Legislators Pass Bipartisan, Zero-Tax-Increase 2017 Budget

img_57387th Year In A Row Without Tax Levy Increase
Increased Public Safety With 6 Westchester County Police Positions Added
Infrastructure Initiatives to Increase With 4 Engineers Added to DPW
Title XX Subsidized Childcare Gets $1 Million Boost

On December 12th, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) passed the $1.8 Billion 2017 Operating Budget by a vote of 10-7.  The 2017 budget is the 7th consecutive county budget that carries no tax increase.

The budget was supported by all 10 members of the bipartisan coalition of 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

In addition to not raising taxes, the 2017 budget contains no reductions to the county work force, in fact the budget adds 6 positions to County Police and 4 engineering positions to the Department of Public Works. 

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Minority Leader Testa speaking before budget vote.

Other than a slight reduction in funding to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, other non-profit partners kept the same level of funding as the 2016 budget.  There was an addition of $210,000 for other Community Based Organizations. 

During Budget and Appropriations Committee meetings, The BOL learned that the Title XX subsidized childcare program would not be able to accept new applicants beginning sometime in August 2017 based on current funding levels.  To ensure that low income families are able to access safe and affordable childcare while they are at work, the BOL added $1 million to the Title XX program. 

Prior to the budget vote, the BOL voted unanimously in favor of a resolution requesting the County Executive to undertake an open bidding process for a private operator at the Westchester County Airport.

Following the budget, BOL Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D) Somers, noted how challenging the 2017 budget process was.  “I thank my Legislative colleagues and staff for their hard work and cooperation in producing this bipartisan, no-tax-increase budget.  The 2017 budget not only protects taxpayers by not raising taxes for a seventh consecutive year, it strengthens social programs that many Westchester County residents rely on as well as adding critical positions to our County police and engineering positions in the Department of Public Works to help address a major backlog of capital projects.”,  Kaplowitz said.  “We will continue to work together with the County Executive to find alternative forms of revenue and savings, in fact we will be issuing a Request for Proposals for a private partner to operate the Westchester County Airport which could unlock as much as $15 million in funds that have accrued from airport operations.”

BOL Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (R) Peekskill, said the 2017 budget was achieved through a combination of fiscal discipline, bipartisan cooperation and finding alternative sources of funding.  “I am proud of the work that my 9 bipartisan colleagues and I have done to produce a seventh consecutive no-tax-increase budget.  My Republican colleagues and I are committed to protecting taxpayers by eliminating waste in government, constantly searching for more efficient ways to deliver services and finding alternative streams of revenue.”, Testa said.  “In addition to passing the 2017 budget today we also passed a resolution asking County Executive Astorino to issue a Request for Proposals to find a private operator the County Airport.  The County Executive proposed a very promising deal with a private operator for the airport and I am hopeful that following the bidding process we will act quickly to select a partner to help us monetize that important county asset for general county operational costs.”

BOL Vice-Chairman, Legislator Jim Maisano (R) New Rochelle, said. “This is a compromise budget that holds the line on property taxes and protects essential services.  Our County government is facing serious issues as we head into 2017 and we need to keep working together through bipartisan cooperation to ensure that our county is run in a fiscally responsible manner.”

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Westchester County Legislators Pass Resolution Against Hudson River Oil Barge Anchorage Site

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On Monday, September 12, 2016, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) unanimously passed a resolution opposing the U.S. Coast Guard’s plan to create 10 anchorage sites for up to 43 oil vessels in the Hudson River between Yonkers and Ulster County.  Nearly 1000 acres of the Hudson River would be used by the anchorage sites off the shores of Westchester county alone.

