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Legislators Narrowly Approve Westchester County Budget

Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker of Rye was one of seven Democrats who voted against the county budget on Monday. It passed 10-7, with all eight Republicans backing County Executive Rob Astorino's nearly $2 billion annual spending plan.
Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker of Rye was one of seven Democrats who voted against the county budget on Monday. It passed 10-7, with all eight Republicans backing County Executive Rob Astorino's nearly $2 billion annual spending plan. Photo Credit: WestchesterLegislators.com

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- For a sixth straight year, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved County Executive Rob Astorino's annual budget without raising property taxes.

By a 10-7 vote on Monday, county legislators passed the $1.8 billion budget for 2016.

All eight Republican legislators were joined by two Democrats to OK Astorino's spending plan.

Astorino, a Republican, proposed laying 25 county employees off. Under a compromise with the county executive, legislators reduced the number of layoffs to six.

In a prepared statement, Astorino said, "We worked out our differences and came to an agreement that protects taxpayers and preserves essential services in a way that has majority support. That's how the process should work."

County Board Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat from Somers, said flexibility by the Astorino Administration was key to building a coalition, particularly the willingness to address funding for not-for-profit agencies and the assurance that if county property on Austin Avenue in Yonkers is sold next year, proceeds will be used to build up the county's reserve.

But other Democratic legislators who voted against the budget Monday said the final spending plan is structurally unbalanced.

Several Democrats said the budget is riddled by suspect revenue projections, including an assumption that sales tax collections will grow by 4 percent next year.

“While I’m happy to see that there were some service restorations, I cannot endorse a budget that spends money based on fictitious revenues,” Legislator Catherine Borgia, a Democrat from Ossining, said. “I believe that we are going to have to revisit this budget in the coming months because of the indefensible budget practices of this administration.”

White Plains Democrat Ben Boykin said, "This budget fails every metric of good accounting."

Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, said, “Approving this budget is akin to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. . . . The budget continues to rely on revenues that we have been cautioned against using to balance the budget.”

Legislator Ken Jenkins, a Yonkers Democrat, said the budget as passed could trigger another credit rating downgrade that would cost taxpayers more while the county tries to catch up on a $1.3 billion backlog of capital construction projects.

On the bright side, Kathy Halas, executive director of the Child Care Council of Westchester, said the non-profit organization is gratified that the Board of Legislators and County Executive "listened to the voices of the community in regard to child care and early education, and will keep the parent share at 27 percent, maintain Title XX funding at $1.4 million, and restore funding for the Child Care Subsidy Specialist position at the Council.''

In 2015, Halas said, "The Specialist has helped nearly 800 Westchester families with the child care subsidy, including help in completing applications for the program."

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