November 2020 -- Cheshvan-Kislev 5781,  Volume 26, Issue 11

c2020 Shoreline Publishing, Inc.      629 Fifth Avenue, Suite 213, Pelham, NY 10803      P: 914-738-7869      hp@shorelinepub.com

County Executive George Latimer Proposes 2021 Budget

In the midst of a crippling pandemic and on the heels of a listening tour around the County, Westchester County Executive George Latimer unveiled his 2021 proposed Operating Budget.  The proposed 2021 Budget reduces the Westchester County tax levy by $1 million for the second year in a row.  This Budget maintains all County services. The expenditures in the proposed Budget of $2.091 billion are $15.7 million below the 2020 Budget.

 

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “This year has been extraordinarily challenging.   Despite these challenges, we as a County have remained resilient and I have no doubt that working together we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”

 

The 2021 Budget includes an additional:

 

• $5 million for economic development programs,

 

• $5 million for housing assistance programs and

 

• $2 million for food insecurity.

 

Feeding Westchester President & CEO Karen C. Erren said: “We are so grateful to County Executive Latimer for continuing to recognize the need to lift our neighbors up during these challenging times. More than 300,000 county residents are currently relying on us each month, including many individuals who are facing food insecurity for the first time. Allocating $2 million to address food insecurity in Westchester is a critical investment and one that will both nourish and strengthen our communities.”

 

 Westchester County Association President & CEO Michael N. Romita said: “Westchester’s businesses and nonprofits need the County to maintain financial discipline while continuing to invest in the economy.  County Executive Latimer’s proposed budget lowers the tax levy for the second year in a row while putting money towards rebuilding critical infrastructure, business development, and affordable housing.  Under challenging circumstances, it has the positive hallmarks of responsive and responsible government.  The Westchester County Association will continue to work with the County Executive and other local leaders to ensure that Westchester remains poised for smart growth.”

 

Before entering 2021, the 2020 budget year is slated to end with no layoffs, no furloughs, no service cuts and no borrowing for pension costs.

 

Latimer said: “At the onset of the pandemic our revenue projections were revised downward by nearly $200 million and we took immediate actions to address the financial downturn. We submitted legislation, passed by the County Board of Legislators, allowing the county to borrow for tax certs as well as pension payments and we amended the Budget to reverse the $10 million budgeted addition to fund balance.   We implemented a voluntary separation incentive that resulted in 226 employees leaving county service effective August 1.  We also held vacant a large number of County positions to generate needed savings.”

 

Additionally, due to our strong relationship with our Federal Delegation in Washington, the County was able to secure direct Federal assistance under both the Families First and CARES Acts.  This has allowed the county to fund the additional costs that have arisen due to the pandemic as well as maintain essential County services.

 

Latimer said: “All of us didn’t get dealt the hand we wanted, but as a result of swift and aggressive action, a little help and a little luck we will end 2020 in a stronger position than we anticipated earlier in the year.”

 

This 2021 proposed Budget does not assume any additional extraordinary federal assistance and also anticipates a 20% reduction in our state aid.  As a result, this Budget must rely on drawing all of our projected increase in 2020 reserves.

 

Latimer said: “While the economy has rebounded, we are still not back to the level of economic activity we experienced prior to the pandemic.  Sales tax, the single largest revenue source for the county, has improved, however, collections for this year are anticipated to be $662 million or $80 million below the $742 million budgeted.”

 

For 2021 the County has projected that sales tax will grow to $695 million, which is $46 million below the 2020 Budget.  The County also anticipates reduced revenues in some of our parks in 2021 as certain facilities are still being utilized for COVID purposes.  However, the 2021 Budget fully funds each of our County parks and recreational facilities which have remained open and available to our residents during the pandemic.  This Budget does not raise any fees for our parks since it is important that they remain accessible to all residents of Westchester.

 

Several weeks ago, Latimer also submitted a Capital Budget that contained $231.8 million in new appropriations for capital projects.  The Capital Budget includes over $112 million for projects that will provide improvements to the environment, including a food scrap recovery facility, 100 Hybrid replacement buses and electric vehicle charging stations.

 

The County’s Capital Program also supports over 2,000 permanent jobs within the County.