NEW CITY – Rockland legislators adopted County Executive Ed Day's budget for 2022 with slight modifications, including hefty pay raises for themselves, Day, the sheriff and the county clerk.
Legislators, voting 15-1 with one absentee, adopted a $789.7 million spending plan that doesn't raise county property taxes, eliminates the motor vehicle tax, starts phasing out an energy tax, and funds four additional people for the Board of Elections. The plan also creates a gun violence prevention program and funds two additional nonprofit agencies.
The legislators drew $346,370 to raise the pay of 20 elected positions from a reserve for non-union management established in Day's proposed budget. The raises were the second part of a salary package started in 2020 for the 17 legislators, the county executive, Sheriff Louis Falcon, and Clerk Donna Silberman. Until 2020, the legislators went 15 years without a raise.
The 2022 budget raises each legislator's pay by $15,000 to $64,000; the county executive by $24,500 to $211,000; Sheriff Louis Falco's pay by $21,000 to $201,000; and County Clerk Donna Silberman by $13,850 to $170,770.
The 2020 budget raised the pay of each legislators by $16,913, the county executive by $29,940, the sheriff by $37,333, and the county clerk by $13,850.
Day has five working days to consider vetoing the amendments to the budget. He praised the Legislature leadership's working relationship with his administration. The Legislature would have until Dec. 20 to override any vetoes.
“I greatly appreciate the effort put forth by the Legislature in reviewing my proposed budget," Day said. "These ideas and suggestions are a victory for Rockland residents and provide a clear path forward as we work to fully recover from the fiscal crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic."
Legislature Minority Leader Lon Hofstein, R-Clarkstown, said legislative leaders worked with the Day Administration on the amendments.
The budget is funded by $130.77 million in property taxes and an estimated $240 million in sales tax revenues. The budget pays $13.1 million toward the $96 million bond approved by the Legislature a decade ago that covered the greater portion of the county's $138 million deficit. The county's bond payments end in 2024.
The budget would maintain the average county property tax bill at the 2021 level – an estimated $1,408, compared with $1,396 in 2020 and $1,357 in 2019.
“This is something all of us in county government – legislators, County Executive Ed Day and our staffs – have been working toward and to accomplish this in the midst of an ongoing pandemic is just incredible,” Budget and Finance Chairman Michael Grant, D-Haverstraw, said.
"I’m elated to say that we have finally gotten to the point where we can begin reversing many of those actions for the benefit of our taxpayers," Grant said.
Legislator Charles Falciglia, R-Ramapo, was the lone dissenter among the 16 voting legislators. Legislator Vince Tyer, R-Orangetown, was absent from Wednesday night's vote.
Falciglia disagreed with the raises for the legislators, the motor vehicle tax elimination, and funding four more positions for the Board of Elections. He said he would have liked to have a discussion and earlier notice on some of the amendments.
"Some of these things happen at the last minute," he said. "I am for individual votes on amendments so we can all express our opinions. I wasn't totally against the budget. I had issues with some of the amendments. I am going to stick to my opinions."
A debt service reserve will start in January with the intent of using fund balance to pay principal and interest related to the county’s deficit reduction bond.
Plans to eliminate the Residential Energy Tax in 2023, a year earlier than expected.
The Motor Vehicle Tax will be eliminated in 2022, with $1.5 million of $1.8 million originally budgeted cut down to $300,000. The $1.5 million reductions is the equivalent of a 1.14 percent property tax decrease.
Adding four positions to the Board of Elections. The $400,000 includes salaries, MTA tax, health benefits and will be paid for via election services fees. Board officials say it needs more personnel to better serve growing constituent demands for faster turnaround of election night results, enhanced opportunities for voter registration and absentee voting, and administering multiple early polling sites and hours of operation.
Funding for the African American Historical Society of Rockland, a nonprofit that promotes a greater understanding of the history, artifacts, and photographs highlighting the peoples of the African Diaspora.
A gun violence prevention program due to an increase in gun violence. The sheriff's office will administer the program with funding from the county contingency fund.
A $10 million fund for the Open Space program to acquire areas of scenic beauty, environmentally sensitive lands, farms, and Hudson River waterfront areas.
A $8 million amount dedicated to a contractual reserve account to settle open union contracts, all of which expire by the end of this year.
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police, and investigations. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal. Read more articles and bio. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Rockland Legislature adopts budget for 2022 with pay increases