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UPDATE: Legislators Restore Programs, Jobs In 2013 Budget

The Rockland County Legislature voted, 10-7, to adopt the 2013 budget.

The Rockland County Legislature voted 10-7 in favor of an amended 2013 budget Tuesday night, which restores jobs and programs cut in the proposed budget and also includes an 18 percent property tax increase.

Prior to voting on the budget, the legislature voted 14-3 in favor overriding the state's tax levy limit so they could raise the property taxes. Legislators Frank Sparaco, Joseph Meyers and Doug Jobson voted against the override. Sparaco and Meyers were also two of the seven who voted against the amended budget, along with Legislators Chris Carey, Aron Wieder, Ed Day, Nancy Low-Hogan and Patrick Moroney.

Leading up to the vote, some had criticized the legislature for possibly raising property taxes after raising them about 30 percent last year. During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, a few Rockland residents spoke out again increased taxes.

“In reality, nobody likes raising taxes. You think we like raising taxes? Do I have an emotional pleasure, a financial benefit from raising taxes? Of course not,” said Legislator Alden Wolfe. “Nobody likes to be in the position that we’re in right now. But, we’re obligated to pass a budget that’s as balanced as can be and I can say with a straight face that I believe that the budget that’s proposed tonight, with these changes, is the most balanced budget I’ve ever been asked to vote on.”

In the revised budget adopted Tuesday night, there were a number of items that differed from the budget proposed by the county executive. The altered budget came from the Budget & Finance Committee. Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, chair of the committee, said the legislators worked on cuts with Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco, who consented to reductions to jail overtime, Sheriff’s Patrol overtime and jail relief. Schoenberger said the legislators also reduced the sales tax reserve and county legislative contingency budget.

“I’m very, very happy,” Falco said Tuesday night after the budget passed. “Public safety has been reinstated. Law enforcement is an essential service.”

The cuts totaled $7,585,838, and the legislators used that for about $6,169,000 in restorations for things like the mosquito control program, four mounted patrol positions and five positions in the Sheriff’s Patrol. The restorations included in the revised budget also include the security department in General Services, which is 16.5 positions filled by 19 people, food services for the jail, which is 10 positions, and laundry at the health complex, which is 13 positions. Additionally, the legislators made an adjustment of $486,000 called the COBRA Adjustment, which removed that figure from revenue in the 2013 budget because the legislators have to take that money and pay it to Empire, so it’s not a real revenue, according to Schoenberger.

He added a big factor that he wanted to restore the jobs cut in the proposed budget was the CSEA contract the county signed earlier this year, which included a cause that for the duration of the contract, which runs through 2013, stating that no county employees could be laid off for budgetary reasons.

“We must keep our word. We are government,” Schoenberger said. “When we give our word, we must keep it.”

Not everything was restored, however. The legislators opted not to restore funding to the county pharmacy and pre-natal clinic, which is being transitioned to Nyack Hospital.

That left the legislators with $1,416,665, which they voted to put in an account not to be touched unless it’s absolutely needed. Schoenberger said that while that money could’ve gone to reducing the property tax increase, a letter from Moody’s sent to the county earlier this year led them to set the money aside for any potential emergencies.

Schoenberger said in the letter, Moody’s officials wrote that the bond rating for the county could go up with the implementation of realistic revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions to close the significant gap. The same letter said the bond rating could go down with failure to implement realistic revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions to offset the budget gap.

“We have to show the rating agencies of our willingness to increase revenue enhancements in a place where it’s absolutely reliable and absolutely certain that that money will come in, and the most certain form of revenue for the county, unfortunately, is property tax,” he said.

Still, the legislators had some conflicting thoughts on the property tax increase.

“Property taxes have gone up around 85 percent in the last four years, the county portion of your property taxes, 85 percent,” Sparaco said. “If the 18 percent passes tonight, you’re looking at over 100 percent property tax increase over five years, along with the energy tax, the hotel tax, the cell phone tax and the other taxes that I can’t even think of right now.”

Sparaco added that he felt it was an insult to have the proposed budget include the 18 percent increase from the start.

“They just threw us their option, which was an 18 percent property tax hike,” he said. “As it’s new to many of us, it’s new to me. I didn’t even think they could do that. I thought they had to present the budget within two percent and we could override it and change that budget.”

However, Legislator John Murphy said the tax cap hurts counties like Rockland, where officials have worked to keep property taxes down over the last few decades.

