Legislator Testa Honors Cortlandt Manors James Taylor

Noted Historian and Educator to be Recognized at Ceremonies Marking Black History Month

2/3/2010 10:52:23 AM

 

 

John Testa with honoree James TaylorWhite Plains, NY – February 1, 2010 - County Legislator John G. Testa has submitted the name of James Taylor to be honored at Black History Month ceremonies to be held prior to the Board Meeting of the legislators on the evening of February 1 at the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains.

 

“Mr. Taylor has contributed in so many ways to the vitality of our community,” said Testa.

 

“I have known Jim for over 20 years as a colleague in the Peekskill School District. His continued dedication and commitment to our community’s youth through hands on education deserves the highest recognition. I am very proud to put the name of  James Taylor forward for recognition this evening.”

 

Prior to retirement in 2003, Mr. Taylor served as elementary school principal with the Peekskill City School District. He is a retired Captain with the New York Guard having served as company commander and search and rescue specialist with the 56th Brigade stationed at the Peekskill Armory.

 

Presently Mr. Taylor is a part time interpreter with Historic Hudson Valley, portraying an enslaved cooper at Phillipsburgh Manor in Sleepy Hollow. There he tells the story of enslaved Africans who worked and lived at the site in 1750.

 

He is a member of the African American Advisory Board for Historic Hudson Valley.
Mr. Taylor also performs his ‘Bucket Full of History” program at area schools and historic events telling the story of slavery in the Colonial Hudson Valley.

 

In the summer of 2009 Mr. Taylor supervised a boat building program for high school students sponsored by the City of Peekskill Youth Bureau, called Peekskill Boatworks. The participants built a fourteen-foot Wright Skiff, a wooden rowboat typical of the workboats that were used for centuries by fishermen and rivermen on the Hudson River.

 

Mr. Taylor and his wife Judith Moshier are the parents of two grown daughters and live in Cortlandt Manor, NY.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westchester County Board Chairman Jenkins Outlines Plan For Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/3/2010 6:02:38 PM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) – Today, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) outlined his plan of forming a special committee of the Board to analyze and make recommendations on the fairest and most cost-effective way for the County to provide quality and affordable health care access to its employees at reduced costs.  “The Legislature fully supports the concept of employee contributions,” said Board Chairman Jenkins. “However, in the search to pass off much-needed tax relief to residents, the County Board must act responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue.”

 

This Special Committee on County Health Insurance Contributions is charged with reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic way that the County can provide taxpayers long term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage.  The Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont) have been tapped to co-chair this special committee. Williams, a former member of the Mount Vernon City Council, is a Certified Public Accountant and corporate lawyer.  Myers, the former chair of the Board’s Family, Health and Human Services Committee, which tackled critical issues — from childcare to AIDS to saving the Westchester Medical Center – and, currently serves as the Board’s representative on the County Board of Health.  “With Vice-Chairman Williams’ legal expertise and his background in corporate finance, along with Legislator Myers’ activism and advocacy on greater regional planning, inter-municipal cooperation and fiscal discipline, I’m confident that this committee will create a recommendation that is fair and responsible,” said Jenkins.  “It is important during these difficult economic times that we consider all viable options, including employee contribution, putting out a request for proposal for additional & less expensive health plans, pre-tax savings accounts, contribution tiers, and incentives for workers to opt out.”  The Special Committee will be temporary, with its termination happening by March 31, 2010 with a report of recommendations to the Committee on Budget & Appropriations.  A full vote by the Board of Legislators is expected to be taken no later than June 15, 2010.  There will be no additional compensation for legislators serving on this committee.

 

The County Executive presented the Board with a plan to have non-union managers, commissioners and directors make a 15% contribution towards their health care coverage.  This plan, which would only affect 386 out of over 5,000 Westchester County employees and provide a meager savings of roughly $560,000 for 2010; however, upon thorough review, was found to be over-reaching into county agencies that were not under the County Executive purview and are currently exempt by law, such as Westchester Community College, the County Clerk, the Board of Elections, the Judiciary and Legislatives branches of county government.

