12/8/2009 8:35:29 AM

What:

Westchester County Board Vice-Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers), the Board’s Committee on Government Operations Chairman Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Democratic Majority Whip Judith Myers (D-Larchmont), the Board’s Committee on Legislation Chairman Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining), the Board’s Committee on Public Safety and Security Chairman Legislator Vito Pinto (D-Tuckahoe), Legislators Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will release a preliminary outline calling for consolidation and streamlining of Westchester County government. 
 

Who:

Speakers to attend are (still in formation):

  • Board Vice-Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers)
  • Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Chair – Board’s Committee on Government Operations
  • Democratic Majority Whip Judith Myers (D-Larchmont)
  • Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining), Chair – Board’s Committee on Legislation
  • Legislator Vito Pinto (D-Tuckahoe), Chair – Board’s Committee on Public Safety and Security
  • Legislator Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), Chair – Board Subcommittee on Septic Issues
  • Legislator John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant), Chair – Board’s Subcommittee on Litigation
  • Additional County Legislators

Where:   

Westchester County Board of Legislators Rotunda
   800 Michaelian Office Building
   148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor (corner of Court Street)
   White Plains, NY
 

When:

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 at 12pm noon SHARP!
 

Why:

The overall goals of the proposed consolidation plan are to significantly save taxpayer dollars, streamline service delivery and eliminate duplicative administrative personnel and services. The Legislators will present an initial outline for county government consolidation during the press conference.

Lawmakers to Taxpayers: "We get it!"

12/8/2009 2:16:22 PM

 Westchester County Board Vice-Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D,I -Somers), the Board’s Committee on Government Operations Chairman Legislator Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Democratic Majority Whip Judith Myers (D-Larchmont), the Board’s Committee on Legislation Chairman Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining), Legislators Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) released a preliminary outline calling for the consolidation of agencies and the streamlining of Westchester County government during a press conference today. “All across America, businesses are downsizing their operations and eliminating duplicate services in order to better control costs in these financially difficult times,” remarked Kaplowitz, a certified financial planner and immediate past chairman of the Legislature’s Budget & Appropriations Committee.  “We’ve heard the growing frustration of residents in our county, which culminated on Election Day, and we get it.  This is a strong first step towards right-sizing county government.”  Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the release of the outgoing County Executive’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 proposed budget, which calls for a 4.88% property tax increase, which Kaplowitz and others say, “is simply not acceptable.”

You can watch the press conference by clicking here (select the "Dec 08  Proposed County Government Consolidation Plan" video)

Details of the proposed outline include:

  •  The consolidation of county departments and offices from 36 to 19 departments
  • The reduction of 51 non-represented staff positions, for a total savings of $7.5 million

Increasingly, communities are looking to the consolidation mechanism as a way of achieving efficiencies in response to citizen demands for services and cost-savings.  These reductions, which recognize the severity of the current fiscal crisis, reflect common sense solutions designed to allow agencies to do more with less.

Other cuts will be targeted to eliminate redundancies and maximize efficiencies.  “Westchester’s residents are clearly suffering due to the downturn in our economy.  They have lost jobs, their family savings and retirement funds are being depleted, yet they are expected to continue paying for duplication in government,” remarked Majority Whip Myers.  “It is our fundamental responsibility as legislators to make government work efficiently on behalf of its residents, and at its current structure and size, it simply isn’t providing the financial relief to our taxpayers.”  This outline limits the scope of operations for the county to those services that are mandatory and can effectively and efficiently be conducted.  “This is a great framework and an appropriate first step.  I look forward to discussing with my colleagues the actual implementation steps to reorganize and achieve savings," said Legislator Jenkins.

“Today’s worsening financial situation means that it’s time take necessary, albeit, painful steps to cut our county budget,” said Legislator Burton.

“My constituents have no opposition to funding the social safety net that is so critical during these unprecedented economic times. What they have said to me is that we need to cut the cost of government itself, not programs,” said Legislator Harckham. “This plan makes government more efficient, cost effective and still able to deliver critical services.”

“The public has spoken with a loud voice that it wants significant steps to be taken to reduce the cost of county government,” said Legislator Nonna.  “The Board must be a leader in finding innovative and significant ways to reduce the cost of county government. We must take steps to consolidate county government departments in a responsible way.  We must find savings in budget lines.  We can no longer make excuses or point the finger toward Albany or anyone else.”

“The overall goals of the proposed consolidation plan are to significantly save taxpayer dollars, streamline service delivery and eliminate duplicative administrative personnel and services,” remarked Legislator Pinto.

