BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Following the failure of the county to gain new revenue through a sales tax and mortgage transfer fee due to state legislators refusing to approve the measure, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef found taxes he could raise without asking the state’s permission. Namely a new 4 percent energy surcharge on your O&R bill.
Vanderhoef will also be seeking to layoff 150 county workers, save $1.8 million by not reimbursing out-of-county students at the community college, cut the intelligence task force from the police budget, kick $1.4 million in local election costs back to towns, reduce funding to contract agencies by $300,000 this year and over $500,000 next year, and install a new charge on your motor vehicle registration.
Vanderhoef has written down $2.5 million in additional expected income for the sale of two county properties and also said the county’s nursing home will most likely be sold off to a public benefit corporation in 2013, further relieving the budget pressure in the county.
Counties should not be expecting mandate relief from the state Vanderhoef said, as he has not seen much movement from state lawmakers to reduce the burden on localities. Over 70 percent of the county’s budget is mandated by the state, making it difficult to cut expenses when needed.
Vanderhoef’s plan was panned by many, including Senator David Carlucci and Republican County Legislator Ed Day.
Carlucci said, “Yesterday, the County Executive proposed an $8 million dollar gimmick to an $80 million dollar problem. Hardly well thought out, and with no support from the county legislature, this ill-conceived plan would enact troubling new measures for Rockland residents. Vanderhoef’s plan will implement an outrageous new energy tax on families who are simply trying to heat their homes in the cold winter months. What’s next – a tax on breathing? Scott Vanderhoef now has a new tax increase for every day of the week – plus one for good luck.”
Day said, “With respect to the announcement today, once again, the County Executive just does not seem to get it. He continues to address one side of the ledger – the ‘raising your taxes’ side. We are going from taxing people out of their homes to now freezing also them out with a proposed $4 per $100 energy tax. What of proposed consolidation of Departments? Merging of job responsibilities? Elimination of some of the highly paid deputy positions for our Commissioners and Department heads? Can we see any efficiencies in County government proposed as part of this “plan” also?”
In defense, the county executive’s spokesman Ron Levine pointed out that whenever the exec has proposed new cuts, such as to the Sheriff’s Department, there has not been the political will or interest in implementing them. He also noted that the county now looks destined to turn over the county hospital facilities over to a public benefit corporation as the executive first proposed with much resistance two years ago.
Levine said Carlucci’s comments undermine Rockland’s best interests and called him a man without a plan.