The Sept. 9 memo from county Budget Director Lawrence Soule indicates the depth of Astorino’s 2016 troubles, and provides a glimpse of what could be in store for Westchester residents and its county workforce.
With two months to go before his 2016 financial plan goes public, the memo reveals that Astorino’s penny-pinching team has yet to figure out how to meet the county executive’s insistence on holding the line on the county tax levy of $548 million, even after 158 county workers took a buyout this summer. “We have received budget requests from the departments, and a significant budget deficit remains,” Soule warned.
Soule then instructed county commissioners and department heads to devise plans by Sept. 23 to eliminate certain non-mandated services and to find ways to raise fees on county services for Westchester residents, and the county’s 43 municipalities. Non-mandated services include operations of the county’s vast park system and its six public golf courses; county roads and bridges; programming for county youth; and regional public safety services provided by the county police and Westchester’s emergency services agency.
Legislator Catherine Parker, D-Rye, wondered if Astorino’s dismantling of county government would reduce services to a level that would diminish the county’s quality of life.
“How much can be cut out of infrastructure?” she wondered. “When taxpayers realize that their infrastructure is like that of a Third World country, they may be willing to pay more. I’m worried about the parks department too. It’s not mandated.”
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