The Resolution was proposed by Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (R) Peekskill, Cortlandt, Yorktown.  Prior to being elected to the BOL, Legislator Testa served for three terms as the Mayor of Peekskill where he championed extensive reclamation projects along Peekskill’s post-industrial waterfront.  “I am glad to see my colleagues stand in unity opposing this anchorage plan.  Westchester is the first County to pass a resolution against the plan and I hope to the other counties along the Hudson River follow our lead”,  Testa said.  “This resolution should send a strong message to the Coast Guard and the federal government that both Republicans and Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators stand in opposition to the Coast Guard’s proposal to park barges laden with oil up and down the Hudson River just off the waterfronts of our communities.  Vocal opposition from the public and government officials at all levels has been effective in getting the period for public comment on the anchorage sites delayed until December.  Now we need to continue our advocacy until the Coast Guard realizes what an ill-conceived plan this is.”

The Legislation was reviewed in the BOL’s Infrastructure Committee, Chaired by Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D) Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington.  Legislator Shimsky said, “This issue does not follow the stereotypical ‘economy versus environment’ script.  The vastly expanded anchorage sites, and the highly volatile cargo that would be parked in the barges using them, will endanger the billions of dollars of public and private sector investments that have transformed our Hudson River waterfronts from industrial wasteland to vibrant collections of housing, recreational facilities, restaurants, shops and other commercial enterprises.   The economic, environmental, and public safety risks these sites would impose on our Hudson River communities are simply too great to let the proposed new Coast Guard rule stand.”

The Resolution was also reviewed in the BOL’s Environment and Health Committee, Chaired by Legislator Francis Corcoran, (R) Bedford.  Following the vote, Corcoran said,  “I stand squarely behind this resolution against parking dozens of oil barges up and down the Hudson River for indeterminate lengths of time.  Based on information presented in Committee we learned that these sites will be defined in the National Register as long term.  The Coast Guard claims they will only be used for short term storage but we don’t know what that means or why they must be registered as long term.  While I understand the logistical need to move oil around our nation, I don’t understand why a commercial industry is allowed to take over 1000 acres of a beautiful, natural public resource like the Hudson River to park their barges.”

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Legislator Testa, Bipartisan Group of State, County, Local Lawmakers Calling for More Transparency on Review of Oil Barge Anchorage Sites in Hudson

Feds agree to extend period for public comment on controversial plan

On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Board of Legislators (BOL) Minority Leader, Legislator John G. Testa (R) Peekskill stood with a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the state and municipal governments who are opposed to a U.S. Coast Guard proposal that would create 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River sites for up to 43 oil vessels between Yonkers and Ulster County. The group noted that public pressure influenced the federal government to extend the period for public input to December 6th of this year.

Following the event, Testa credited the group’s demands for transparency as the reason the federal government has agreed to extend the public comment period for the proposal. “By bringing transparency to the project and informing the general public, we were able to force an extension of the public comment period. We also will be holding a public hearing in October to force the Federal Government to give details and get answers to questions we all have.” Testa said. “We will continue to stand together as Republicans and Democrats from local village councils to the halls of the New York State Senate in Albany to stop this irresponsible and unfair encroachment on our re-claimed waterfronts and our environment.”

Legislator Testa is sponsoring a resolution voicing the BOL’s opposition to the proposed U.S. Coast Guard rule which would create anchorage sites in the Hudson River for vessels carrying oil to refinery’s south of Westchester County.  The Resolution has been placed on the agenda for review at the next BOL Environment and Health Committee and Infrastructure Committee meetings with a vote of the entire BOL expected at the next scheduled meeting on September 12th at 7pm.

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Westchester County Legislator John G. Testa speaks against the barge proposal while (L-R) Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, NYS Senator Terrence Murphy, Cortlandt Resident John Mattis, Congressional Candidate (NY-18) Phil Oliva, NYS Senator Sue Serino, Dutchess County Executivea Marc Molinaro, Westchester County Legislator Francis Corcoran look on.

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BOL Coalition Announces Hiring of Three County Police Officers

Public Safety Photo

Westchester County Board of Legislators Minority Leader John G. Testa
Statement on Hiring of Three County Police Officers

Hire Cops Video_Testa_KapOne of the reasons the entire GOP Caucus voted to pass the 2016 budget was because it added back three County Police positions, which the County Executive had proposed cutting.  We voted for the budget based on the understanding that these three critical public safety positions would be filled.  It has taken a little longer than we wanted or expected but I’m happy to say that those positions will be filled starting with the July 18th pay period.  We are partners with the County Executive in managing the finances of Westchester County and sometimes partners have differing opinions on how to prioritize spending and savings.  The Board of Legislators Coalition that passed the budget (8 Republicans & 2 Democrats) felt that Public Safety was a priority that should be fully funded and that our County Police Department should be fully staffed.

