4 Years of Tax Relief for Westchester
At my State of the County Address, I pledged to deliver the fourth straight budget with no property tax increase while also preserving essential services, promoting economic growth, and protecting our municipalities against federal efforts to dismantle local zoning.
- A partnership with the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association and the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association to stop Albany’s unfunded mandates;
- A new food rescue initiative to redistribute unused food from our schools, hospitals, hotels, and restaurants to our food pantries and soup kitchens;
- My leadership to ensure that the new Tappan Zee Bridge has mass transit the day it opens; and,
- Support for expanding cleaner and cheaper natural gas to the Westchester County Airport and the Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers.
I also presented an update on several of our initiatives, including:
- The County’s new Local Development Corp., which has already approved $128 million in low-cost and tax exempt financing to nonprofit agencies at no risk to county taxpayers;
- Reinventing Playland for the 21st century with an investment of $34 million in private money and a management agreement with a team of world-class operators who will restore the park as a year-round destination for Westchester’s families;
- “Safer Communities,” which has built a coalition among our schools and municipalities to share resources and best practices as part of the County’s ceaseless effort to keep our kids, our schools and our communities as safe as they can be;
- The County is a year ahead of the annual benchmarks for facilitating the construction of 750 units of affordable housing under the 2009 housing settlement with HUD; and
- A bi-partisan joint action with the Board of Legislators to prevent HUD from re-allocating $7.4 million in federal funds already promised to Westchester’s communities in 2011.
From day one, our goal has been to deliver results. But results don’t come easy. Priorities must be set. Hard choices must be made. Partisanship must give way to partnership. Rhetoric must yield to leadership.
Westchester County continues to move forward carefully and steadily. We pledged to protect taxpayers, and we did just that. We pledged to preserve essential services, and we did just that. We pledged to promote economic growth, and we did just that. And working together, we will continue moving Westchester County toward an even brighter future.
A Historic, Bipartisan Budget for Westchester
I asked the taxpayers of this county to call and email the Board of Legislators to demand that Republicans and Democrats pass a responsible budget for 2013. Democrats Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) and Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers) joined the Republican caucus led by Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle) in approving a budget that serves the best interests of Westchester by accomplishing three things:
- Does not raise the property tax levy
- Protects the county’s AAA credit rating by not using any of the county’s reserve fund for operating expenses
- Preserves essential services for those who need it the most
This coalition of Republicans and Democrats that put our 2013 budget together is proof that compromise, civility, and bipartisanship can be achieved when elected officials listen to the people. And listen they did to the hundreds of emails and calls that were made in advance of that vote.
I want to commend the nine leaders in the Board chambers who–after watching eight of their Democratic colleagues simply leave the meeting–continued to do the work they were elected by their constituents to do.
This was a momentous and memorable result for the people of Westchester County. Together we took a strong step forward in making Westchester a more affordable place to live.
A Continued Focus on Tax Relief for Westchester
Everywhere I go, whether it is at one of my town halls or informal settings as I travel around the county, people have continued to ask that I fight for tax relief. I am proud to say that, for the third year in a row, I put forward another budget that contains no tax increase.
But preparing a budget that closed an $85 million shortfall while providing tax relief and preserving essential services was not easy. There are crushing cost escalators–such as Medicaid and pensions–that the county faces automatically when the new year begins. Revenues, like sales tax and state and federal aid, once again will see little to no growth.
Facing these challenges, I made the hard choices necessary to balance the budget. My proposed budget continues to provide essential services and maintains a strong safety net for those in need.
It also contains a 4% reduction in the county workforce by eliminating 186 jobs, 126 by layoff. Sadly, these layoffs could have been avoided if the CSEA, the county’s largest union, had followed the lead of three other unions and agreed to pay for a portion of their health care costs–just like everyone else does today. Health care will cost county taxpayers $120 million next year. If union workers won’t help pay for part of their health care, then the financial reality is that we have to have fewer workers. My door remains open to the CSEA to negotiate with me toward an agreement that is fair to taxpayers and will help save jobs.
In the coming weeks, the Board of Legislators will be examining my budget. It is my hope that the County Board will approve a budget for next year that contains no property tax increase, protects our AAA rating by not raiding our reserve funds and preserves essential services for the people of Westchester.