Bold 2015 Spending Plan Reflects Fiscal Realities, Comes In Under State-Mandated Tax Cap
NEW CITY, NY — Emphasizing a focus on responsible, forward-thinking fiscal management, County Executive Ed Day today unveiled a proposed 2015 Executive Budget that sets the County on a long-term path toward financial stability. The $772 million fiscal plan responsibly funds essential services at a minimal cost to taxpayers, while honoring the County Legislature’s law mandating a $10 million payment to reduce the deficit.
Through a combination of organizational restructuring and strict cost controls, the 2015 proposed budget holds taxpayer-supported spending on County operations to an increase of 2% for the coming year.
While the cost of running the government is balanced against its anticipated revenue, the budget takes into account the Rockland County Deficit Financing Act, which involves strict oversight by the State Comptroller’s Office and requires a $10 million payment to start the process of erasing the prior administration’s deficit of $138.5 million. County Executive Day is fulfilling the mandate of this local law which will result in a property tax increase of 2%. This modest increase marks the first time Rockland County has not exceeded the state-mandated property tax cap introduced by Governor Cuomo in 2011.
“The taxpayers of Rockland County have suffered long enough,” said County Executive Day. “After three consecutive years of double-digit tax hikes, this proposal will bring an immediate sigh of relief to the hard-working families across our communities.”
As proposed, the average Rockland homeowner will pay an additional $1.67 per month or $20 in County property taxes next year.
County taxes account for approximately ten percent of a taxpayer’s property tax bill. The remainder comes from taxes levied by schools, local governments and special districts. The exact impact of the county tax levy on a property owner varies from community to community, due to different local assessments.
“This is not a political budget,” said Day. “Our plan achieves real, year-to-year savings, the result of a top to bottom restructuring of government operations. We inherited the most fiscally stressed county in the state, and this budget is a key step in strengthening the extremely fragile financial situation we remain in today.”
It is critical to note that the Day Administration’s ongoing efforts to rightsize the County workforce, consolidate departments and redesign the government’s salary structure have resulted in a minimal tax increase in 2015. If not for the amount required to pay down the deficit as mandated by the Deficit Financing Act, the County’s real property tax levy in 2015 would be 0% rather than 2%.
The FY 2015 budget proposal recalibrates spending to sustainable levels and places the County on the road to eliminating the deficit by 2025, without further squeezing taxpayers. Said Day, “This is a necessary step to begin recovery from the deficit. We borrowed the money. Now, it’s time to pay down the mortgage. As we work every day to flatten the organization and increase efficiencies, we are mindful of the ten-year payment schedule to dig out of debt. We will return Rockland to fiscal responsibility and get our county on the road to economic recovery and job growth.”
On the revenue side, the County is projecting to exceed its 2014 budget figure of $180 million by nearly $4 million or 2.22%. The 2015 budget proposal benefits from growth in the sales tax. The sales tax is projected to generate $185 million for the county’s coffers in 2015. This is up from the $180 million in the 2014 Adopted Budget, or 2.77 % percent.
Day’s budget is in line with the vision for Rockland’s future that he has emphasized throughout his tenure as County Executive: stabilizing our finances, economic growth and preserving the county. The implementation of a zero-based budget initiative commenced early this year and was an integral part of driving down expenses in 2014 and creating an efficient budget for 2015.
“Simply put, we’ve done two years of work to achieve the budget for 2015,” said Day. “We are making the tough decisions to thoughtfully reduce the size of this organization while maintaining essential services. The cuts are difficult – but necessary – in order to get us back on firm fiscal footing. This proposal serves as a roadmap for a long-term strategy of fiscal restraint that will produce similar positive results in future years while helping to dig us out of a deep hole.”
Significant details within the 2015 proposed County budget:
Reducing the Size of County Government
In answering overburdened taxpayers’ calls for fiscal discipline, County Executive Day will continue to reduce the size of local government through rightsizing operations. The County will support 111 fewer full-time positions in 2015, resulting in the estimated savings of $6.8 million. The workforce reduction includes all 37 members of the Sheriff’s Department Patrol Division, a move designed to eliminate duplicative police services and return the department to its core function of patrolling County properties.
Said Day, “While public safety continues to be a priority for my administration, tough choices had to be made across all departments and agencies. As a former New York City Police Officer, I regret that law enforcement layoffs are necessary to balance this budget, but there are no sacred cows. I was elected to reduce expenses, and that’s what I will do.”
The proposed cuts follow the elimination of 69 positions from across all levels of government in 2014, the result of merging and consolidating departments and responsibilities. Additionally, the personnel budget of the Office of the County Executive will achieve a savings of $30,000 in 2015. By aligning existing functions with current industry standards, the redesigned footprint of the County Executive’s operations will provide superior coordination throughout the organization.
Under the FY 2015 proposal, 33 positions in security, hospital radiology and laundry and the DSS Managed Care Unit will be outsourced to private firms.
Summit Park Hospital & Nursing Care Center
The sale of Summit Park Hospital & Nursing Care Center continues to move forward with cooperation from Sympaticare, LLC. With a contract closing still months away, operations at both facilities have been fully funded for all of 2015. The final sale is subject to court approvals and the New York State Department of Health. The proposed 2015 budget does not include expected revenue from any possible transaction as it relates to the transfer of ownership.
Most agencies that contract with Rockland County for services will see an across the board reduction in funding of 100% in the proposed 2015 budget.
“Everyone is sharing in the pain,” said the County Executive. “As we look to make deep cuts to our workforce, I must consider the millions paid each year to the many outside agencies doing business with the County. In the future, performance indicators will be used to evaluate service delivery and program benefits.”
The Proposed 2015 Budget represents a disciplined approach to fiscal management as the County continues to adjust to economic realities, moderate revenue growth and continued demand for services and programs without adequate state and federal funding. The fiscal plan builds on the progress made in 2014 in stabilizing County finances, including an upgrade of Rockland’s credit rating (Moody’s) one notch to “Baa2” from “Baa3” and a revised outlook to “positive” from “stable.”
Day called the spending plan “a tough budget for tough times” that will start to close the county’s massive deficit and provide a “strong and stable foundation” to meet future needs. “Without decisive action now, the county’s severe money problems will persist, threatening economic growth and the ability to deliver the critical services our residents are paying for.”
County Executive Day credits the hard work of his commissioners and department heads to stabilize the County budget. “Our commissioners understand the economic challenges and they have worked proactively to streamline operations, downsize the workforce, cut expenditures and find new recurring sources of revenue,” said Day. “This aggressive planning and conservative budgeting has enabled us to face the difficult challenges that continue to lie ahead. I look forward to working with the Legislature to keeping the county moving forward.”
In keeping with the administration’s pledge of transparency, County Executive Day will host two town hall forums to discuss the 2015 budget process:
- Wednesday, October 22 – 7 p.m. – Fieldstone Middle School – 100 Fieldstone Drive, Thiells
- Thursday, November 20 – 7 p.m. – Suffern Free Library – 210 Lafayette Avenue, Suffern
Residents of Rockland County are invited to bring any question or idea they want to discuss face-to-face with County Executive Day. Residents may also submit questions in advance via email at Q&AEdDay@co.rockland.ny.us