November 9, 2018 – Delivering on his promise to move Westchester County forward, County Executive George Latimer released his first County Operating Budget for 2019. The budget continues funding for vital services for County residents, while remaining within the State property tax cap and utilizing none of the County’s unrestricted general fund balance. 

Latimer said: “I am proud to present this budget to Westchester taxpayers and the Board of Legislators – my partner in responsible government. This year, my Administration held more true public input sessions on this budget, and other County matters, than any Executive had before. These sessions resulted in this budget. It is time to move Westchester forward together and plan not just for the now – but for the future.”

In this budget, funds are allocated to keep all essential services for County residents, to pay all County employees the 2019 State minimum wage of $12 per hour, increase support for our daycare and not for profit service providers and implement the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old. This is done with a modest 2% increase to the property tax levy – well below the 5.7% tax cap Westchester is afforded, according to an independent audit.

The 2019 budget, for the first time in recent memory, projects the true cost of running County Government for the year. Previous budgets, like the 2017 Westchester County Operating Budget had run a $32 million general fund operating deficit.  For 2018, the projected general fund shortfall now stands at $39 million.  This budget hole of $71 million is roughly a 50% reduction in the County’s rainy day fund. As noted by each of the three major rating agencies and the Office of the State Comptroller, continued reliance on these funds is not sustainable.

The 2019 budget includes a host of strong financial decisions aimed at restoring order to Westchester’s fiscal house, including:

  • A County hiring freeze;

  • Renegotiated Contracts;

  • $4M annual savings on Liberty Lines contract

  • New RFP for Corrections healthcare

  • Improved risk assessment

  • Shared Services implementation;

  • Innovate reoccurring revenues like the NuEnergon “Demand Response” program;

  • Collective Bargaining stability;

  • First time ever, CSEA contribution to healthcare

  • County Space Assessment/Consolidation; and

  • Streamlining Capital Program implementation.

This budget includes core beliefs of the Latimer Administration, including:

  • Westchester County Property taxes kept at or below the State tax cap;

  • Basic Westchester County services and facilities maintained for all County residents;

  • Establish a multi-year game plan to ensure long term financial solvency for the County; and

  • Open and transparent communication with all. 

The budget also includes pragmatic decision making from the County Executive:

  • Realistic Projections of County Finances to Bond Rating Agencies and State Oversight Agencies

  • Moody’s, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings

  • New York State Comptroller’s Office

  • Comptroller Audit

  • Comptroller Fiscal Stress Report

  • Honest Assessment of Actual Tax Impacts to Homeowners

  • Short vs. Long Term Costs

  • County Taxes vis-à-vis Local and School Taxes

  • Honest Understanding of Mandated Services and Discretionary Services

Latimer continued: “This budget strikes a balance between providing the services all of the residents of Westchester expect and deserve, and keeping property taxes at a level they can afford.  The modest increase included in the budget is within the State property tax cap, and acknowledges the hardship the Federal Government has imposed on the people of Westchester through the loss of the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction in the American Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “ 

Following today’s submission, the Board of Legislators will now review the budget – including meetings with County departments in the Board’s Committee on Budget & Appropriations. Following this review, the Board will submit any additions or deletions to the budget, vote to move the budget out of committee for a final review and end with a vote by the full Board. The final budget will then be sent to County Executive Latimer for his signature or veto.

Latimer added: “I look forward to working with all of the members of the Board of Legislators to deliver a transparent and responsible 2019 Budget for the people of Westchester County. Now is the time to focus on the future, on moving forward – together.”