WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators pledged to conduct a “vigorous review” of County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposed $1.76 billion budget for 2015, which was released Monday, Nov. 10.
Board Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, a Democrat from Ossining, said, “We’ll listen to what county residents have to say and make appropriate decisions regarding smart spending and cost-cutting to help save taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars."
Astorino's proposal keeps the county tax levy from rising for a fifth straight year by offsetting a 1 percent spending increase with cuts in county police overtime and early retirement incentives for up to 200 seasoned correction officers. Each retiree is expected to save county taxpayers $63,000.
Westchester’s residents are still struggling with high property taxes, requiring a balanced approach to spending and maintaining an effective safety net of social services for residents, said the legislature's Democratic majority whip, Lyndon Williams of Mount Vernon.
“We must protect safety net services to ensure the budget does not disproportionately harm our most vulnerable residents,” Williams said.
Astorino proposes to increase direct aid to the county's neediest residents by $3 million next year for a total of $438 million.
In other budget highlights:
- The county will increase its spending by $500,000 at Westchester Community College, keeping tuition flat for a second straight year.
- New bus service will be added to the Ridge Hill section of White Plains and to Empire City Casino as well as Sunday routes in Yonkers.
- The Department of Health's budget was increased by $50,000 for Ebola-related costs, including a contract with Empress ambulance to transport any patients with the disease.
- Arts Westchester, Hudson River Museum, Invest in Kids, Legal Services of Hudson Valley and various other community-based organizations will see their county subsidies increase by 3 percent if the budget is adopted, which pleased Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat from Somers.
- One consolidation, moving the group that licenses plumbers and electricians from the County Clerk’s Office to Consumer Protection, is projected to cut personnel costs by about $150,000 the first year and $225,000 in the second and eliminate one county job.
Astorino said he would not dip into the county's $142 million "rainy-day fund'' to balance the budget, a position supported by Kaplowitz.
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