 

An alternative bill was drafted by Board leadership, requiring health insurance contributions for the county’s non-union/non-represented management employees only under the County Executive’s jurisdiction, was due for a vote at Monday’s Board of Legislators meeting, but was recommitted to the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee for additional review.  “Taxpayers need real tax relief and fiscal leadership, not politics as usual with officials playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said Jenkins.  “The goal of this committee will be to have a proposal in front of the Board for a full vote by June.  Our target is to achieve $15-20 million dollars in savings, which will result in real savings to taxpayers -- a sizeable reduction of 3-4% of the tax levy.”

 

An alternate bill calling for sliding scale contribution for all public employees – drafted by Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) – was being reviewed by the Board’s Committee on Government Operations, Efficiency and Savings,of which Kaplowitz chairs.  This week, Legislator Kaplowitz referred both his bill and the County Executive’s proposal into the Budget & Appropriations Committee ‘in the interest of consistency and efficiency.’  This special committee of the Board will take into consideration both items, as well as any others that Legislators would suggest. Myers and Williams, along with committee members Legislators John Testa (R-Peekskill), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will meet with health insurance professionals and key industry experts to assess and develop a plan that would work best for Westchester County.  “Taxpayers need legitimate long-term savings. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislator Ryan Moves Forward with "Westchester Renewed"

Citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission at Center of Initiative to Improve County Government

2/4/2010 10:24:09 AM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) ~ In an action that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future, Westchester County Legislator Bill Ryan (D-WF, White Plains) today moved forward with Westchester Renewed, a far-reaching initiative centered on a citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

“The Westchester County Charter has not undergone a complete and systematic review since it was approved by the voters in a countywide referendum in 1937.  That was over 70 years ago,” stated Legislator Ryan.  “It’s time to take a thorough look at how Westchester County government is working and how it can be improved.”

 

“What steps should we take to right-size our government?  How can we streamline its operation? How can we make it more efficient and less expensive?  How should we revise our Charter so that it reflects today’s realities and provides the flexibility we need to ensure a county / local partnership that benefits all of our residents and taxpayers,” continued the Board’s former Chairman.  “These important questions need to be answered.”

 

Legislator Ryan has long maintained that “government needs to work smarter, become more efficient and less expensive.”  He sees this as the major challenge facing government at every level – federal, state, county and local – and in every form – general purpose units, school districts, authorities and special districts.  “Westchester County government should accept this challenge, lead by example, and be a model for others to follow,” said Ryan.

 

In introducing this Act, Legislator Ryan noted that beyond realizing greater economy and efficiency in our own County government operation, the Charter review process could help identify State laws and regulations that need to change if the County is to have greater flexibility and be in a better position to help localities streamline and reduce costs.  That would be through consolidating / centralizing some of their locally-run programs and functions and shifting service delivery responsibility and operations to the County.   

 

“If the Westchester County community, with all of its many taxing jurisdictions, is going to be in the national headlines each year, let it not be for having the highest combined property tax bill in America, but let it be for real progress and innovation in service delivery and cost containment,” urged Ryan.

 

Legislator Ryan also noted that the work of the citizen-run Charter Revision Commission would be an ideal way for people to become knowledgeable about the operations and responsibilities of county government and involved in the decision-making process resulting in meaningful recommendations to the Board of Legislators.  The County Charter is the people’s document and the people should be the ones to recommend changes that reflect how they want to be governed.

 

Process

 

With the new legislative session underway, Legislator Ryan has placed “Westchester Renewed” before the Board of Legislators for consideration.  Today, he has filed with the Clerk an Act which, if approved by the Board would authorize creation of a Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

Back in mid-December, he introduced “Westchester Renewed,” as an initiative that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future.  At its center is a citizen-run County Charter Revision Commission.  The Board did have a brief opportunity to discuss this proposal in committee prior to the conclusion of the 2008-2009 legislative session.

