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Compromise Bill For Rockland Finances Could Get Introduced This Week

Assemblyman Zebrowski says bill addressing Rockland’s fiscal crisis could be introduced before week’s end.

 

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-NewCity) hopes to introduce his for getting Rockland County’s finances in order later this week. He announced the alternative approach several days ago.  Zebrowski described it as a “complicated bill” and said he and his staff have been fine-tuning and revising the language.

“It hasn’t been introduced yet,” said Zebrowski on Monday. “The formal introduction will probably be toward the end of this week.”

He thinks the package of three bills with the additional oversight and enforcement and decreased burden on taxpayers will draw the support it needs from the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. 

“The assembly and governor’s office have both said they would consider it,” he said, adding the governor’s office specifically said it was concerned about the impact on county taxpayers. Once the wording is finalized, he plans a presentation to the governor’s office. 

One of the key measures is a sale tax increase but a smaller percentage than originally sought by county government.  Under the bill, there would be a one-quarter of one percent in the sales tax for three years, which must be reviewed every two years.  The mortgage and transfer tax proposals, which had been initially passed by the county legislature and approved by the county executive, are not part of Zebrowski’s plan.

In all, his plan includes three legislative bills.  Zebrowski said two measures are more preventative measures to prevent a financial crisis like this from occurring again — including a fiscal indicator system for county budgets and one could potentially save Rockland $1.3 million by lowering its pension costs.

He will propose a Rockland County Deficit Reduction Taskforce with nine members, who would not be paid. The governor would appoint four members and one of those individuals would be the chairperson. The temporary president of the state senate, speaker of the assembly, Rockland County executive, Rockland County Legislative chairperson and state comptroller would each appoint one member of the taskforce.

The Taskforce would remain in place for three years but it could extend its work by its own vote.  All reports and recommendations by the Task Force would be made public and accessible.

According to Zebrowski, the Taskforce’s Powers and Duties would:

  • Require the County to annually prepare and submit a balanced multi-year financial plan. 
  • Require the County to review the annual and multi-year budget recommendations of the Taskforce and make adjustments to the annual and multi-year budget for each recommendation. If the County Executive and County Legislature wish to reject any of the submitted recommendations, the County must enact a local law for each individual recommendation that it seeks to reject and must be approved by two-thirds of the County Legislature.
  • Prepare quarterly budget reports and submit such reports to the governing board and chief executive officer of the County, the State Director of the Budget, the State Comptroller, the Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the Taskforce.
  • Submit the County tentative or preliminary budget to the Taskforce no later than 30 days before the budget has to be adopted, for review and recommendations.
  • Review the operations, structure and services of the Summit Park Nursing home and make recommendations for a long-term plan.
  • Review the revenue sharing arrangement between the County, Towns and Villages and make a recommendation for long-term changes.

Additionally, the measures would creates the Local Government Fiscal Indicator System for local government finances to determine if they are experiencing fiscal stress.  The legislation provides for appropriate state fiscal intervention in order prevent situations like Rockland County’s budget deficit from occurring in the future.  It also requires all municipalities with annual budgets over $10 million to annually prepare and submit multi-year financial plans to the State Comptroller for review.

Zebrowski said he has discussed the major components of the plan with State Senator David Carlucci but would not comment further on Carlucci’s possible position on the bill.

Zebrowski said the plan would make major strides toward helping Rockland.

“I would hope this could prevent any layoffs,” he said.  “I do think the county will have to tighten its belt. The county’s hole in its budget is astronomical.”

Ron Levine, a spokesman for County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, said Vanderhoef and others appreciate Zebrowski "stepping up to the plate" for Rockland.

JillyA. May 15, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I don't understand all this negativity. From where I sit, Zebrowski is the only one trying to help and create checks so that the county gov cannot put us back into this same mess. It would be easy for him to sit around and watch the county gov implode, point fingers at the elected officials, and let the county go bankrupt, which would end up costing the taxpayers more. It takes leadership to step up and create a balanced plan that averts a crisis. It seems like the county has been dealing, or really not dealing, with financial issues for years. Now, we need the state legislators to step in and show leadership. All levels of government need to work together to solve our problems and make sure the county does not continue to dig us into a terrible hole. I think it is the job of all of our representatives to represent US and be advocates for US. The Rockland taxpayers sorely need that representation and Zebrowski is stepping up.
James Wexler May 15, 2012 at 04:50 PM
The County dug themselves this hole and sent a plan to the state, this wasn't created by Zebrowski.
Walt May 15, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Applaud him? What for? His plan calls for a sales tax increase and the formation of a task force to effectively do what the legislature was elected to do only they won't look like bad guys to their constituents if by chance the task force recommends any cuts in service. The entire RC legislature and Vanderhoef should all "step outside the box" permanently because they are all cowards that only care about being re-elected. If Zebrowski called for term limits for the RC legislature in his proposal, I would call that being proactive and stepping up. Dream on because that will never happen.
Mary May 15, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Why do we have legislators on the county level? It's just another level of government intervention. We should rid ourselves of the Rockland County Legislature, let the supervisors from each town form a joint committee and have them work in conjunction with the state to deal with our finances.
Joe T May 15, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I agree with mary who needs a county legislature!! Our county is broke someone needs to fix it and it seems the only one with a plan is Zebrowski. He has to deal with the situation as it is now; unfortunately, he can't undo the poor decisions of the county. He can only try to make a bad situation better.

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