“The two percent cap is reasonable for counties that had an enormous property tax base,” he said.

“By us holding our property tax rate to the second lowest in the state, two percent of the second lowest doesn’t generate revenue.”

He added that unfunded state mandates are forcing the county to raise more money, and they can’t raise all they need through higher sales taxes.

Ricardo McKay, legislative counsel, said that no matter how legislators voted on the tax levy override, the property tax would increase by 18 percent next year. He said that since the legislators couldn’t find the roughly $13 million to offset the increase, even if the override didn’t pass, it was budgeted for. So in that case, the money would come in and go to the state comptroller for 2014 tax reduction.

“If you vote this down, you are not reducing the tax for 2013. The real property tax will be 18 percent no matter how you vote,” McCay said. “Why? The budget that we received from the county executive had 18 percent property tax built in. Therefore, if his budget under the process we’re going through tonight gets to be the one that’s adopted, it will have the 18 percent cap whether you override the two percent or not. If the budget we put in as a modified budget is adopted, it has an 18 percent tax, so the 18 percent tax has to go through no matter what you do on this vote.”

Sparaco took exception to that explanation and said there was still time for additional proposals and amendments to the budget that could get the county under the tax levy. The only amendment that was proposed came from Day, who proposed a series of additional cuts with intent on lowering taxes.

A few legislators thought the amendment came in too late, as the first time they saw it was at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the night they were voting on the budget. They said there wasn’t enough time to really look into the amendment and the affects it would have on the county.

Without factoring that in, McKay said the amendment wasn’t submitted in the appropriate format and there wasn’t any way to write that into the budget given when it was submitted, so the amendment was withdrawn without being voted on.

The budget will now go back to the county executive, who will have five business days from when he is first given the budget to decide on whether or not to veto it. If he vetoes the budget, it goes back to the legislators, who have until Dec. 20 to vote on a possible override of the veto. If the county executive vetoes the budget, the legislators would vote on the override at their Dec. 18 meeting. They can only override the veto if at least 12 legislators vote in favor of it.

Editor's Note: The amended 2013 budget passed by the legislature includes two months of funding for the county pharmacy.  The same provision was included in the original budget proposed by the county executive. The legislators will have to determine what the future of the pharmacy is prior to Feb. 28, 2013.

