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$721,735,560 Budget Represents 1.1 percent Reduced Spending Plan From Last Year’s Budget
The New York State Comptroller’s Office has given its approval to County Executive Ed Day’s 2021 Proposed Budget.
The New York State Comptroller’s Office reviewed the proposed $721.7 million 2021 spending plan, which coheres with the New York State property tax cap. The budget plan avoids layoffs.
“Based on the results of our review, we found that the significant revenue and expenditure projections in the 2021 proposed budget are reasonable,” wrote Deputy State Comptroller Elliot Auerbach in a letter to the County Executive and members of the Rockland County Legislature.
A review and analysis of the Proposed 2021 Budget was also undertaken by CGR Inc., an independent auditing firm retained by the Rockland County Legislature.
CGR Inc. Project Director Paul Bishop wrote that with a forecast of reduced sales tax revenue, “The County Executive has presented a balanced spending plan for 2021 that considers the challenges being faced by governments everywhere and makes reasonable adjustments from prior years’ practices … The budget includes reduced expenditures, but avoids laying off personnel. The budget also continues to reduce the debt and does not anticipate using any of the fund balance.”
Rockland County’s proposed 2021 budget of $721,735,560 represents a 1.1 percent reduced spending plan compared to last year’s budget but comes with a 2.84 percent increase in property taxes. That increase represents approximately $34 annually for taxpayers. The proposed property tax levy for 2021 is $133,201,069, a $3.67 million increase over 2020’s $125,525,000 levy.
The proposed 2021 budget also temporarily leaves vacant 154 positions, though it does not contain any further layoffs.
The budget also eliminates funding for contractual reserves for open union contracts. Such funds would have been used to settle union contracts with The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association of Rockland County, Rockland County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigators’ Association, Rockland County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, Rockland County District Attorney’s Undercover Investigators, Superior Officers Council of the Sheriff’s Correction Officers Association, Rockland County Sheriff’s Transport & Relief Deputies Association.
“I thank both the Comptroller’s Office and CGR for their thorough reviews of the 2021 Proposed Budget,” said Day. “While we have faced some difficult budgets since I took office, this year was like nothing I have experienced. Since March with the onset of the pandemic, it has been common knowledge that we are facing a fiscal tsunami from reduced sales tax and state aid revenue as well as increased expenditures fighting the pandemic.”
Days says the budget holds the line on expenses and continues to conservatively estimate revenues to maintain the General Fund’s Undesignated Fund Balance while “protecting the jobs of our dedicated employees who already part of a workforce that has been reduced by 22 percent since 2014.”
The County Executive thanked Rockland Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat and Budget Director Steve Grogan for their efforts on this budget.
The Comptroller’s Office reviews the 2021 Proposed Budget, salary schedules, debt payment schedules and other pertinent information. They also examined the significant revenue and expenditure projections for reasonableness with emphasis on significant and/or unrealistic increases or decreases, which were deemed reasonable.
These reviews follow Moody’s upgrading the County’s bond rating to A1 in August. Citing its rationale for the upgrading, Moody’s Investors Service Credit Opinion said, “given management’s conservative budgeting in recent years, particularly for sales tax revenues, reserves have improved significantly over the past five years ending fiscal 2019 at its highest level in nearly 20 years.”