12/16/2009 9:00:11 AM

 

 

 

Dear Neighbor,

 

On Monday, I voted against Westchester County’s $1.8 billion 2010 budget, which was narrowly approved 9-8 by the Board of Legislators. The budget includes a 2.9% tax levy increase.

 

While the approved budget is $11 million less than originally proposed, I do not believe the cuts went far enough toward my goal of reducing spending and, in turn, the burden on taxpayers. 

 

I also believe that the budget’s revenue projections were too optimistic in these tough economic times. I could not in good conscience vote for a proposal that relies on unknowns like increased revenue from Playland and the Westchester Medical Center.

 

I’d like to reassure you, especially those who spoke out on these issues, that I was pleased that the budget retained funding for the arts, children’s programs and important environmental protection initiatives. But, overall, I believe we could have retained that funding and imposed greater spending reductions in other areas.

 

With a 2.62% spending increase, the budget approved Monday is $48 million larger than the county’s 2009 budget.  This was driven largely by increased costs in areas over which the county has no control, including social services and children with special needs programs, state retirement contributions and employee health insurance. On the revenue side, another factor beyond the county’s control is the economic downturn. County sales tax collections are projected to be $45 million less in 2010.  The infusion of $38 million in federal “stimulus” dollars will certainly help but it is simply not enough to close the the spending/revenue gap that was the starting point for our deliberations over the 2010 budget. 

 

Facing such serious challenges, I felt more strongly than ever that I could not support a budget that asks taxpayers to foot the bill for miscellaneous items, such as $1 million worth of  legislator “earmarks” set aside for “pet projects.” While the county represents just 17% of your property tax bill, I weighed very heavily the impact of any property tax increase on our community.

 

I do believe there are unrealized opportunities to further cut spending through consolidating and streamlining departments– a goal I hope will be achieved with help from our new County Executive. I also sincerely hope that we are on the brink of better times when the county can once again tap sources of revenue other than its residents to preserve and even improve the quality of life we strive to enjoy.  Let’s hope those times await us in the year ahead.

 

Best Regards,