Hire Cops Video_Grasso_Police UnionWe remain committed to protecting taxpayers and I would say that six consecutive years without an increase to property taxes is solid proof that we are succeeding in that effort.  Those Legislators who voted for the 2016 budget have worked with the County Executive over the first half of this year to carefully manage our operations to find savings wherever possible.  I’m happy to say that with the sale of the Austin Avenue property in Yonkers and finding operational savings throughout the county, we are confident that this year’s budget is working well to provide the services our residents need while continuing to protect our already overtaxed homeowners.

Hire Cops Video _TestaThe 2016 budget was a difficult negotiation and required a lot of compromise and good faith.  The hiring of these three officers was a critical piece of that negotiation. We must stand by our never ending support for the safety and security of our residents and a critical component of that is maintaining a sufficient size police force. Westchester has a tremendous amount of parkland to cover and with the safety concerns we share as a nation we need more police presence, not less. Hiring these officers is a good start but we must look to continue to find ways to fill the vacancies that remain.

We thank County Executive Astorino for following through with the hiring of these officers and look forward to working closely with him in the future to continue strengthening Westchester County’s public safety capabilities.

Video News Release of announcement:

County Hires 3 New Cops Per Budget Agreement from West Cnty Board of Legislators on Vimeo.

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Bipartisan Coalition Sets Date for Special Election

The date for the Special Election to fill the vacated seat of retired Legislator Bernice Spreckman (District 14) has been set for Tuesday August 9th. The date was moved back from the originally proposed date of August 2nd. The additional week was necessary because the Democrat Leader had blocked/delayed the vote by one week. The Legislation to set the date for August 9th passed by a vote of 9-4.

Special Election VoteMinority Leader John Testa encouraged voters to get out to the polls on August 9th. “We’ve set the date for the special election for August 9th as opposed to the originally proposed date of August 2nd to make up for the week that we lost due to the Democrats blocking the original legislation. The date we set is fair and equitable to both parties. It also does not break the law by going beyond the 90 days allowed by our charter as our Democrat colleagues have urged.” said Testa. “I hope the Democrats will now stop their delay and stall tactics and focus on presenting their candidate and their positions to the electorate instead of making spurious claims and specious arguments about voter turnout. The Democrats have an announced candidate and a tremendous voter registration advantage in District 14. They have every single opportunity to compete in this election that the Republicans have. If they are afraid that their party won’t turn out to support their candidate then they may want to reconsider the partisan, petty approach to campaigning which they have become known for.”

For voters who will not be present in the District on August 9th, absentee ballot forms can be obtained at the link below:

http://citizenparticipation.westchestergov.com/images/stories/pdfs/2015absentee.pdf

The downloadable .PDF file of the absentee ballot form attached to the link above can be printed and mailed or hand delivered to:

Westchester County Board of Elections
25 Quarropas Street
White Plains, NY 10601

Applications must be mailed seven days before the election, or hand-delivered to your county board of elections by the day before the election.

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Democrat Leader Delays Important Vote To Set Special Election, Republican Caucus Urges Colleagues to Follow the Law

 

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At the regular meeting of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) on Monday June, 20, 2016, Democrat Majority Leader Catherine Borgia blocked a vote on the Legislation which would set the date for a special election to fill the Legislative District 14 seat of retired Legislator Bernice Spreckman.

Spreckman retired effective June 7th.  When a Legislator vacates their position during a term, the County Charter requires the BOL to select a date for a special election to take place within 90 days.  The Legislation which was to be voted on set the date for August 2nd.  The BOL will have to convene a special meeting in the coming days to take up the pending legislation again.