 

In reintroducing this item, Legislator Ryan has asked the Board to refer it to the Committee on Legislation – for any needed modifications and changes to the Act establishing the Commission and specifying membership, duties and responsibilities – and to the Budget and Appropriations Committee – for determining the resources to be provided to the Commission to carry out its assigned duties.  Other than resources, the Commission is to operate independent of county government.

 

Legislator Ryan is asking for thorough consideration of this proposal and a prompt report to the full Board for a vote.

 

The Commission

 

Westchester’s Charter Revision Commission would be made up of members representing a cross-section of the county, reflecting the resident taxpayer, business, non-profit, labor and government sectors of the Westchester community. It would examine structural innovations for and alternatives to the current form and structure of County government.  On or before March 1, 2011, a report of findings, conclusions and recommendations would be submitted to the Board of Legislators for implementation or, depending on what’s proposed, brought before the  voters in a referendum. 

 

The Charter Revision Commission would be composed of 31 members to be appointed as follows:

 

  • Each of the seventeen County Legislators would individually appoint one (1) member to the Commission 
  • The Chairman of the County Board of Legislators would also appoint one (1) additional member to serve as the Chairperson of the Commission
  • The County Executive would appoint two (2) members to the Commission
  • The County Clerk, District Attorney, Chief Administrative Judge of the 9th Judicial District would each appoint one (1) member to the Commission
  • By a majority vote of the County Board of Legislators, one (1) member shall be appointed from each of the following seven organizations: the Westchester County League of Women Voters, the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body, the Civil Service Employees Association, the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, the Westchester County Municipal Officials Association, the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association, and one (1) member from a non-profit agency providing services in Westchester County.

Some types of issues that could be considered include:

 

  • Consolidating/merging/eliminating various county departments and functions
  • Centralizing various services now handled by municipalities; consolidation of locally-run programs and functions; shifting service delivery responsibility to the county
  • Turning over certain discretionary county services to local municipalities and/or community based organizations
  • What’s best for Westchester: A publicly elected County Executive or an appointed administrator?
  • The role and structure of the Board of Legislators; changing the form and size of the legislative body
  • The need for and composition of a Board of Acquisition and Contract
  • Establishing an Office of County Comptroller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Board Health Care Savings Committee Begins Review of Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/8/2010 4:58:18 PM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) – The Westchester County Board of Legislators Special Committee on Health Insurance Savings held their first official meeting this past Saturday to begin reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic policy that the County can provide taxpayers long-term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage. Chaired by the Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), the committee reviewed its action plan, timelines and future meeting dates. “We had a very productive meeting setting out our work plan to accomplish the research, stakeholder input, professional insurance input, and financial input to be able to make recommendations to the Budget & Appropriations Committee by the end of March,” said Legislator Myers. Myers and Williams, along with committee members Legislators John Testa (R-Peekskill), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will meet with health insurance professionals and key industry experts to assess and develop a system that would work best for Westchester County. The work of the Committee has been divided into different phases:

 

The first phase will request information from stakeholders and conduct interviews from the following agencies:

 

  • Human Resources
  • POMCO
  • District Attorney’s Office
  • Members of the County’s Judiciary
  • Union Officials

The second phase will analyze data on revising health plans and costs savings:

 

  • Distribute criteria for change plans
  • Solicit input from health insurance providers on price, coverage, plan design
  • Evaluate best options in terms of cost savings and benefits choices
  • Solicit public and employee information

The third phase will be the final recommendations presented to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. The special committee will hold meetings on over the next month and will provide final cost-savings recommendations in March 2010. “In recent years, health care costs have been rising unsustainably,” said Board Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The committee has committed itself to finding savings by identifying opportunities including employee contribution, putting out a request for proposal for additional & less expensive health plans, pre-tax savings accounts, contribution tiers, and incentives for workers to opt out.”

 

Over the last few days, however, the co-chairs began their due diligence and made official inquiries to the Administration asking for key documents pertaining to the current POMCO health insurance plan. In a letter sent to the county’s Finance Commissioner Anne Marie Berg, the committee requested information such as descriptions, summary of benefits, demographic statistics on current enrollee’s in the program and the administrator’s service agreement. As of today, the Committee has not received the requested information. A letter was received from the County Executive’s office saying that they were initiating a ‘full scale review of the health insurance plan’ and would forward information ‘upon completion of such review”.