Watchdog December 05, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Schoenbergers District is New Square where more than 75% of the population is on Welfare, Food Stamps and receives Medicaid and massive payments for child care. If the goal of the Progressive Agenda is to increase wages and jobs, I would surmise that Schoenberger has his work cut out for him. If he has that kind of record in his own Legislative District, imagine what will happen if he is elected County Executive!!
Z December 05, 2012 at 12:38 PM
If we do this, if we do that, if we vote it down, it will still be 18% tax cap, blah, blah, blah, blah - it is a disgrace to us taxpayers who are senior citizens, who are taxpayers who haven't gotten raises in the past few years, who are young families who have just moved into the county. Take a look at how our taxes are going up up up while our wages are going down or staying the same the past few years - http://budget.rocklandgov.com/propertytax/index.php - 6% rise in town taxes, 30% rise in county taxes, I agree with Mary - get rid of the legislatures. There are too many as I see in the picture. What do they do anyway during the year but vote on the budget every year.
Watchdog December 05, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Vanderhoef can override but scuttlebutt has it that he will do whatever is necessary to guarantee his employment at some level in the public sector. perhaps even the County, if he resigns early, allowing theDemocratic controlled Legislature to appoint Schoenberger County Executive so he can run as an incumbent. If you ate what the ten legislators, including "RINO JOHN MURPHY" dished out last night, you will eat anything.
james johnson December 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
every legislator should be voted out.Schoenberger wants to run for county executive then how much more should wwe have to pay. Vote them all out and elect only one from each town.
Michael N. Hull December 05, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Bradley: IMHO the system is rigged either by bloc votes or patronage - see "Puppet on a String". http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/puppet-on-a-string I speak about Clarkstown - when there are 5 party lines, having widely different political views on how to govern and when you pull lever A, B, C, D, or E the result returns the same candidate, the system is rigged. http://www.preserveramapo.org/Community%20View/feiner_politics_in_rockland.htm One Clarkstown employee calls a meeting and the whole of the Clarkstown Board attends - the system is rigged. http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/08/09/house-of-horrors/ http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/08/30/house-of-horrors-story-spooks-town-board/ That is why I believe the Head of the Bronx GOP, Savino, and County Legislator, Sparaco, both have patronage jobs in Clarkstown. http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/patronage-alive-and-well-in-clarkstown http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/the-highway-departments-doo-wop-dance Read this from a newspaper that gave Gromack its endorsement. http://www.lohud.com/article/20120823/OPINION/308230035/Editorial-Clarkstown-puts-political-clout-before-all-else-hiring-Frank-Sparaco I can write about the rigging - you can pass my articles along and inform the public - someone needs to step up and say "I will run for office and change this" or the status quo will remain. People can join at http://www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com
Dan Dwyer December 05, 2012 at 01:31 PM
This is incredible....100% increase in taxes over 5 years. Where has the legislature been over the past 10 years...doesn't look like they were worried about a balanced budget until the rating got cut. And who signs a contract with the CSEA to not allow layoffs for budgetary reasons? Why else would you lay people off other than you don't have the money to pay for them? I agree with Harvey Abrams...if we vote for these "public servants" again, we deserve what we get.
Kevin Roy December 05, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Did Murphy really say this, "By us holding our property tax rate to the second lowest in the state, two percent of the second lowest doesn’t generate revenue.” Sounds like he's splinting hairs as I thought our overall taxes were the second highest in the state and top 10 or 5 in the country.
Jack Moolick December 05, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Let me see if I got this straight! "Sparaco took exception to that explanation and said there was still time for additional proposals and amendments to the budget that could get the county under the tax levy. The only amendment that was proposed came from Day, who proposed a series of additional cuts with intent on lowering taxes." Schoenberger and his fellow supporters of this huge tax increase said there was no time to consider this amendment, disingenuous at best. No time to consider the proposal of the only Legislator courageous enough to offer an Amendment to reduce taxes yet they rushed through reams of documents the very night before that contained their version of the budget? The news article should have pointed out that this is the first opportunity the budget being proposed by the Budget & Finance committee is seen by all the legislators. The first chance to submit any amendments cannot happen until the next meeting, which was also the very next day; last night's meeting. This opportunity was rejected by Schoenberger. The chances of A Vanderhoef veto are slim to none which is why we need a strong County Eecutive who will use his veto power to reject these outrageous budgets. My family is supporting Ed Day for County Executive, the last chance we have to bring some sanity to Rockland County government.
amazing..each and everyone of the rockland county puppets...have in effect by their actions have "wagged their tails" at our NY State Gov..Cuomo..if I was him I would be mad..they are all ignoring him like he doesnt exist!!!!way to go rockland county..interesting no wonder this county is sinking..look at what is in the name"rock land" who is the guy on the right side of the picture who looks like he is dozing off???and we are still waiting" for even one of those running for the head of rockland to make a stand for"ONE COUNTY SERVICE FOR EVERYTHING.." THEY ALL KNOW THE 5 STEP BACKWARD DANCE".to ask for donations they sure know how to email everyone..but to stand up and get this pin dot county off the road to chapter 9..they are all out to lunch..heres a thought..a requirement for being in any office for any town should be.."we have them stand in a parking lot..directing traffic...the"ONE WHO DOESNT HAVE THE CARS DRIVING IN CIRCLES GETS THE POSITION!!!!!!
