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Dear Colleagues,

When I took office in January, I promised you we would move Westchester County forward.  Today, I am pleased to present my proposed budget for the County’s 2019 fiscal year – a solid step toward moving our County forward.  In the spirit of transparency, a hallmark of my administration, I am pulling out a chair and asking you to join me at the table as I unveil my proposed budget for the County’s 2019 fiscal year. 

This budget was created with our core beliefs at the forefront:

  • Westchester County property taxes kept at or below the New York State tax cap;

  • Basic Westchester County services and facilities maintained for all County residents;

  • Establish a multi-year game plan to ensure long term financial solvency for the County; and 

  • Open and transparent communication with all. 

In this plan we budgeted to keep all essential services for County residents, to pay all County employees the 2019 State minimum wage of $12 per hour, increase support for our daycare and not for profit service providers and implement the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old.  We did this all, and more, while remaining within the State property tax cap and utilizing none of the County’s unrestricted general fund balance.

Click here to watch a video about the 2019 Proposed Budget.

When we closed the books on 2017, we discovered that we inherited a $32 million general fund operating deficit.  For 2018, we are now projecting a general fund shortfall of $39 million.  This is primarily due to the fact that the 2018 budget contained zero funding for the current and retroactive costs of new collective bargaining agreements for the CSEA and the Correction Officer Unions.  This projected reduction of $71 million represents a roughly 50% reduction in the County’s rainy day fund. Continued reliance on these funds is not sustainable as noted by each of the three major rating agencies and the Office of the State Comptroller. This budget is a fiscally responsible budget totaling $1.94 billion for general fund operations.  For the first time in recent memory, this budget contains funding for the true cost of running County Government.  Our projected revenues will offset implementation costs for raise the age of $40 million, labor contract costs of $30 million and other fixed cost increases of $28 million which drive an overall net expenditure increase of $98 million. 

We have made great strides these past 10 months.  Together we have: banned gun shows from County property, promoted disabled veteran owned businesses, secured earned sick leave for Westchester workers,  signed the Immigrant Protection Act into law,  banned salary history inquiries,  reinvigorated the Human Rights Commission, reestablished the CDBG Program, banned conversion therapy, finalized unresolved union contracts and saved the historic Miller House.   These notable strides embody the values and the spirit of our County – and so does this budget I present to you.

This budget strikes a balance between providing the services all of the residents of Westchester expect and deserve, while keeping property taxes at a level they can afford.  The modest 2% increase to the County property tax levy is well under the State property tax cap, well below what other jurisdictions have proposed and acknowledges the hardship the Federal Government has imposed on the people of Westchester through the loss of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction in the American Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

Even with this modest enhanced revenue driver, we still find ourselves roughly $60M in the hole. Some of this gap will be made up through government efficiencies such as:

  • Utilizing a Hiring Freeze

  • Renegotiated Contracts

  • $4 million Annual Savings on the Liberty Lines Contract

  • New Request for Proposal (RFP) for Corrections Healthcare

  • Improved Risk Assessment

  • Shared Services Implementation

  • Collective Bargaining Stability

  • CSEA Healthcare Contribution

  • County Space Assessment/Consolidation

  • Streamlining Capital Program Implementation

However, this pragmatic approach also means utilizing non-reoccurring revenues, often called “one shot deals.”  These aren’t ideal, and I would rather have avoided them, but we need to avoid a huge tax hike on our hard-working County taxpayers.

Looking to the future, we will soon begin an aggressive lobbying effort with New York State to fight for parity in state revenue for Westchester in line with other large suburban counties, so we don’t have to fight this uphill battle every year.  Together, we will put Westchester back on the path of responsible budgeting, necessary services and the confidence in how County government is supposed to work. But first, we must dig our way out of this hole.

It took a decade for the County to get to the diminished financial position we find ourselves in today.  It will take some time to correct this imbalance, and it will require the help of our State partners in securing additional sources of recurring revenue for the County. 

I look forward to working with all of the members of the Board of Legislators to deliver a responsible 2019 Budget for the people of Westchester County.  Let us now focus on the future, on moving forward – together.