WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. From Westchester County Department of Communications. November 14, 2022:
Westchester County Executive George Latimer has proposed a $6 million dollar cut to the County property tax levy in a preview of his 2023 proposed Operating Budget. This is the fourth County property tax cut in a row presented by Latimer as County Executive.
Latimer said: “I have been all around this County; I have heard the stories from families who are feeling the strain of inflation- this budget is for them. We have once again cut taxes, and expanded the programs that the people of this County need. I am proud of this Budget, this is what honest and fair governing is, that is who we are as an administration.”
Closing 2022 with projected $65.9 million operating surplus
No borrowing for tax certs
No borrowing for pension
No use of fund balance
2023 Budget contains no borrowing or one-shots
No borrowing for tax certs
No borrowing for pension and paying down $10.9 million for a prior balance
No use of fund balance
No borrowing for cash flow
Latimer said: “The 2023 Budget reflects a continued commitment to programs that meet the needs of Westchester County residents. We have cut taxes but we have also added $1 million to food security programs that serve 100 pantries, we have increased funding for homeless shelter contracts, and we have put in $500k for New Rochelle Family Court support services.”
Budget Director Larry Soule said: “This budget reflects the steadfast commitment of the County Executive to serve the needs of all residents of Westchester County, while at the same time remaining accountable to the needs of the taxpayers.”
The 2023 Budget increases the “rainy day fund” to about 19% of County operating expenditures- a bold way to stabilize the bond ratings for the County.
Latimer said: “For the past four consecutive fiscal years, our administration has been able to propose an Operating Budget that included a cut to the County property tax levy. Westchester County also boasts a AA+, AA+ and Aa1 rating by Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s, respectively – among the highest ratings awarded by these three major agencies. These accomplishments are due in no small part to the professional work of the Westchester County Department of Finance.”
Finance Commissioner Karin Hablow said: “I applaud the County Executive for submitting a balanced budget that also includes another consecutive year of a decrease to the tax levy. The County has steadily improved its financial position while continuing to offer the services needed and sought out by its residents. The fiscally responsible budgets that the County Executive has proposed year after year will position Westchester County as a financially stable entity for years to come.”
Public Safety / Corrections / Probation
In a record setting year, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections and Department of Probation are funded at the highest level they have ever been funded in Westchester County history – a total of $260.9 million.
- Correction $156.6 million
- Public Safety $59.1 million
- Probation $45.2 million
This allocation in the Budget includes:
- IT Coordinator and Crime Data Analyst for Public Safety
- Three additional School Resource Officers in Katonah, North Salem and Hendrick Hudson
- New Class of Corrections Officers included in Budget for 2023
Acting Public Safety Commissioner Terrance Raynor said: “The budget proposed by the County Executive fully funds our Department, and enables us to provide the critical law enforcement services that the people of Westchester expect and deserve. This budget will ensure that we can fulfill our core missions, and continue to support all municipal police agencies in our County.”
Corrections Commissioner Joe Spano said: “As part of our robust COVID prevention protocols we are utilizing more of our facility footprint, so keeping pace with employee retirements directly impacts operational safety and quality of life for WDOC staff, and the men and women in our care.”
Probation Commissioner Rocco Pozzi said: “The proposed 2023 Operating Budget continues to reflect the Latimer Administration’s support for Probation operations. The resources provided to the Probation Department will afford Probation Officers the ability to effectively supervise those individuals placed under our authority, which translates into a higher level of community protection.”
Economic Development accounts for $6 million in the 2023 Operating Budget, with a focus on the Life Sciences, Tourism and Healthcare Sectors. This includes $1.4 million for the Downtown Improvement Grant (DIG) Program.
Economic Development Director Bridget Gibbons said: “We are grateful to the County Executive for making this investment in economic development to support our existing businesses and inspire the launch of new businesses in Westchester County. Life sciences companies, advanced manufacturing companies, startups and others are thriving here, and we are proud to provide training, education and other resources to support them.”
Tourism Director Natasha Caputo said: “The County’s hotel industry was hard hit by COVID, with hotel closures changing the type and size of business we can handle. We have evolved tourism marketing efforts to attract leisure, business and meeting clientele that our hotels and tourism partners can serve well, with the intention of prompting repeat business. Momentum with film industry business is strong.”
Health and Mental Health
The Westchester County Health Department accounts for $220.8 million in the Operating Budget, and $17.2 million for the Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH).
Health Budget includes:
- Maternal Mortality $1 million
- Federally Qualified Health Centers / Neighborhood Health Centers expansion $1 million (total $3 million)
Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler said: “The Health Department has devoted a considerable amount of its resources over the past two years to its COVID response. This budget will allow the Department to refocus its attention on core public health priorities and inequities.”
DCMH Budget includes:
- Project Alliance Mobile Crisis Response Team, Crisis Network and 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline ($6.1 million)
- Opioid Response and Overdose Prevention Initiative ($565,000)
- Early Childhood Mental Health Services ($737,892)
DCMH Commissioner Michael Orth said: “Through the County Executive’s ongoing commitment to serving the people of Westchester County, the programs and funding in this proposed budget will further foster programs and supports for people with mental health, addiction and co-occurring disorder needs.”
The Westchester County Department of Emergency Services has a total of $13 million in the County’s Operating Budget. This includes:
- EMS mutual aid support $3.3 million
- Ongoing Threat Assessment Management (TAM) Operations
- Two additional staff for Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) and to coordinate volunteers for Hazmat incidents
Commissioner Richard Wishnie said: “This County Budget includes significant support of the first responder communities’ ability to provide state-of-the-art care in Westchester. Enhanced EMS services are a priority of County Executive Latimer, as is recruitment and retention of EMS and Fire Service members. Also supported is an emphasis on an all-hazards-approach of our office of emergency management as we begin to shift from Indian Point concerns, to a focus on protecting our citizens from the effects of climate change.”
Parks and Recreation
Total amount in the Budget for Parks and Recreation is $60.3 million.
A combined $28 million has been slotted for structural improvements at the Ice Casino and Playland Amusement Park. Additionally, $7 million has been allocated for Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center, and $3.3 million for Cranberry Lake Preserve improvements.
Latimer said: “As the construction of the County’s historic investment in Playland continues, we look toward other park facilities that have suffered from underinvestment in the past.”
Westchester County Parks Commissioner Kathy O’Connor said: “We are focused on rebuilding and restoring our nationally accredited parks system, which is widely used by residents to maintain their physical and mental health. Park usage has grown since the beginning of the pandemic, and we are appreciative of the support we receive from the County and the County Executive.”
Human Rights Commission
The total amount allotted for the Human Rights Commission in the Budget is $1.3 million. This includes an additional investigator.
Human Rights Commission Executive Director Tejash Sanchala said: “The number of cases that the Human Rights Commission handles has increased significantly in recent years. The addition of another investigator will enable the Commission to more efficiently process and adjudicate complaints of discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodations and in certain hate-related matters. As a result, the Commission will be a greater resource to the community.”
Total Youth Bureau funding is $4.7 million dollars. Among the new initiatives is an expansion of the Invest-In-Kids program to $250K.
Youth Bureau Executive Director Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said: “Investments in the Youth Bureau, and its partners, began at the inception of the Latimer administration. From the CE’s first budget to present, there has been consistent and robust support of programs such as Invest in Kids that advance our efforts to improve the overall well-being of children, youth and families. We thank the County Executive for taking action through the budget to address the increased need for positive youth development opportunities.”