WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said the county is going in the right direction with its tax policy and pledged not to raise the tax levy next year in his State of the County address Tuesday night in White Plains.
Astorino reminded the public that his priorities remain with the “three Ps:” protecting taxpayers, preserving essential services and promoting economic growth.
“For our social contract to survive, we need to strike the right balance between what the government takes and what the people can afford to give,” he said. “My administration works every day on trying to get that balance right. Taxpayers are not faceless, bottomless ATM machines.”
Astorino touted efforts to maintain critical social services. But legislator Lyndon Williams criticized Astorino for proposing a budget and ultimately signing into law another version of the budget that laid off workers. The Democrat’s version of the budget would have restored the jobs.
In his speech, the county executive said his administration will continue to court new businesses and maintain those that are already here through programs such as the Westchester Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and the new Local Development Corp (LDC). The IDA, Astorino said, has led to more than $500 million of additional capital investment in the county, the retention of 4,800 existing jobs and the creation of 4,600 new jobs through financial incentives.
“Instead of offering a clear plan of action to grow our economy, attract jobs and cut waste through shared services, the county executive presented an empty string of platitudes and distortions,” said Noam Bramson, who is running for county executive as a Democrat .
Like Bramson, legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains), another candidate for the Democratic nomination in the county executive race , took issue with borrowing money to balance the budget, as Astorino and Republicans did in the 2013 county budget .
“Long-term borrowing and going into debt to pay for current operating costs has gotten many counties into deep financial trouble,” Ryan said in a video response by Democratic legislators. “It’s a red flag for the rating agencies. It causes them to downgrade credit ratings, which results in increased cost for taxpayers. This year’s county budget contains $48 million in such ill-advised borrowing.”
Democrats proposed using $11 million of the county’s reserve funds to pay for tax challenges this year, whereas Astorino’s budget proposal called for bonding $13 million to pay for them.
Addressing the 2009 Fair and Affordable Housing settlement, Astorino said the county is one year ahead of its benchmarks and that people should be proud of that record. Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) had a different perspective in his video response .
The third Democratic candidate for county executive , Jenkins said Astorino has failed to comply with the aspects of the settlement. As a result, Jenkins said he is jeopardizing the $7.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has said it will reallocate the funds if the county"Th doesn't comply with the settlement by Thursday.
The Democrats will hold a convention Wednesday night at 6:45 at the Westchester County Center.
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