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Chairman Michael Kaplowitz Legislative Response to State of the County

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Hi, I’m Board of Legislators Chairman Mike Kaplowitz.  As a Democrat working with my Republican Vice-Chairman, Legislator Jim Maisano, we have established a record of bipartisanship and cooperation at the Board of Legislators.  I am happy to report that Bipartisanship will continue to be our guiding philosophy at the Board and that philosophy has produced outstanding results for the residents of Westchester County.  With the recent election of two new Legislators, the bipartisan majority at the Board continues to grow.


Among our great successes has been a sixth consecutive, on-time, balanced and zero tax increase budget.  Delivering a budget that protects taxpayers is among our highest priorities at the Board of Legislators but we must always balance that goal against our mandate to provide services for those who need them as well as responsibly managing the long term fiscal health of Westchester County.  We took the County Executive at his word when he said he could manage the negotiated 2016 budget by leaving open non-essential positions while adding back the positions and services that the Board of Legislators deemed to be essential, like County Police Officers.  I’m sorry to say that the County executive has not completely held up his end of the bargain in this respect.  There are some County Police officer positions that he has refused to fill although he promised he would.  In a time of heightened security concerns we will hold the County Executive to the agreement.  We are also keeping a close watch on tax revenues for the 2016 budget year.  The County Executive’s budget staff believes they can meet their budgetary projections, however the Board of Legislators, in its oversight role, will continue to verify that those revenue projections are on track.  We remain concerned that the county could imperil its “triple A” credit rating which allows us to borrow for important infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and the county airport at very low rates.  A credit downgrade could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in additional interest payments.


Bipartisan compromise has also been a key to our success in negotiating the partnership with a private operator at Playland Amusement Park.  After years of reviewing proposals, negotiating terms and creating a management plan, the Board of Legislators will be voting on may 2nd to approve an agreement that brings $30 million of private investment to match the county’s own $32 million investment to finally make the critical infrastructure repairs and improvements that have been neglected at Playland for many years.  This partnership will ensure that Playland continues to be the wonderful place that generations of Westchester residents have gone to for 88 years and can now bring their children and grandchildren there for many more generations.  Playland is also an economic engine that generates more than $27 million in regional revenue each year and is the largest seasonal employer for young adults in Westchester County.  


Another major goal of the Board of Legislators for this year is the review of a proposed $1.2 billion development on 60 acres of county owned real estate on the campus of the Westchester Medical Center and New York Medical College.  This development represents the biggest remaining undeveloped county real estate asset.  This project is valuable for both its economic development and for the potential for wonderful bio technology innovations.  The Board of Legislators however will undertake a very comprehensive and critical review of the plan to make sure that the real owners of this property, the taxpayers of Westchester County, are getting a fair deal for this very important county asset.


Finally, the County Executive has sent two proposals to the Board of Legislators  that could significantly impact operations at Westchester County Airport.  One would lift the restrictions on the rate at which passengers could fly into and out of the airport throughout the day.  The other proposal is to expand the services of a major private airline service provider called Million Air.  We recognize the important role the airport plays in economic activity and air travel opportunities for Westchester but those benefits all need to be weighed against the impact to neighboring communities.  The Board of Legislators believe that a much more thorough environmental impact study of things like increased ground traffic, noise pollution, air pollution and the additional de-icing fluid runoff around the airport is required before the Board of Legislators can approve the County Executive’s proposals.


As I said at the beginning of this statement, Bipartisanship isn’t about always agreeing, it’s about disagreeing in a constructive way.  It’s about a shared goal and willingness to reach consensus.  Over the last nearly three years, the bipartisan majority on the Board of Legislators has established that kind of cooperative relationship with the County Executive and we will continue that relationship.  As always, I invite you to follow our progress by attending our meetings or watching them online at Westchester Legislators.com.  You can also find my contact info and your individual Legislators contact info there as well.  we would love to hear from you.  Thank you

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