County Execs. Discuss Shared Services, Key Economic Development Initiatives
John Jordan | May 2017
PLEASANTVILLE—The lower Hudson Valley’s three county executives detailed their top economic development initiatives that ranged from public-private partnerships involving airport operations, an amusement park and a $1.9-billion bioscience park, to a sewer pact with an out-of-state city during a Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress breakfast on May 15th at Pace University’s Pleasantville campus.
About 130 attendees heard Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Rockland County Executive Ed Day discussed county finances, economic development and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shared services initiative geared to reducing local property taxes. Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin moderated the discussion.
All three county executives were somewhat critical of the Cuomo plan that requires counties to undertake a host of shared services initiatives, including the filing of a plan to New York State that could result in a county being eligible for a one-time match of the net savings resulting from new actions implemented by the plan.
While Day and Odell said their respective counties are working toward submitting a shared services proposal to New York State, Astorino was the most critical of the program and while detailing several shared services agreements the county has been involved with in the past, did not mention whether the county would participate in the effort.
“This was a political ploy by the governor to deflect attention from what is happening in the state,” Astorino charged. “We are doing everything we can. If you really wanted to save money and consolidate then you have to look at the schools. Sixty-five percent from someone’s tax bill is from the schools and they were completely excluded from this.”
Day said the initial roll out of the shared services plan was “outright insulting to county executives” but after some meetings with state officials, the County Executive has warmed to the program even though there is not a clear state funding stream for the promised matching funds.
However, he did note that not including school districts in the shared services initiative “is absurd.”
Odell related that in 2009 as a Putnam County Legislator put together a panel called the “Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability,” which convened stakeholders in the county to discuss possible savings from shared services. She said her administration would once again look to meet with municipal officials and others to try to come up with a plan and possible savings initiatives.
She also criticized the state’s initiative because it does not include school district savings. Odell noted that town and village leaders sometimes have resisted sharing functions such as police services, preferring local control to property-tax savings.
In terms of economic development programs, Astorino touted the proposed proposed public-private partnership initiative at Westchester County Airport, the eventual takeover of Rye Playland operations by Standard Amusements and the $1.2-billion bioscience complex to be built at the county’s Grasslands campus in Valhalla by Fareri Associates. Odell touted a program in which Brewster would tap into nearby Danbury, Conn.’s sewer system—an initiative that could foster commercial business growth along a six-mile stretch of Route 6. Day pointed to IPG’s purchase of the Pfizer complex in Pearl River, as well as his successful codes and rental housing registry initiatives geared at improving conditions of some substandard housing.
“We are turning slumlords into landlords,” Day said.
The leaders also discussed efforts to stem the vexing problem of the opioid epidemic.