County Exec Astorino outlines his 2013 budget plan on November 14.
The Good The proposed budget seeks to protect Westchester’s three triple-A credit ratings. In addition, the $1.7 billion budget does not raise taxes. Both measures would be a step in the right direction for a county that currently struggles under the weight of the highest property taxes in the U.S.
The Bad With the cost of state employee pensions climbing to $91 million (a $12 million increase), Medicaid climbing to $224 million (an $8 million increase), employee salaries up by $15 million and revenue increasing by just $12 million, or less than 1 percent -- Astorino was forced to balance the budget by using layoffs, program cuts and borrowing.
The Ugly The County’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), refused to follow the lead of three other county unions and contribute to the cost of their own health care. As a result, 126 employees will be laid off to balance the proposed 2013 budget. In addition, 63 open positions will be eliminated, for a total of 189 in staff reductions.
“In this economic environment, CSEA's position is simply unacceptable,” said Amy Allen, managing director of Advocacy and International Business, for the Westchester County Association. “We urge all unions to come to the table and do their part so a meaningful budget that makes sense for Westchester can be passed. It’s never too late to save jobs.”
The 2013 budget, which must be finalized by December 27, will now be turned over to the Board of Legislators. The Board will hold public hearings on the proposed budget on November 20 in Mamaroneck; November 29 in Cortlandt Manor; and December 5 in White Plains.
“The WCA looks forward to having a dialogue with legislators to ensure the voice of Westchester business is heard,” Allen continued. “We are confident that common ground can be found in order to move the county forward.” But she cautioned, “The fact is, no progress can be made without compromise.”