frankie g December 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Last nite I asked the budget and finance comm. led by the honorable Mr.how can i screw you in even more ways. Have you no shame. Why won't any of you attack the real problem here, Do you have a clue, what that is ? ( silence ) It's You ! They are responsible for causing our county to be known as the Crown Jewel of Disgrace. Shoenberger's ephifany in creation of a deficit reduction act, to set up a budget line and account to pay off the debt with $10 mil deposited each year starting in 2014 ( really no rush now to do this now) with money they don't have is beyond brilliant. There are 5th graders who could have come up with this too ,at no cost. Who do you think is smarter here ? , They still intend to whine,cry and,continue their Temper Tantrums vs Carlucci to give them a bailout loan to cover all these past bad spending decisions and their penchant for continuing with the same determination to wipe out and bankrupt all the overtaxed taxpayers This all just begs for the return of " Tar and Feathers " punishment / Stockades to be built in front of the county legislator building to display these voting blocks, bought and paid for Career Politicians.
GWashington December 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
The only people who show up to the poll are people who receive salaries from the government. We are screwed.
Arthur Winoker December 05, 2012 at 02:38 PM
The White Paper article published in the Rockland Couty Times on 11/29/12 at its page 1B should be required reading for all and followed by our politicians many of whom seem reluctant to make the hard choices that are needed. Eventually we will need an audit advisory commision to monitor the county's finances and report back to the public on a periodic basis as it recommends as well as a County Deficit Reduction Force as proposed by Kenneth Zebrowski and cited in the White Paper if we ever want to climb out of this fiscal mess without resorting to more drastic measures.
Pat Godfrey December 05, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I was at the meeting and their attitude was like they were doing a great thing for the county. It was one legislature said to the other "excellent point, well said, I agree with you we must raise taxes". It was like they were expecting the medal of honor for raising our taxes. There were a lot of numbers thrown around but if they cut 13 million that would apparently balance the budget. Where they wouldn't have to raise taxes or it would be a balanced budget. this number is what several legislatures threw around. That is .05% of the overall budget, they weren't even willing to do that. If they truly cared and weren't corrupt they would be cutting taxes not raising them.
ok heres a quiz....whats the difference between those legislaters and the animals at pomona that are abandoned or up for adoption????the animals respect people more!!!!!!!
joe martino December 05, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Please, please, please - fire all of these SOB's. Vote this budget down or the people will vote you out. Gov't spending is insane!! We need mosquito control?! We need a mounted division?? We need a no cut clause in the CSEA contract??!! Cut the fat and the BS already!!
frankie g December 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Remember to never forget the infamous words spoken by another, screw you any which way we can , the "honorable" legislator, philip soskin ... who wisely figured out how to solve all of our problems,by stating " We Need The Money " and surmise he will join with the rest of his Syndicate of Career Politicians to drain of us of what little savings we may have left.
Jeanine Vecchiarelli December 05, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Sparaco: There's still time to consider amendments; Schoenberger: It's too late to consider amendments. Besides, we guaranteed employment for CSEA members and we MUST honor our commitment to them; McKay: It doesn't matter, since Vanderhoef built an 18% increase into the budget anyway. My head is about to explode... This is the fan dance our county executive and legislature do every single time. Unveil the budget in the 11th hour, allow no time for review or proposing amendments, and push it through amid claims it hurts them too. Give us a BREAK. Someone needs to tell John Murphy he is holding his fact sheet upside down. We are one of the HIGHEST taxed counties in the country - with the burden shared among the fewest residents! Furthermore, if the 18% increase was already built in to the county executive's budget, that is proof of his complicity. He MUST be replaced by a fiscal conservative. Schoenberger??? He appears to be at the crux of this shambles. Just look at his track record! And he has the gall to stand for ONLY the CSEA members, who "must" have his promise upheld on the backs of the REST OF US?? I have NEVER in my entire adult life seen, heard of or held a job that was guaranteed to always exist. This is MADNESS. The only contender I see who has the responsibility and the common sense smarts to do the right thing for us is Ed Day. I would love to have seen what he brought forth that was immediately squashed by Schoenberger.
Don December 05, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Ilan Schoenberger leads the Budget committee. His committee wouldn't give Legislator Ed Day (ultimately the county taxpayers) the courtesy of "extra time" to review an amendment. This amendment would have ultimately benefited all of us by reducing taxes. The committee rushed through reams of documents the very night before that contained their version of the budget. That was the first opportunity that the budget proposed by Schoenberger's committee was seen by all the legislators. The first chance to submit any amendments could not happen until the next meeting, which was also the VERY NEXT DAY, which as last night's meeting! Instead of finding an excuse about the format of the amendment, why couldn't Schoenberger's committee work together to help reformat and implement it so taxes can be reduced? Stop finding excuses not to do something instead of just working to do it. Every time someone tries to amend and improve, it never sees the light of day. This is why you need a new County Executive who will use veto power as a counterbalance. How Schoenberger, after all he has done to add to Rockland's financial trouble, can even think about running for Country Executive is beyond me. Ed Day is what we need - he seems to care about all Rockland residents, not just his constituents Others that aren't even in his legislative district reach out to him for assistance. We need someone like that in office. See his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/edwin.j.day1