12/14/2009 1:38:19 PM

 

 

Legislator George Oros, flanked by Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan and Minority Whip Jim Maisano, received the Board of Legislators Award for Distinguished Service at the December 14 meeting. Oros, the Minority Leader who was first elected to the board in 1995, was praised by Maisano as “an incredibly principled guy” and “a gentleman.” “George, you are all about the good things about politics,” Maisano said. “He worked 24 hours a day for his district. He gave everything he had.” Oros said it had been a blesing to serve as a legislator for 15 years.

 

 

 

 

 

Board restores funding for social safety net services and reduces tax increase to low 2.9%

12/15/2009 10:17:01 AM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) ~ After weeks of deliberation, the Westchester County Board of Legislators reached final agreement and, tonight, voted to approve the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 county operating budget.  The $1.8 billion dollar budget includes 3.3% estimate of sales tax growth in 2010, eliminates a combination of twelve filled and vacant staff positions and took a vacancy factor in almost all county departments for added savings, includes a consolidation of the county’s departments of health and mental health and continues the transfer of non-mandated programs.  The budget protects essential County services and cut the tax increase to a low 2.9%. Westchester County Board Chairman William J. Ryan (D, WFP-White Plains) said “the budget adoption was the result of hundreds of hours of serious discussion where legislators and staff worked to reduce spending and lower the tax rate.”  The Board worked through the nation’s most difficult economic crisis since the Great Depression, exercising great care to protect our residents and keep our triple “A” financial bond ratings at the highest level. This budget includes keeping vital day-care slots available for needy families and preserving programs for our county’s seniors.  “This is one of the toughest budgets our county has faced in decades,” said Chairman Ryan.  “I am proud of the hard and difficult work that my colleagues and our staff did to protect core services such as neighborhood health centers, child care, and legal assistance for the indigent and public safety services among many others that will keep our people safe and secure.” 

 

Highlights of the 2010 proposed budget include: 

 

  • Millions in savings in federal aid from Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP)
  • Transfer of non-mandated programs to local providers
  • Reduction of staff positions countywide (transfer of non-mandated programs & vacancy factors)
  • $13.6 million dollar Capital program for road  and other critical infrastructure projects
  • No raises for Commissioners or Deputy Commissioners
  • Full restoration on proposed countywide furloughs for all employees

Per our Charter mandate, the Board held numerous hearings on the FY10 budget that included over a hundred hours of testimony.  The Board heard from county agencies and well over 150 members of the public during weeks of regional public hearings.  This year’s budget details many of the concerns expressed by agency commissioners, Legislators and average Westchester residents during the FY10 preliminary budget hearings.   “This agreement will balance the operating budget during one of the most tumultuous economic times in recent memory,” said the Board’s Committee on Budget and Appropriations Chairman Jose Alvarado (D-Yonkers).  “This has not been an easy budget to craft, but tonight, I’m gratified that we are able to balance a budget that will protect core county services, and keep residents safe and healthy”.  

 

This budget was accomplished despite a 4% increase of in contractual raises for union employees; millions in additional state and federally mandated social services; and other mandated costs. If these costs were not addressed, it could have resulted in a 4.9% property tax increase.  “This budget takes into consideration the current economic climate, both locally and nationally,” said Chairman Alvarado. “Overall, this budget shows, once again, that this Board can come together for the benefit of all Westchester residents.” 

 

“I want to congratulate Chairmen Ryan and Alvarado, my fellow Legislators and Board staff members for their extraordinary work in negotiating this budget under the tough fiscal circumstances we face currently, as well as uncertainty that exists in Albany at this time,” said Majority Leader Martin Rogowsky (D-Port Chester). “In these most difficult economic times, we are able to protect the most vulnerable residents in restoring budget cuts to the safety net, while remaining fiscally responsible. There were tough choices to be made; however, we have successfully negotiated a budget that will protect working class Westchester residents.” 
Click here to view 2010 Adopted Budget

 

FINAL VOTE TALLY: 

YES (in favor of approval)

 

 

NO (not in favor of approval)

 

 

Rogowsky, Martin (D)

 

 

 Harckham, Peter (D)

 

 

Oros, George (R)

 

 

 Nonna, John (D)

 

 

Ryan, William (D)

 

 

 Kaplowitz, Michael (D)

 

 

Bronz, Lois (D)

 

 

Myers, Judith (D)

 

 

Abinanti, Thomas (D)

 

 

Burton, William (D)

 

 

Williams, Lyndon (D)

 

 

Maisano, James (R)

 

 

Spreckman, Bernice (R)

 

 

Burrows, Gordon (R)

 

 

Jenkins, Kenneth (D)

 

 

Pinto, Vito (D)

 

 

Alvarado, Jose (D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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,