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Astorino Proposes 2014 Westchester Budget With No Tax Increases

County Executive Rob Astorino is touting his proposed 2014 budget for having no new tax increases.
County Executive Rob Astorino is touting his proposed 2014 budget for having no new tax increases. Photo Credit: File

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- County Executive Rob Astorino today released a proposed Westchester County budget for 2014 without any increase in the county tax levy.

It is the fourth year in a row Astorino's proposal does not include a raise in taxes.

The proposed budget of almost $1.74 billion represents an increase in spending of less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Headcount is also up less than 1 percent, a net increase of 6 positions in the operating budget from the previous year.

The fund balance is also being held flat as Astorino continues his practice of not using this commonly called “rainy day fund,” which sets aside money for emergencies, to pay for day-to-day operations.

The parent share for subsidized day care is also being held flat at 27 percent, which still remains well below the level of 33 percent paid by families in New York City.

“Our departments continue to manage every dollar as if it were their own,” Astorino said in a statement.

Astorino’s proposed budget now goes to the county Board of Legislators, which has until Dec. 27 to adopt a final spending plan.

On the revenue side, the budget benefits from growth in the sales tax. The sales tax is projected to generate $398 million for the county’s coffers. This is up from the $382 million expected in 2013, or four percent.

The budget proposal also benefits from employee contributions to health care that Astorino put into effect for nonunion management and has negotiated with seven of the county’s eight employee unions. For 2014, the county’s health care bill for active employees is projected to be $95 million, but the cost will be reduced by $4 million in employee contributions.

The property tax levy remains at $548.4 million. This is the actual amount that the county collects in property taxes. While the levy remains constant, the effect on property owners can vary from community to community based on different assessment practices. Property taxes represent 32 percent of the county’s total revenues.

State and federal aid is projected to increase $13 million from 2013.

Mortgage tax is projected at $19.8 million, an increase from the $14.1 million budgeted in 2013 and the $17.2 million now projected for the current year.

Pension costs continue to rise for county employees. Astorino is proposing that the county once again take advantage of a state law that allows the county to amortize some of its pension costs. For 2014, the maximum amount would be $28 million, but this number can be adjusted downward depending on economic trends of the year. The total pension bill for 2014 is $96 million.

The cost of Medicaid, the federal and state mandated program that provides medical care for the poor, will be about $223 million, similar to 2013. The net cost to taxpayers will be $214 million due to added federal reimbursement. The state government will reimburse the county for all costs of administering the program, instead of taking over the administration.

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