About 130 attendees heard Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Rockland County Executive Ed Day explain how innovation has resulted in savings and efficiencies.
Responding to a question about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's mandate that county executives lead efforts to identify methods to "share services" among governments to create property-tax savings, Astorino and Day criticized the governor for failing to require school districts -- which account for the largest share of property tax bills -- to participate in such efforts. Odell noted that town and village leaders sometimes have resisted sharing functions such as police services, preferring local control to property-tax savings.
The county executives also discussed how they work together and exchange best practices.
Astorino detailed his "Three P" strategy -- protecting taxpayers, preserving essential services and promoting economic growth. He cited significant savings by privatizing Playland Amusement Park, efforts to privatize Westchester County Airport and business growth expected from a $1.2 billion science and technology hub planned in Valhalla.
Odell described a program in which Brewster would tap into nearby Danbury, Conn.'s sewer system -- a move that also could inspire commercial business growth along that route.
Day provided an update on how Rockland's finances -- described as "stressed" by the state comptroller each of the last three years -- have improved. He also pointed to an effort to improve housing and apartment quality via code enforcement and zoning scrutiny. The leaders also discussed efforts to stem the vexing problem of the opioid epidemic.
Day, a retired New York Police Department commander, described heroin's resurgence. Astorino movingly told of the death of a 22-year-old woman.
Odell cautioned that pills in medicine cabinets can lead to addiction and urged attendees to safely dispose of unneeded medicines. Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin moderated the discussion.
Other questions came from students in Pace University's master's in public administration program who asked the executives about topics ranging from demographic changes in Rockland to the impact of the proposed "American Health Care Act" on Westchester's budget, to the Trump Administration's efforts to enlist local authorities in enforcing immigration law.
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