County Executive Ed Day used his line-item veto power to veto 95 of the Legislative Majority’s ill-advised amendments to the 2019 County Budget. As seen in the attached document, Veto Schedule 2019.
“The Majority’s amended budget would have been a return to the days of speculative revenue, over-estimating sales tax revenue and a refusal to modernize county government,” said County Executive Day. “In short, a budget like theirs could lead us back down the path of deficits and double-digit tax increases; a return to the sins of the past.”
The vetoes include Legislative amendments that:
Included $3.5 million in speculative revenue and appropriations to ostensibly fund employee contract settlements
Removed the new deed verification program
Increased estimated sales tax revenue by $647,500
Eliminated new positions in multiple departments
Bypassed the County’s legally mandated process for procuring contracts
County Executive Day proposed a $709 million spending plan for 2019 that included a 2.9 percent property tax levy increase, which is under the state mandated property tax cap. For the average Rockland residential property owner, taxes will increase just over $3 a month or about $37 a year.
“I fully support a fair and equitable contract settlement for our hard-working union employees. Over the past two years, my administration has allocated a total of $5.8 million for union contracts,” said Day.
The $3.5 million included by the Legislative Majority is from the possible settlement of the ongoing Summit Park court case, which is currently undergoing an appeal. This appeal may take months or years to settle; we simply do not know what the outcome will be or when it will be finalized. It is not guaranteed to come out in favor of the County and therefore these funds become too speculative to be included in the 2019 Budget.
The County Executive continued, “including this revenue of $3.5 million would simply be unfair to our unions; creating false hope and sabotaging contract negotiations. It is also poor fiscal policy and contravenes the New York State Comptroller’s recommendations to NOT use “one-shot” revenues for recurring expense items.”
The Majority’s removal of the new deed verification program would have eliminated an opportunity to begin verifying and correcting deeds and tax maps in order to protect new home buyers. The new program was strongly supported by all five town assessors and the County Clerk; it would have generated $1.2 million in revenue from fees for service.
“To make up for the shortfall created by eliminating the revenue, the Majority simply increased the estimated sales tax revenue by $647,500, that amount of money is shockingly almost 30% beyond the highest projection proposed by their own financial consultant, and eliminated multiple new positions to make up the difference,” said Day. “They simply went to their failed playbook from the past and increased sales tax rather than making realistic adjustments.”
The new positions eliminated in the amended budget would improve services in 2019 and reduce the stresses on departments providing those services. Among their eliminations was a new position in the County Attorney’s Office that was 100% funded by the Sewer District, but they failed to remove the revenue reimbursement. By doing so the Majority created a revenue shortfall in this department in 2019. The Majority also increased salary savings within multiple departments but presented no evidence and/or documentation to base their decision.
County Executive Day said, “the Majority’s rejection of new positions proposed by my Administration accomplished nothing more than further burdening our hardworking employees.”
The Majority also altered the budget in an overt effort to bypass the County’s legally mandated process for procuring contracts. A legal process that is intended to obtain the best services for the least amount of taxpayer dollars and, in the words of the New York State Comptroller’s Office, to provide “assurance that the County is paying the lowest possible price of acquiring services without favoritism.”
Over the past several years the County has migrated nearly all contract agencies within county departments for purposes of procurement, oversight and accountability. This is very different from the past when agencies were simply paid with little or no documentation and/or accountability.
However, the Legislative Majority has seen fit to return to another failed policy of the past by sidestepping the legally mandated competitive bidding processes and allocating funds on a specific expense account within departments. The procurement process, which is required by law, is not to guarantee funding for particular agencies, and/or picking winners, but rather for departments to have the flexibility to work with those agencies which can enhance their pragmatic mission and deliver the best service possible to the people at the best price for the taxpayer dollar. The services that these agencies provide have been and will continue to be funded properly as required by law.
The New York State Comptroller’s Office found that in respect to the 2019 Proposed Budget, “the significant revenue and expenditure projections in the proposed budget are reasonable.” The Veto Message, Veto Schedule and other necessary 2019 Budget documents have also been provided to the Office of the State Comptroller.
“I want to thank those in the Legislative Minority for refusing to accept poor fiscal policy and for standing up to help me protect Rockland’s financial recovery,” said County Executive Day. “Minority Leader Lon Hofstein, Deputy Minority Leader Vince Tyer, Legislator Chris Carey, Legislator Charles Falciglia, Legislator Doug Jobson, Legislator Pat Moroney and Legislator Laurie Santulli should be commended. We will not allow the Legislative Majority to return the County to the days of reckless, deficit spending that nearly led us into receivership.”
No later than December 20, 2018, the Legislature can override any Executive veto with a two-thirds majority vote (12 votes). If the Legislature takes no action, the Budget is deemed adopted.
The 2019 Proposed Budget is available for review here: http://budget.rocklandgov.com/
The 2019 Proposed Budget announcement can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2IvPvQY