Executive Day Tries to Blunt Pandemic Fiscal Impact

NEW CITY – County Executive Ed Day submitted three draft Resolutions to the County Legislature which will generate additional revenue, help stabilize Rockland’s finances, and allow for proper budgetary decision-making for 2021.

“We are facing never before seen impacts on our budget and need to do everything possible to decrease spending while finding ways to increase revenue; through our previous actions we have reduced year over year spending by more than $18 million at the end of June. But between the predicted revenue shortfall of $40-50 million and NYS now cutting 20% of promised state aid and reimbursements we are being battered from all sides. If we just accepted this fiscal situation it would result in the need for 200 layoffs. That is why we need to take these additional steps to protect our employees from possible layoffs and property taxpayers from the double-digit rate increases of the past,” said County Executive Day.

County SignThe first Resolution authorizes the sale of the Sain Building, 18 New Hempstead Road, New City, with all proceeds from the sale to be applied to offset any financial losses caused by COVID-19. The original purchase offer for the building in March of 2016 was $4.51 million. The prior sale would have also returned the building to the property tax roles and generated $500,000 in total annual property tax revenue for the Town of Clarkstown, Clarkstown Central School District and County of Rockland. The building was officially closed in December of 2017.

The second Resolution calls for the temporary addition of one-half of one percent to the local sales tax to take effect December 1, 2020, or as soon thereafter as possible, for a period of three years until November 30, 2023. This Resolution would also need to be passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo. The current sales tax rate in Rockland County is 8 and 3/8ths percent, this Resolution would raise it to 8 and 7/8ths percent equal to the rate of Yonkers and NYC.

The third Resolution would push back the 2021 proposed County Budget submission requirement from October 1, 2020, to October 23, 2020. Rockland is due to receive two sales tax disbursements from NYS on or before October 1, 2020, with two additional disbursements due to the County on October 7, 2020, and October 13, 2020. This three-week delay will allow for the collection of more data and therefore a more accurate projection of the 2021 proposed County Budget.

“These three Resolutions are just the latest actions we have taken to protect taxpayers from the fiscal tsunami caused by the pandemic. The temporary sales tax Resolution is the lynchpin of our ability to successfully navigate these unprecedented times and the passage of all these Resolutions by the County Legislature and NYS Legislature will help us continue to chart a responsible path forward. We have already met with Legislative leadership and notified every Legislator of the criticality and need behind these Resolutions,” said County Executive Day. “I thank the members of the County Legislature who have already agreed to support these measures and look forward to their passage during the next Legislative session on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.”

Additionally, the County Executive notified the County Legislature last week that the County would only move forward with $19,975,000 in Capital Borrowing down from the $40 million that was planned for pre-pandemic. This borrowing reduction will not influence the 2020 Budget but will cut principal and interest payments on these projects from $3 million to $1.5 million in 2021.

“We closely reviewed the necessity of each of these projects and are only moving forward with those that are already in progress, those which will show a positive return on investment or those which are critical infrastructure improvements. The last economic recession resulted in the delay of many of these projects and since taking office I have refused to kick the can down the road for future generations of Rocklanders to deal with. But make no mistake, we are moving forward in a fiscally responsible manner and will not repeat the mistakes of the past which led to the $138 million deficit I inherited upon taking office,” said County Executive Day.

Rockland County has taken several actions since the pandemic began to mitigate the fiscal impacts including:

Implementing austerity measures in March which permitted only COVID related and essential purchasing to take place.

Instituting a hiring freeze in May except for essential personnel and those working directly on the COVID response.

Immediately applying for FEMA Disaster Assistance and becoming one of the first municipalities in the country to have the reimbursement portal for COVID related expenses up and running.

Abolished 18 vacant and unfilled positions in July for nearly $1 million in savings.
“Since taking office we have already seen major reductions in the county workforce and have an extremely lean and efficient organization. A layoff is not a fair reward to our employees who have worked so hard during this pandemic; I will continue to do everything in my power to keep that from happening,” concluded County Executive Day.

Rockland County’s workforce has been reduced by 21.7% since County Executive Day took office in 2014. Yearly position totals:
2014: 2,161
2015: 2,021
2016: 1,697
2017: 1,697
2018: 1,694
2019: 1,707
2020: 1,691 (after the abolishment of 18 vacant/unfilled positions in July)

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