County Legislators Go Back To Political Games

imageThe Democratic Chairman of the County Legislature Alden Wolfe appears to be playing political games over an $11 million premium that the County earned of its deficit financing bond.

Under Wolfe’s leadership the legislature has spent weeks blabbering about what to do with it.  Yet the funds are still unassigned and while the money is frozen by this inaction Wolfe and the rest of the legislators are hurting the County’s cash flow causing an added need for short term borrowing that will cost taxpayers an unnecessary $250,000.

Alden needs to understand that the electorate elected Day to fix the County’s fiscal disaster and Day has made a recommendation as to how this $11 million should be utilized.  Despite receiving assurances from the legislative leadership that there would be a vote at the last Budget & Finance Committee meeting to deal with this matter we have learned that Wolfe took it upon himself to announce there would be no vote!

No vote means a $250K hit to the taxpayers of Rockland County brought upon them by Wolfe’s political meandering.

It is somewhat amazing that the County legislators would engage in childish political quackery when the voters have so clearly stated at the last election what they wanted done, who they wanted to do it, and that they wanted the problems fixed urgently.

Is Wolfe now prepared to bill the County’s taxpayers for another $250,000 while he participates in a childish political game?

County Executive Day’s rising angst about this behavior is clear from recent comments he made in the Rockland County Times and on his Facebook page. Day indicates that the $11 million should go immediately to pay down the County’s general fund deficit. But why this should be a matter of endless debate among the County Legislators is a question of which the voters should make note especially when these same legislators refuse to discuss getting rid of the 100+ patronage appointments that they continue to support in Rockland County. 

Why there a continuing “fattening” of the government workforce should be something they might better spend their time in discussion rather than delaying putting the funds to reducing the deficit.

Here are County Executive Day’s comments on this matter:

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 our solution 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.

Later on his Facebook page Day commented:

Despite making a convincing case for action on the $11 million premium earned on the County’s deficit financing bond, our Legislative Leaders continue to embrace inaction. Deliberate decisions to delay a vote on the resolution will bring devastating consequences, including a quarter of a million in extra borrowing costs heaped on the taxpayers. As a result, the premium is unassigned and essentially “frozen”, thus hurting our fragile financial position even more.

Weeks of talk and indecision in the Legislature has brought us to where if we do not act on this premium now, Rockland County will slide even further into debt, prompting the financial markets to consider further downgrades to our credit rating. And you will pay $250,000 of your hard earned money to boot for that lack of action.

My administration believes our case is clear and compelling. We asked for a certain course of responsible action – apply all the premium proceeds to the deficit. But there are two choices – both technically correct – again with ours highly preferable and supported by nearly every expert we can find.

So here is the issue – Lack of action is NOT a decision. Failure to pick one course of action will result in a $250,000 hit on taxpayers. At this point, I’ll deal with either course of action BUT vacillation at this point is unacceptable … and costly.

Our last chance to avoid this comes at Monday’s County Legislature meeting. I have formally requested of, and again submitted reams of documentation to, the Rockland County Legislative chairman to add this item to the agenda and simply allow for a vote – “up or down” – that will assign or “unfreeze” the money. Without that action, you will pay the price in real dollars for a failure to act.

While some a number of county legislators are supportive of our approach, I urge you to contact your legislator first thing Monday morning – 638-5100 – and demand the same from him or her. Tell them you want a decision made to avoid paying more tax money, and urge them to support applying the proceeds of the premium to pay down the general fund deficit as it demonstrates strict fiscal discipline. This is the best option for the future of Rockland County.

All of these legislators are coming up for re-election in November 2015 and must be held accountable for their votes. Did they not get the message from the last election? If not they need to receive another message at the next election.

Do taxpayers have to pay another $250,000 while Legislator Alden Wolfe pumps himself up with puffery?  If you think not then give him a call and in a stout voice explain the matter to him!  

While you are at it tell him the County Legislature has spent and taxed enough!

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

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