$5.7 Million In The proposed 2020 Capital Budget for Hi-Tor Construction
Rockland County Executive Ed Day unveiled the proposed 2020 budget which stays under the New York State property tax cap while investing in critical infrastructure improvements, funding new State mandates and providing for the future of Rockland County’s animals.
The County Executive detailed the proposed $729,900,000 spending plan at the Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona with Hi Tor Board of Directors Vice President Rich Yanitelli; part of a renewed focus on the care of Rockland’s animals.
“A society is judged on how well it takes care of its citizens and those in need, including its pets. Moving forward we will have a beautiful, modern County shelter that provides the best available care to those animals in need,” said Day. “I am announcing today that we are adding an additional $5.7 million in the proposed 2020 Capital Budget for Hi-Tor construction, bringing the total project cost to $7.75 million.”
Hi Tor has completed a needs assessment study to determine exactly what the County needs in a new facility. That data will be used to prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP) for architectural, engineering and design services for a new animal care center. The RFP will be issued in the coming weeks, and it is expected that construction will begin on the new facility in 2020.
“On behalf of the Hi Tor Animal Care Center Board of Directors, we want to extend our appreciation to County Executive Day, the County Legislature and all of Rockland County for realizing the need and urgency in building a new shelter here at Hi Tor. Many of our animals have already had such a hard little life by the time they join us and we are now overjoyed for them. This state of the art facility will make their stay with us as comfortable, nurturing and supportive as possible until they can find their forever homes. We are so looking forward to a great place for our animals, volunteers, and staff,” said Hi Tor Board President Debbie DiBernardo in a statement.
County Executive Day spoke to the challenges faced in creating the 2020 Budget saying, “All told we face an additional $4.5 million in new state mandates and program costs; that is the equivalent of a 3.5% County property tax increase all on its own. As New York State attempts to balance their own budget they are shifting many of their costs down to the counties and local tax payers. Instead of actually reducing costs and finding efficiencies, which we have done on the local level, Albany politicians are partaking in a shell game that further burdens residents across our state in a transparent attempt to make themselves look good.”
The Rockland County share of Medicaid is approximately $66.7 million a year which is roughly the equivalent of 52% of the County’s property tax levy. New York State has the highest mandated County contributions of any state in our union; nearly $7 billion annually (Based on a 2016 NACo Report).
Rockland County’s finances continue to improve. In August, the County received the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, prepared by independent auditors Marks Paneth who were hired by the Rockland County Legislature. The report showed that for the second year in a row Rockland County had grown its Unassigned Fund Balance in the General Fund; from reporting, just over $6.2 million in 2017 to just over $32 million in 2018.
“Despite these successes, we are not at the end of the road. To establish a healthy budget, we must continue to build our surplus and rebuild our undesignated fund balance. The NYS Comptroller recommends that we have a fund balance of approximately $56 million to be a truly fiscally healthy county. This has been our strategy since taking office; conservatively estimating future sales tax revenue while we hold the line on expenses. Over the last 5 ½ years we have made some difficult choices but they are paying dividends,” said County Executive Day.
The proposed $729.9 million Budget is under the state property tax cap and calls for a 2.789% property tax increase. On average this increase is approximately $3 per month for a property tax owner.
“I want to thank the Legislative Minority for their help on previous budgets and holding the line against speculative revenue and the questionable practices that created the $138 million deficit we faced when I took office. This year I look forward to working with both the Legislative Majority and Minority to accomplish these goals. Together we will work to build our surplus and rebuild our undesignated fund balance as we strive to grow that fund balance to approximately $56 million. We are well on our way to becoming a fiscally healthy county, and I will not rest until we reach that goal,” concluded County Executive Day.