Kevin Roy December 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Could the Budget & Finance Committee amend the budget to exclude the 18% increase and vote on a budget that was within the 2% cap? If so, they've failed the people again. Time for them (those that voted for the budget) to lose their jobs.
Mary December 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Rockland has the distinct honor of being the fifth highest taxed county in the country...congratulations legislature... http://abcnews.go.com/Business/fight-high-property-taxes-top-10-counties/story?id=15912973
mary December 05, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Everything you say about EdDay is true - he does care all about Rockland residents, not just his constituents. I am from Orangeburg, and he got involved with two matters that no one else would, and I had results within a short period of time. ED DAY ALL THE WAY!!!!!THE ONLY WAY IS ED DAY!!!!
Kevin Roy December 05, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I encourage everyone to write to the legislators that voted for the amended budget. Be respectful. Add 'at'co.rockland.ny.us to the following names: schoenbi; jobsond; GrantM; hoodj; WolfeA; SoskinP; EarlT; cornellh; PaulA; MurphJo
Larry December 05, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Anyone interested in seeing where are tax miney us being spent visit this site http://seethroughny.net Average salary if a clarkstown police officer is $150k? Do we really need a mounted police force? We must trim some if this fat ASAP before this once proud county disinagrates to nothing.
i am amazed the PD isnt required to wear tuxedos!!! and we do have a mounted PD..they are all mounted on every taxpayers back!!!!!let the horses go already....they have thousands of taxpayers to replace them!!!!!
heres what each and every wothless politician is causing..the real reality.today I was at a local bagel store.the owner who is in his 30's was talking about 'BUYING A HOME" a customer said where? HE said only in NJ..Parkridge...maybe Mahwah or RAMSEY...the customer asked why not locally in the county?? the owner said..When I add up the taxes...and what I see is crazy leadership borrowing to the sky..I dont want to own anything that will continue to be out of control..he said its all about each dollar for taxes as well as house prices.SO ALL You legislative clowns..YOUR LACK of Responsilibty is having a negative effect..2 other customers actually agreed with the owner..saying he was smart to think like he did.The owner laughed and said just look at the PD salaries..his budget by the way was in the 600,000 range.."Rockland is a chapter 9 in the works...!!!this owner has I bet 300 plus customers a day...and is a great guy too...BUT HE WONT LIVE IN ROCKLAND!!!
side bar....he said park ridge is like the 12th highest school district in NJ so this guy is doing his due diligence
frankie g December 05, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Let's call a spade a spade. This corrupted syndicate, some call a legislature have declared War on seniors and overburdened taxpayers. Progressive Career Politicians at the county level are no different than what is happening in Clarkstown. They are both using the same play book Spend,Borrow and Tax with little remorse. Blame the state for unfunded mandates like pensions, while these same Career Politicians hand over more pay and bonuses to these voting blocks,that ultimately end up costing us more in lifetime pension payments to them. Supervisor Gromack blames the county for passing on county costs to him then turns around and repeats the same behavior by passing on some of this cost to the Clarkstown School District. Same Play book,pass the hot potatoe,so our Syndicate don't look as bad. The Clarkstown Taxpayers have been leading the charge vs Big Gov't and wastefull spending for several years now,but we still need help and support. These issues cross many boundaries and to gain more leverage and succeed. People have to attend as many board meetings as you can and for us to mobilize into our own voting block. We need ethical candidates to step up. Remember War has been declared. Will you join and fight ? visit the Clarkstown Taxpayers website and together it's possible to win this war
Mike December 06, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Tari, the problem is "we" the people keep voting them back in. The only way to stop this is for "we" the people to write down the names of the 10 who voted to increase your taxes 18% and never, never vote for them again.
Mike December 06, 2012 at 03:02 AM
It's not just the County, but is really the entire state of NY...it's in a death spiral and just a matter of time until it crashes and burns. The real scary part is the same poor policy is now US. National policy. For those of us in NY , we can still get out (and folks are doing this is huge numbers now) , but when the same tax and spend policies finally impact us on national level, there will be no where to go.
JP December 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Many thanks to the Rockland County Legislature for putting us on the sure road to Bankruptsy. This budget is absurd. Rockland County will now have to borrow more money and we will be considered as rating only a Junk Bond Rating. Why not for once do the right thing. This isn't even a conservative or liberal issue; its the simple facts of a bloated budget with too many politcal hacks and hard working personnel who still think everything from their prescriptions to their health care should be totally free. When is election time? I don't think the voters will be as dumb this time around!

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