County Executive Robert P. Astorino is praising bipartisan cooperation, saying it was a key element of the recent passage of Westchester’s $1.8 billion budget.
The spending plan was narrowly approved by the Legislature on Monday, Dec. 14, and formally signed by Astorino on Friday, Dec. 18, as six members of a bipartisan coalition of 10 legislators looked on.
Astorino said the budget maintains two goals he established at the start of negotiations: no tax increase and no raiding of the county’s “rainy day” fund for operational expenses.
The spending plan was approved with the support, Astorino said, of two Democrats and eight Republicans -- giving it one more vote than the necessary nine to pass.
The budget was negotiated by the administration and the Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat from Somers; its Vice Chairman James Maisano, a Republican from New Rochelle; Republican Majority Leader John Testa of Peekskill; and Legislator Sheila Marcotte, a Republican from Eastchester who chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
In addition to Kaplowitz, Maisano, Testa, and Marcotte, Astorino said the legislators supporting the coalition budget were: Francis Corcoran, Michael Smith, David Gelfarb, Bernice Spreckman, Gordon Burrows, and Virginia Perez.
"Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom when it comes to knowing exactly how every dollar of the budget should be spent," Astorino said. "I had priorities and the Republicans and Democrats on the board had their priorities as well.”
Both sides were able to work out their differences and come to an agreement that, Astorino said, “protects taxpayers and preserves essential services in a way that has majority support.”
“That's how the process should work,” added the county executive, thanking members of the coalition for their “leadership.”
Kaplowitz, in turn, said the administration’s flexibility was key on two particular issues: funding for not-for-profit agencies and the assurance that proceeds from the sale of county property in Yonkers be used to build up the county's reserves in order to minimize or eliminate the need to borrow for tax certioraris.
"Through bipartisan cooperation, we have reached an agreement for a sixth consecutive no tax increase budget," he said.
Maisano also said he was pleased that the Legislature and the county executive were able to “reach a compromise budget that holds the line on taxes and protects essential services."
"The budget belongs to everyone," Marcotte said before the signing. The coalition, she said, "made an effort to ensure all voices were heard.”
Highlights from the coalition budget include:
- Tax Levy: $548 million – no increase from 2015.
- Spending: $1.8 billion – flat to 2015.
- Safety Net: $595 million – no decrease from 2015.
- Unrestricted Reserves (Rainy Day Fund): $140 million – no decrease from 2015.
- Headcount: 4,160 total general fund position count – four layoffs and 64 vacancy eliminations.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.