WPCNR QUILL & EYESHADE 2. By John F. Bailey. June 26, 2018:
Frankly, I’m puzzled.
How can you budget millions more in sales taxes than you got in previous years. That’s what the County Legislators did in passing the 2015,2016, and 2017 budgets of the Astorino administration.
The same ones they are criticizing now.
The deficits piled up by exuberant overoptimistic “dartboard” budgeting of expected sales taxes may be what lead to the handwringing of the current posse of County Legislators screaming about budget deficits, and chasing down higher taxes next year.
Since Westchester County sales taxes are going gangbusters this year, up 5 POINT 9 percent in 5 months, you would think White Plains would show more life in its economy. But you would also think the county should be in greater shape going into the 2019 budget. After all people living outside White Plains have internet, too. (The internet is used as a premier reason the White Plains economy is not thriving and swarming with millennials.)
The latest New York State Office of Taxation and Finance numbers show Westchester County with $213,100,782 in sales tax dollars through May, compared to $201,204, 154 in 2016 through May.
That is a thumping growth rate of 5.9% (6%) in five months. While the new County Administration is pleading poverty, laying ground for tax increases for 2019, they seem to ignore the $15 Million plus more in sales taxes they got last year, (WPCNR is the only media that has pointed this surplus in sales taxes from 2016) and now at this rate of growth they may get another $24 Million more this year.
The rub is that overestimating sales tax revenues has been a convenient tool shaping the previous Astorino budgets in 2015,2016,and 2017–all rubberstamped by the Democrat County Legislature majority.
In 2015, the county budgeted $528,169,000 in sales tax revenues, even though for the previous year, the county received $503.8 Million in sales tax. The county predicted a $528,169,000 sales tax handle, a 4.8% increase which they had never gotten previously. How much did they actually get in sales tax revenues in 2015: $499,527,981– a $28,641,019 deficit from the budgeted sales tax. The legislators approved that budget, even given the fact that when budget approval time came, they could see based on October sales tax receipts they were nowhere close.
In White Plains, the city charter prohibits the city from budgeting more sales taxes in the new budget than were received in the previous year. The county has no such prohibition. Perhaps legislation should be enacted to stop this kind of wildly optimistic pie-in-the-sky budgeting.
The same Astorinoesque optimism on sales tax happened in 2016 and 2017.
In 2016, the sales taxes received by the county was $505,878,099, yet the county had budgeted for 2016, $525,769,000. Another pollyanna dart throw that created a $19,890,901 deficit.
In 2017. The Democrat controlled legislature did it again. They got lucky. They budget The actual 2017 sales tax receipts were $525,513,104 , they had budgeted $517,559,000, and they benefited with a $7,954,104. Sometimes the blind squirrel finds the nuts.
Yet we still hear hand wringing from the Democratic legislators about the big deficit the county is facing. The Democrats own this budget deficit on the sales tax overestimations based on God knows what.
Are you counting? The deficit created by sales tax over estimates is $41 Million, over the last three years even when the 2017 surplus is subtracted.
The county now is generating fantastic growth and the deficit county legislators talk about without showing dollar for dollar where the deficit is coming from, is troubling. The county is in the money. But due to their irresponsibility the last three years which they approved, it’s not having the effect it should have.
The surplus from the 2017 sales tax windfall $17 Million, should plug one hole that was supposed to be filled by the ill-fated Robert Astorino airport lease deal. Now there’s no need to do any deal — if it wasn’t for the over estimation of sales taxes in 2015 and 2016. How did they make up for that? That’s what the current Budget Director, who also prepared the 2015-2016 and 2017 budgets needs to explain in depth.
What does it mean for the taxpayer, boom for the county and not so great a recovery for you.
If the county needs to fund the CSEA settlement that would be an increase in the budget say 15% to cover that, they have been without a contract for 8 years, assuming around 2% a year, the county budget would go up around $300 Million dollars topping $2.1 Billion.
The sales tax increases are not going to cover that.
Then there is the new debt $50 Million debt (I think it’s $50 Million) for Playland the county is going to assume if they go ahead as proposed with the Nick Singer Standard Amusements group, thus increasing the debt service on Playland, when the original Standard Amusements deal was going to pay the existing Playland debt service.
Now, we await the whole Playland denouement, depending of course on Mr. Singer giving the county more money in the Playland deal. There is no indication that the county has met with Mr. Singer to bargain up the Standard Amusements payment at the time of this writing. Time for those secret meetings to start!
There is the redlight camera revenue operation the county just sent up to Albany asking for permission to “redlight camera” Westchester.
Then of course there are all the Democrat-friendly organizations and non-profits to keep happy with increased grants, county support.
If my County Property Tax increase goes up 15% it will only be $400 on top of the $2,400 I pay now. But if all the Democrats friends and relations have to be rewarded, it may be more than that.
So why not start discussions on the budget and sweet talk the public now?
Please, county legislators, put out power points on the specific deficits caused by the Astorino administration that have to be made up.The deficits have never been articulated in a specific matter, along the lines of “we have a deficit of $25 Million caused by Mr. Astorino borrowing for this, or not spending this” then the public would understand.
However, this is the same Democrat controlled legislature that approved all of Mr. Astorino’s budgets 7 of the last 8 years. They even approved the 2018 budget–the deficit drenched budget, according to them.
The Democratic Legislature owns this budget and it should be discussed as soon as possible to clarify the problems,admit their financial inability to count, and stop blaming the previous administration for budget policies they approved.
In fact the Astorino Budget Director is still the Budget Director under the new administration. He should be explaining what was bad about the Astorino Budget that he protested to no avail.
The truth shall set you free. But you always pay for ignoring the truth.