Boykin on the County Budget Passing: Government on a Credit Card. Interest Crippling.

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WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. By County Legislator Benjamin Boykin. December 10, 2014:

The Westchester County Budget for 2015 was passed on December 9, 2014 by a vote of 10-7.  I voted against this “structurally imbalanced” budget because it contains too much borrowing and one-shot revenues to pay for current operating expenses. The approved budget includes.

  • $15 million of pension fund borrowing
  • $5 million borrowing for tax certs (certioraris), which was reduced from $8 million in the County Executive’s originally proposed budget
  • $40 million borrowing in bond anticipation notes (which has never been done before)
  • $90 million in tax anticipation notes to cover cash shortfalls (cash crunch)
  • $6.1 million of E911 fund balance to pay for operating expenses in the general fund (one-shot revenue)

All of this borrowing will hamstring future county administrations and legislators from any flexibility in operating budgets because of the onerous interest costs associated with the excessive borrowing.  I see that this will cause real problems for our safety net spending in the short-term, and it will end up costing all of our taxpayers more money when the County needs to spend more on bonding for badly needed infrastructure improvements.

Over the last five years, approximately $100 million has been borrowed to pay for ongoing operating expenses, which were detailed in the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) report to the Board of Legislators’ Budget & Appropriations Committee.

The good news in this bad “borrowing from tomorrow” budget is that additional funds for social services that support the neediest in our County were included by the Board of Legislators.  Working with my Democratic colleagues and members of the Republican Caucus, additional funds were added for child care and other social services.

Among other things, the funding we added to the 2015 Budget will provide the opportunity for individuals to have quality child care while being able to hold a job.  By being employed, families will avoid having to rely on public assistance and enable them to be productive residents in our communities.  My Democratic colleagues and I have made sure that our additional spending was fully funded.

Funds have been added to the operating and capital budgets to invest in and protect our infrastructure.  We have to make sure that our roads, bridges, buildings and equipment are structurally sound and useable.  It is time that we create jobs for Westchester residents by implementing the nearly $1 billion in backlogged capital projects approved by the Board of Legislators.

I believe that protecting all our residents, including those who rely on safety net programs, should be our first priority.  As always, I am fighting to keep our taxes low, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies to enhance our quality of life.

This budget is a threat to the long-term well-being of our residents and our county’s fiscal health.  The borrowing will undoubtedly place a future burden on taxpayers.  We are paying millions of dollars in interest on borrowed operational spending.  This will end up costing all of us a lot more in the years ahead.

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