Chamber2Legislator Borgia wanted the special election to be held on September 13th, Primary Day, which would be well beyond the ninety day period allowed by law.  BOL Chairman Mike Kaplowitz and the majority of Legislators want to set the special election date within the 90 day time period which would give the Board of Elections sufficient time to prepare and to give both political parties time to identify and announce candidates.

Minority Leader John G. Testa (R) Peekskill is Co-Chair along with Borgia of the BOL’s Rules Committee.  “I’m shocked that Legislator Borgia would act in such a puerile manner simply because she couldn’t get the votes she needed to set the special election for the date she wanted.  We spent a lot of time listening to Legislator Borgia’s arguments in the Rules Committee.  After much discussion it was clear that the will of the Legislature was to follow the law and set the election within the 90 day period as required.”  Testa added, “Legislator Borgia has played fast and loose with election law in the past and it came back to bite her, including getting her candidate kicked off the ballot in the last election cycle.  I would have hoped hope that she was capable of learning from that mistake.  This ‘take my ball and go home’ action that she engaged in during the meeting proves that she would prefer to put politics over the needs of the people of District 14 to be represented at the BOL.”

Minority Whip Legislator Gordon Burrows reacted with disgust to Borgia’s vote blocking.  “I am shocked, frankly, that Legislator Borgia would act unilaterally to prevent a vote because she knew she was on the losing end of an argument.  No Legislator is more important than the BOL and certainly no more important than the needs of the residents of District 14.  The bipartisan coalition and leadership team on the BOL agreed that a special election on August 2nd struck the right balance with respect to the needs of the District’s residents against the time it would take for both parties to field their candidates.”  Burrows said.  “I’ve heard names from both parties bandied about for this seat yet no one has announced or begun campaigning so this is a completely fair contest.  I would encourage Legislator Borgia to help her party by supporting a candidate and discussing the issues that we are facing in Westchester County.  I believe voters have had enough of the political gamesmanship and pettiness that we saw tonight.”

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GOP Leaders Stunned by Democrats Vote to Block Affordable Housing

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On Monday, June 13, 2016 Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted against funding for 10 units of affordable housing  in Mamaroneck.  The ten units represented a significant step toward reaching the 750 units which the county is required to build under the 2009 fair and affordable housing settlement.

Republican Legislators were dismayed and confused as to why their colleagues who claim to want affordable housing throughout Westchester would block this important project with just six months left for the county to get 750 units approved with financing in place.

ByronPlace1During the meeting the Democrat legislator who represents Mamaroneck took the lead in offering a specious argument as to why she blocked  the affordable housing in her district.  She claimed that it was a gamble to finance the units because the federal monitor in the settlement had not pre-approved them as counting toward the 750 unit requirement.  Republicans found this argument to lack credibility since none of the units that have been approved by the Board of Legislators has had a pre-approval from the Monitor and yet the Democrats voted for them.  The Monitor has only challenged the permissibility of one affordable housing project that was approved by the BOL and that challenge was struck down by the judge overseeing the settlement.  In Committee meetings to review the proposed funding, representatives from the County Attorney’s Office stated that they were confident that the Mamaroneck units would count and were well-prepared to defend the project’s validity in court if necessary.  Further proving the insincerity of the Democrats claims, on the very next vote at the BOL meeting, just 2 minutes and 20 seconds after the five Democrats voted to block the affordable housing in Mamaroneck, they voted in favor of affordable housing in Pound Ridge, a project which also did not have a pre-approval from the Monitor.

During the meeting, Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (R) Peekskill said, “If members have some ‘inside’ information why not share it with us now10 Byron Place Map?  No one from HUD or the Monitor has publicly stated any doubts.  Besides, the only time the Monitor raised an objection that certain units should not be counted was with the Conifer project in New Castle, and in the end, the federal court overruled him and said they do count.”

Minority Whip, Legislator Gordon Burrows (R) Yonkers, said, “If on December 31st the County stands at 740 units, ten units short,and incurs the heavy fines, I will hold each of you that voted to defeat this measure responsible and let every taxpayer know who was responsible for putting the county in non-compliance.”

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