Westchester’s finances are in “freefall,” as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has now lasted more than a month and a half, County Executive George Latimer said.
Due to the pandemic, the county’s traditional sources of revenue “hang in a field of unknowns,” which has impacted residents and businesses that are suffering financially, Latimer said.
“The greatest priority of Westchester County government is the care of the almost one million people who live here during this unprecedented pandemic,” he said. “But, that care comes with a massive price tag as we address the outbreak of COVID-19. That crisis response has the Westchester County government’s finances in freefall."
With no end in sight as nearly 2,000 New Yorkers still being diagnosed with COVID-19 daily, Latimer announced “Westchester Forward- Phase 1,” actions that will reduce the spending in the 2020 County Budget by $21 million to help offset the financial impacts of New York being shut down due to the outbreak.
“Since we do not know when our society will resume a ‘normal’ economic mode, we can’t be sure how deep the loss of revenues will be,” Latimer said. “Depending on factors beyond our control, we may lose between $90 million to $160 million in revenue, a huge impact on our $2.1 billion budget. Even the smaller estimate will be devastating; the larger loss estimate will be beyond catastrophic.”
The first phase of the plan will see the reallocation of $10 million in the reserve fund and reduction of up to $8 million in spending by bonding for certain repayments. Another $5 million will be saved by bonding for annual pension contribution costs.
Latimer said that revenues from sales tax, hotel occupancy, mortgage recording tax, bus rider fares and parks program fees are all drastically down.
He noted that “the size and the scope of the economic impact of this virus are yet to be fully calculated. You can’t tell how far you have to rise up until you stop falling. And we haven’t stopped falling yet”.
Latimer added, “this is a serious financial crisis for individuals, small and large businesses, non-profits, religious institutions, and governments.
"The county will do everything it can do to soften the blow for the aforementioned entities but, we face - as do all the towns, villages, and cities - a historic, unexpected set of budget gaps.
"None of us can run an unbalanced budget, and there will be pain ahead. The job I signed up for requires me to lay out a game plan for dealing with all of this. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. With openness, dialogue, and transparency.”
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