Westchester Legislators Restore Jobs, Programs in $1.69 Billion Budget Proposal; Cuts Still Loom

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino has five days to veto any lines in the Board of Legislators budget before it is approved on Dec. 27.

Westchester County lawmakers managed to hammer out a deal for nearly $1.69 million earlier today that will preserve roughly 190 jobs that were scheduled for elimination in the Westchester County Executives Robert Astorino’s initial budget proposal.

The agreement, which was reached earlier today, restores funding to a number of programs like the Invest in Kids youth initiative, neighborhood health centers, parks and recreations, the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the ArtsWestchester. The budget represents a zero percent increase to the tax levy, which stands at $548 million this year.

Legislators approved the budget by a margin of 16 to 1, with Legislator Martin Rogowsky, D-Harrison, giving the lone dissenting vote.

Rogowsky said he agreed with many aspects of the budget, but he questioned his colleague’s decision to borrow $30 million to pay for pension costs.

“It’s easy to get a zero percent tax levy increase if you borrow,” Rogowsky said. “I would rather raise taxes by a few percentage points than continue borrowing. It’s just bad fiscal policy.”

, which is about $8.5 million less than the plan approved by the Board of Legislators, calls for 210 layoffs and 367 total job eliminations.

The proposal would also reduce spending for parks and recreation by 5 percent, to $48 million; decrease the county Health Department’s budget by $160 million, or 3 percent; and the reduction of $1.9 million worth of contracts with the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, Hudson River Healthcare in Peekskill, and the .

The budget would also eliminate $990,000 in funding for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which would effectively end the program, and reduce funding to ArtsWestchester by $750,000, which is about 50 percent what the program received this year.

Astorino said there are still some line in the budget that he will veto, including the line that restored funding to the three community medical health centers.

Lindsay Farrell, president of Open Doors Medical Centers, said she is confident that the Board of Legislators will override any vetoes made to the budget lines of the community medical centers. Farrell noted that the same process took place last year.

“The legislators get it,” Farrell said. “They live and work locally and they certainly understand what these facilities for our communities.”

Astorino also said that he was disappointed that a deal couldn’t be worked out with the county couldn’t come to an agreement Civil Service Employees Association Unit 9200 over the amount of money county workers will contribute to their health care insurance. Astorino has long maintained that the could have avoided having any layoffs if workers agreed to contribute to the cost of their health care benefits.

Karen Pecora, the union president, said she is pleased that the Board of Legislators restored may of the positions that were going to be cut in Astorino’s budget. But she said it is unrealistic for Astorino to expect an issue as complicated as health care contributions to be resolved by the time budget proceedings ended.

“It just wasn’t going to happen,” Pecora said. “Negotiations take time. The county hired somebody to negotiate, but we’re made up of a committee who work during the day and have families. We can’t meet night. Hopefully, we’ll continue negotiations and we can have this done by this time next year.”

Astorino has five business days to decide which items will be cut from the Board of Legislators budget. 

County officials must the decide if they are going to override any of Astorino’s vetoes before they approve a budget on Dec. 27.

John Q. Public December 12, 2011 at 08:16 PM
The BOL's budget is a profile in cowardice. By borrowing $30 million to cover pension costs, they are kicking the can down the road rather than confronting very real structural problems head on. I prefer Astorino's approach. It's time to trim the unnecessary positions Spano added, and force County government to work leaner and smarter. If the BOL wanted to play Santa Claus by preserving unnecessary jobs, and borrowing to cover current expenses, why not borrow 2x as much and deliver a tax cut? Because that would be irresponsible, as irresponsible as it is to borrow $30 million. Hopefully Astorino will use his line-item veto to slice out the fat the Dems put back into this budget, and force the BOL to vote twice in favor of bad policy. If anyone on the BOL has been paying attention to what's happening in Europe, they'd know they are embarking on a path that will make Westchester and the USA look like Greece in short order.
Aidan December 13, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Bob Zahm December 13, 2011 at 01:42 AM
What's the old joke - "Madam, we've resolved what kind of woman you are. We're now just trying to agree on price."? Far too many similiarities with our county gov't.
Francis T McVetty December 15, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Reminds me of this one "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." Ronald Reagan.
Scotty December 16, 2011 at 03:08 PM
There should be a law where this sort of politics is forbidden. In other words, budgets and other costs cannot be approved if in the red, if it involves borrowing to offset debt then the answer is "no", go back to the drawing board until it is within guidelines. If we are spending more than is coming in ....stop it, cut and decide where right away, not later under someone else's administration. How refreshing would that be ? Someday, someplace, a government elected by voters will do this and it would be like heaven...living within one's means. That's what my beloved father taught me and my sisters growing up... try to never use credit unless last resort and pay the bill in full when it arrives....or don't do it !


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