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Legislators Receive 1Q Financial Review Showing County Budget Deficit

Deficit

White Plains, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators on Monday received a report on the County's financial performance in the first quarter of 2018.


The report, presented by County Budget Director Lawrence Soule to the Board's Budget and Appropriations Committee, showed a projected 2018 deficit of $28.7 million; and that number could grow depending on the outcome of contract negotiations with the Civil Service Employees Association. The County's largest union has been working without a contract since 2011.  Negotiations between the County and the union are ongoing.


"The simple fact is the chickens have come home to roost," said Legislator Catherine Borgia (D- Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining, Peekskill), chair of the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee.  "After years of one-shot budget gimmicks, over-estimations of revenues, refusal to look at ongoing sources of revenue and neglect of important contracts, the County is looking not only at a significant deficit this year, but an ongoing structural deficit of around $20 million."


"There will be some difficult choices to make going forward, but this is a problem the County can address, and one that we will," she added.


Board Chair Ben Boykin (D-Harrison, Scarsdale, White Plains), said, "The Board welcomes the transparency of Director Soule.  We know the County faces structural financial challenges, but the first step to addressing the problem is having a forthright discussion of it, and that includes a thorough and fearless look at the data.  It's our job now to make sure that working with the new County Executive, the Board applies itself diligently to setting our financial house in order, which will take some time."


Majority Leader Catherine Parker (D-Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye), said, “In November, voters chose a new direction for the County after the irresponsible policies of the last eight years.  Instead of sweeping the problems under the rug with one-shot fixes, we are going to face the challenges the same way any Westchester family would, responsibly and earnestly, so we can leave behind a better, financially stronger Westchester.”


One bright spot in the review -- County sales tax revenue in the first quarter of 2018 was up 6.4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017, exceeding budgeted growth estimates.  Soule said that increase, and April numbers which showed an accelerating increase, mean the County's sales tax revenue should meet or exceed the budgeted growth rate of 3.7 percent.  But the increase in sale tax revenue is largely as a result of higher fuel prices on which the County collects taxes.


Among the topics discussed at the committee meeting was a decision made last year not to transfer assets from the County’s airport fund to its general fund. Although that could have limited loses in the County’s rainy day fund for one year budget, it would have had no impact on the ongoing structural deficit.

 

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