• WCA Calls for More Public Input on Proposed Budget

  • DECEMBER 05, 2011 | COUNTY GOV'T, GOVERNMENT REFORM

  • IN A STATEMENT PREPARED FOR THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY BOARD OF LEGISLATORS, THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY ASSOCIATION PUSHES FOR GREATER PUBLIC INPUT ON PROPOSED $1.7 BILLION 2012 BUDGET

    ALSO CALLS UPON THE BOL TO DECREASE THEIR OWN EXPENDITURES IN LIGHT OF LOOMING BUDGET DEFICIT


    (White Plains) Dec. 5, 2011......From the Westchester County Association, the County’s leading business membership and advocacy organization:

    On behalf of our Board, our members and our staff, we thank you for the opportunity to offer our comments on the proposed 2012 budget.

    We have conducted considerable research and analysis of the proposed 2012 budget and have held several meetings with both the Executive and Legislative branches where we have conveyed the input we have received from the majority of our members. You already have seen our public statements on certain budget guidelines and recommendations, which we will re-iterate and add to here.

    Give More Time for Public Review                                                           Our first point tonight is to express disappointment over the process and timing of this budget. We are looking at a proposed $1.7 billion 2012 budget, with over 6,000 line items. With the Board vote coming in just two days, i.e. December 8th, we are concerned that there is not enough time for further review and public input. We understand that the County Charter calls for the budget to be adopted by December 27, which is in almost 3 weeks. We understand that the Charter also gives the County Executive up to 10 days to issue any vetoes. 

    Under this time scenario, the Budget goes back to the Board on December 19th for any overrides, etc. With the Christmas holiday schedule, we understand why you need it back by the 19th to review the vetoed items. However, if there were more of a dialogue between the two branches of government during the whole budget process, wouldn’t you know what the key veto areas might be and not need as much time for review? Wouldn’t that allow for more public review and input? Wouldn’t the public be better served?

    Clean House
    Our second point is to ask the Board of Legislators to lead by example and cut their own expenses. We have publicly asked the contract employees of our County to contribute to the shared sacrifice -- but we also call upon the Board to lead by example. We note that the expenditures for the Board included in the County tax levy rise by 4%, from $4.3 million in 2011 to $4.5 million in 2012, in spite of the recent law capping the property tax levy at 2%. Our hope is that the Legislators will put the best interests of the community first, by finding reductions in their budget that could be put to use to provide essential safety net services and retain core employees.

    Protect Westchester's Triple A Rating
    We have also publicly urged the County Executive and the Legislators to make protecting Westchester's Triple A Credit rating an imperative during the budget process. Recently, Moody's attached a "negative outlook" to the triple A credit rating our County enjoys. This outlook was based on spending patterns that have not been fiscally responsible. Keeping our Triple A rating intact is essential to maintaining our favorable borrowing rates. As we are in dire need of improving our infrastructure, stimulating the regional economy, and creating jobs, a slip in our credit rating would be devastating. It would cause bigger budget deficits, layoffs, and reduction of essential services.

    Show Leadership
    What we're witnessing at the national level is an appalling lack of leadership and political partisanship with no regard for the public interest. We don't want that repeated in Westchester. These are difficult times, which call for leadership, compromise, and shared sacrifice. In this environment, difficult decisions need to be made about how taxpayer money is spent. The elected officials and community leaders of our County must be willing to make those hard decisions, especially in light of a looming budget deficit.

    This is a defining moment in our community. We in the business community have come together as a group to stand up for the public interest -- to restore fiscal responsibility and leadership to Westchester County. This is our Call to Action.

    Media contact: Carolyn Mandelker, Harrison Edwards PR & Marketing, 914-242-0010 or cmandelker@harrison-edwardspr.com