Rockland County Legislature Unanimously Adopts Amended 2021 County Budget
Real Estate In-Depth | December 2, 2020
NEW CITY—Rockland County legislators voted unanimously (16-0) on Dec. 1 to adopt an amended 2021 County Budget that lowers property taxes to less than 1% next year, and has no sales tax rate increases, layoffs or program cuts.
“This budget recognizes and implements the recommendations made by our independent fiscal auditor, and by extension, provides tax relief to Rockland property owners during what has become a very desperate time for many,” said Rockland County Legislator Michael Grant, chairman of the Budget & Finance Committee.
Independent financial reviews by the Legislature’s fiscal auditor, CGR, formerly known as the Center for Government Research, as well as the New York state Comptroller’s Office both agreed that the County Executive’s proposed budget was balanced and reasonable.
The Budget & Finance Committee approved an amended 2021 County budget on Monday. The budget vote split along party lines, with the Democratic members in full support. The full Legislature unanimously adopted the committee’s recommended budget on Dec. 1.
The Legislature’s adopted budget includes the following amendments to the spending plan as submitted by the County Executive:
• Reduces the amount of health insurance benefits’ expense by 2%, or $1,380,900.
• Increases the amount to be raised by sales tax by 1.05 million.
• Reduces a Department of Health Relief Line by $68,730, which will fund a Water Task Force position
• Appropriates $7,500 to the Haverstraw African American Connection nonprofit, an important local organization that promotes history and culture, and appropriates $5,000 to the Trap, Neuter Return nonprofit (also called Four Legs Good NY/NJ), which works with feral cats; with the expenses to be funded by a $12,500 increase in mortgage tax revenues.
• Imposes legislative staff changes at no cost. Changes certain job titles in the Legislature (abolishes the title of Legislative Fiscal Analyst and adds a title of Legislative Fiscal Director; abolishes the title of Research Coordinator and adds the title of Director of Intergovernmental Relations and Public Safety Coordinator; “re-bands” other titles (applies to the Clerk, Deputy Clerk, Communications Director and Operations Coordinator).
“The bottom line is that these changes reduce the property tax from 2.84% to 0.96%, or about one-third of what was proposed in the County Executive’s budget,” Legislator Grant said. “In making these amendments, we can reduce the impact of taxes on Rockland County’s property taxpayers to approximately $12 on an annual basis, about a dollar a month. This represents the lowest property tax increase on the legislative and executive side in more than four years.”
Overall, the changes reduce the amount to be collected by property taxes in 2021 by $2,430,900 to $130,770,100. This is an increase of 0.96% or $1,245,100 versus the 2020 Real Property Tax of $129,525,00.
“The good news is that this is to the benefit of Rockland’s taxpayers, despite some dire predictions or claims made earlier in the year,” Legislator Grant said. “There are no layoffs in the budget, no new sales taxes, no program abolishments. We don’t have to break the cap and it doesn’t draw from the fund balance.”
Under Legislator Grant, the Budget & Finance Committee spent two The Clerk to the Legislature reported the County Executive’s office sent a communication endorsing the committee’s action the night before.
“I’m pleased that the county executive endorsed our amendment and our cut to his property tax increase,” Legislature Chairman Alden H. Wolfe said. “I’m hopeful that we will get the signed budget back promptly and we can put this budget season to rest so we will have certainty for budget year 2021.”
On Dec. 1, County Executive Day reported welcome news to county residents in the form of lower health insurance rates. He said he was informed of the finalized health insurance rates from New York State’s Empire Plan for 2021 that are approximately $2 million less than previously estimated in the proposed 2021 Budget.
The 2021 Proposed Budget originally estimated a 5% increase based on last year’s budget. However, the final rates indicate only a 2% increase, excellent news for Rockland taxpayers.
“Earlier this evening my administration submitted a communication to the County Legislature pledging support for and recommending an amendment to the Proposed 2021 Budget which would reduce the proposed property tax levy. These unexpected savings should be passed on directly to the taxpayers,” County Executive Day said.
The adopted budget now goes to the County Executive for review. He has five working days after receipt of the amended version to issue any vetoes. He has line-item veto power. If necessary, the County Legislature has until Dec. 20 to override or the amended version with any vetoes becomes the budget. It takes a two-thirds vote per veto item to override.