 

“Taxpayers need real long-term savings,” said Chairman Jenkins. “The County Board is going to act timely and responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats should stop saying no to 15% contribution plan

2/16/2010 4:16:39 PM

 

 

The following ran in The Journal News – Community View on February 13, 2010.

 

Submitted by County Legislators Jim Maisano, Gordon Burrows, Bernice Spreckman & John Testa

 

The Republican members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators applaud the recent columns by the Editorial Board and Phil Reisman calling for immediate passage of County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposal for 400 nonunion county employees to start contributing 15 percent to the cost of their health-care benefits. We also appreciate that the board’s Democratic leadership was challenged for their delays and roadblocks on this important legislation.

 

We wish to emphasize that the Republican county legislators endorsed this proposal two weeks ago. We are ready to vote for this legislation immediately and are troubled by the board’s blatant delaying tactics.

 

Recent elections demonstrate that voters want real change from our elected leaders, and they want it quickly. This was the clear message when voters selected a new county executive last November. This message is coming from Democrats, Republicans and independents. People understand we are still confronting an economic crisis. Many of our constituents are struggling with unemployment and high taxes. They are looking for decisive action to address their concerns.

 

We had hoped the new county executive and new board leadership would finally spark legislative action to reform the Westchester County government. Yet, remarkably, in our first opportunity to come together in a bipartisan way by passing the 15 percent employee health-benefit contribution, saving more than $1 million per year in the county budget, our board has done nothing but create obstacles to its passage.

 

We are deeply concerned about our county’s financial situation. We face a possible $60 million shortfall in the 2011 county budget, which our board will review in only nine months. Immediate action must be taken to reduce spending and everything must be on the table. These cuts may be difficult, but we have no other choice. We can either cut spending or raise taxes. The priority for the Republican county legislators is to make aggressive spending cuts immediately to avoid a property tax increase in 2011.

 

We strongly support the proposal to have county employees contribute 15 percent of their health-care benefits. In most county governments and many municipalities across New York state, employees do contribute to the cost of their health care. In the private sector, it is a long established standard procedure. Only two weeks ago, Dutchess County voted to require employee contributions. In the City of White Plains, employees hired after April 1 will contribute, and in the City of New Rochelle, employees contribute 18 percent of their health-care benefits and have done so since the 1980s.

 

If this sounds like an important issue, it is — and it is too important to be a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. This reform will save $1 million and sends a message that business as usual is over. In the past 10 years, health-care plan costs for county employees have skyrocketed from $67 million to almost $150 million per year. The cost of a family plan is more than $22,000 and for a single plan nearly $8,000.

 

The impact of these costs on Westchester’s budget is devastating, and we cannot keep raising property taxes to balance the budget. Property taxes are already too high. The proposed legislation will save money, while making a bold statement that we are committed to reducing the cost of the county government.

 

Unfortunately, the county executive’s proposal has hit one snag after another. First it was watered down when the Democratic leadership offered an alternative plan that covered relatively few employees. Then the proposed legislation was sidetracked to a newly created committee. In government, the quickest way to take the steam out of any proposal is to bury it in a "committee" — or in this case, three committees.

 

These delaying tactics are nothing more than different ways of saying no: no to a newly elected county executive, no to an eminently fair and fiscally responsible plan, and no to the taxpayers of Westchester. Frankly, if the Democratic legislators cannot even support this $1 million cut to the budget, how will they ever make the more difficult cuts to deal with the upcoming $60 million shortfall?

 

Elected officials everywhere need to start listening to their constituents. We must reform government, find new ways to provide services more efficiently and cost-effectively, and reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending.

 

Let’s show we heard this message, stop the delay and come together for a unanimous vote on this proposal. We are ready to vote for the 15 percent medical benefit contribution immediately. Who is with us?