, but reopening the Summit Park Hospital would result in a 20% tax increase next year.
- Non-Profit funding remains at roughly $4 million, almost identical to last year’s level.
- The legislators have obviously been challenged by Day to work toward the goal of easing the burden on the taxpayers.
Day stated that unfunded mandates continue to be the primary obstacle to tax reductions. Nine specific unfunded state mandates account for approximately 90% of our county property tax dollars, with Medicaid alone accounting for roughly 65%. Day stressed that he has been working with a coalition of County Executives in New York State to lobby for relief from these unfair burdens. He urged all citizens to contact their state representatives to plead for changes in the unfunded mandates.
There are no easy answers in the Summit Park Hospital saga. A sale was obviously the preferred solution, but that is not possible at this point. Day’s proposed 2016 budget has no money allocated for the operation of the facility. Extending the deadline for the sale and transfer of the operations was viewed by Day as a way for the buyer to continue to drive the sale price down as the county continued to lose approximately $1 million per month from hospital operational costs. Day stated, “As I have said many times, we will not be in the hospital business next year. And to go back to that next year would require an additional 20% tax increase.” With the sale falling through, closing the hospital is viewed by Day as the only fiscally responsible option. “Removing the facility from our books involves the elimination of 288 filled, full-time positions from our county workforce. That is the most painful decision I have had to make since coming into office.” Day thanked and praised those workers for their service and dedication and promised the County would do all it could to help them.
In addition to the layoffs resulting from the closure of Summit Park, another 38 job cuts are incorporated into the budget proposal. Thirteen of these jobs will come from the non-armed security force that currently patrols county properties. The Sheriff’s department will be asked to undertake this role, saving money and in Day’s view, improving the security by having armed, highly trained personnel performing the job. Day also made it clear that while no layoffs were proposed in the Sheriff’s Department, that funding for the operation of the mounted patrol was being cut completely. Day believes the Sheriff can contribute to the overall goal of fiscal responsibility by “doing more with the same” as that department’s budget was the only once spared from the 5% cut faced by every other department.
Proposed cuts to non-profits were a source of great controversy in last year’s budget. Day apparently took great care to try to address the issue in 2016 by reorganizing the agencies as they relate to the structure of county government. Day stated the funding for non-profits will remain at the $4 million mark at which it was allocated last year. Where applicable, a non-profit agency will be assigned into a county department’s budget. All contracted agencies will now be required to submit performance reports to the County in order to create a better assessment of what services are being provided and how much value the agency is providing to the County. A new procurement process will be employed to comply with the direction of the New York State Comptroller’s office. “Instead of informing a group of handpicked agencies that they are guaranteed funding, regardless of need or performance, this administration has to put out a call to any company that provides services for public benefit to describe their programs.” Day also introduced a proposal for a local law to ensure a “Best Value Procurement” whereby local vendors will be the preferred suppliers of these services, helping to keep the money we spend supporting the County in the County.
In closing, Day pleaded for the voices of the taxpayers to be heard and for fiscal responsibility to be the priority.
“Speaking in reference to the Rockland County Legislature, Day stated:
“I have a great respect for their policy-making responsibilities. I also have great respect for the many responsible Legislators on both sides of aisle who are trying to get things done. But, I must caution Legislative leaders that a failure to act on major policy issues will inevitably have long term negative consequences for our taxpayers. I call upon all Rockland County Legislators to join me in supporting this budget. It delivers essential services and pays down our deficit without bankrupting our taxpayers.”
The full proposed budget will be available at 4:00 p.m. today on the County of Rockland’s webpage.