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Astorino's 'Flat Tax' Budget Includes Loss Of OT Pay For County Cops

County Executive Rob Astorino unveiled a $1.76 billion budget Monday that keeps taxes flat.
County Executive Rob Astorino unveiled a $1.76 billion budget Monday that keeps taxes flat. Photo Credit: File photo

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- For a fifth straight year, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is proposing a budget that will not increase the property tax levy.

But the $1.76 billion spending plan does have some downsides, including the loss of overtime pay for Westchester County Police.

In his budget proposal released on Monday, Astorino seeks to cut about $1 million in overtime pay to the county Department of Public Safety by reassigning staff.

Another $5 million in taxpayer savings comes with the agreement by seven of the county’s eight unions to start paying that much toward their health care. The Civil Service Employees Association was the only union declining to pay some of next year's health coverage.

Early retirement has been offered to about 200 county corrections officers, which saves an estimated savings $62,000 for each officer with 20 years service.

A total of 20 jobs left vacant in last year's budget will be eliminated altogether.

The county's share of the average Westchester property owners annual tax bill is about 15 percent. About 65 percent goes to schools and 20 percent to towns, villages and special local tax districts.

At a Monday news conference, Astorino was asked why the county doesn't "raid'' its "rainy day" reserves, which total $142 million or about 8 percent of the budget. The county's credit rating could be harmed by such a tact, Astorino said. The AAA rating by Fitch and Standard & Poor keeps the cost of borrowing for capital projects and emergencies like Superstorm Sandy down, he said.

"We continue to be the highest rated county in the state and we want to keep that,'' said Ned McCormack, a spokesman for Astorino.

Total spending will increase by $21 million, or 1 percent more than this year. The countywide tax levy will remain at $548 million under the proposal. It was $561 million (or 2 percent higher) in 2011.

Astorino said changes to subsidized day care are producing benefits. Next year, the program will have the capacity to serve 3,283 children, an increase of 15 percent since 2013.

The largest state-mandated budget costs include Medicaid, at a total of $212 million, and pensions, projected to cost $91 million.

The Business Council of Westchester expressed its support for the budget as proposed Monday.

John Ravitz, executive vice president of The Business Council, said, “This budget sends an important message to business leaders that Westchester is on the right track and that the county is a good place to do business.”

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