• WCA Moves to Prevent Budget Stalemate

  • NOVEMBER 29, 2011 | COUNTY GOV'T

  • White Plains, New York ..(November 29, 2011) …………..With layoffs looming and substantial cuts proposed by the Westchester County Executive in order to balance the 2012 budget, the Westchester County Association is offering sound advice from its business perspective, and mediation services to prevent the layoff of 210 public employees, help fund those not-for-profit organizations that provide safety net services, and protect the County’s Triple A credit rating.

    A daunting task? Not according to Bill Mooney, President of the Westchester County Association, who, at a press conference held today, outlined the practical steps County legislators need to take to avoid a potentially dire situation.

    “We are concerned about the potential loss of jobs by County employees as well as the reduction in services to the neediest in our community,” Mooney said. “We are confident that the union leaders, the County Executive, and the Legislators feel the same way. It is in that spirit that we propose that the CSEA [Civil Service Employees Association] members replicate what their New York State colleagues have done to save jobs during this economic downturn. By making modest a contribution to their County healthcare plan, the taxpayer will realize $19 million in savings, $14 million of which will save the jobs of 210 of their own union brethren,” he said.

    Mooney pointed out that the $5 million balance can help the neediest in Westchester County as well as shore up the dwindling Reserve Fund. He said his organization was willing to take a leadership role and mediate between the union, County Executive, and County Legislators in order to reach an agreement that benefits the entire county.

    At present, County employees are not required to contribute to healthcare benefits like their counterparts in New York State, who pay anywhere between 12-16% if single, and 27-31% if with families, of their healthcare benefits. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public employees across the nation pay an average of between 12-29% of their healthcare benefits; employees in the private sector contribute 29-30%.

    “Today, approximately 30% of the County’s budget is spent to support public personnel, so asking for what amounts to a giveback of $19 million on a $1.67 billion budget is a very small price to pay to prevent layoffs and pain for consumers and taxpayers,” Mooney said.

    Maintaining the county’s Triple A credit rating is also critical. Recently, Moody’s attached a “negative outlook” to Westchester’s credit rating because during the past five years, the County’s Reserve Fund has dropped from 14% of the County’s annual budget to a little over 6%, a result of the County’s dipping into the fund without replenishing it in order to pay its burgeoning expenses.

    “A dip in our credit rating would be financially devastating for the business community as well as the County’s residents,” said William Harrington, Managing Partner at Bleakley Platt & Schmidt. “The danger is that the County’s current credit rating could be jeopardized if we don’t put our fiscal house in order, and that could have dire consequences for business, labor, and every tax payer.”

    If Westchester’s rating is downgraded, interest rates on borrowing will go up, which could lead to bigger budget deficits and layoffs. The impact to taxpayers, at a time Westchester can ill afford it, could be in the many millions of dollars. As Westchester County is already in dire need of improving its infrastructure, stimulating economic development, and creating jobs, a drop in its credit rating is to be avoided at all costs.

    “We are hopeful that our local elected officials will show the kind of leadership that has escaped us at the national level,” noted Al DelBello, Chairman of the Westchester County Association. He said that the WCA is willing to sit down with all concerned to hammer out an agreement to the benefit of all of Westchester’s residents. “The object is not to have the kind of quarreling and stasis we've been witnessing in Washington, DC.”

    The Westchester County Association (www.westchester.org) is the preeminent business membership organization in Westchester County. The Association is
    committed to business advocacy, economic vitality and to providing a strong and clear voice for the interests of businesses on the regional, national and international levels. Its key objectives are promoting positive economic development in the region; fostering business development; and providing its members with access and interaction with key public and private sector individuals, agencies and organizations.

    Media contact: Carolyn Mandelker, Harrison Edwards PR & Marketing, 914-242-0010 or cmandelker@harrison-edwardspr.com