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Legislators Approve Debit Relief Bill

It was introduced by the three local state legislators.

 

The Rockland County Legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a resolution asking New York State to enact a Home Rule request, allowing the county to issue up to $80 million in bonds to pay off its deficit for the fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The bill was . It allows the county to issue up to, but no more than, $80 million in bonds to be paid back in 10 years.

The figure and number of years is the same the county asked the state officials for back on Jan. 19 of this year, according to Legislator Ilan Schoenberger. That time, the legislators included a three-eighths of one percent increase in the sales tax to raise money to pay back the bond. With this resolution, money to pay back the bonds will come from a four-percent residential energy tax increase.

Schoenberger said at Tuesday night’s meeting the legislators didn’t want to try and raise the property tax more that it was already raised in the 2012 budget, so the first time they opted for an increase in sales tax, which Schoenberger himself still prefers.

“We felt that was fairer because the residents of Rockland County wouldn’t have to pick up the tax for the financing the deficit bond, and people have a choice and we just came off a large property tax increase,” Schoenberger said. “However, the State Senate would not carry the bill. Assemblywoman Jaffee and Assemblywoman [Annie] Rabitt introduced it bipartisanly. It never got to a vote because our senator, Carlucci, did not introduce it to the State Senate. So we were forced to find an alternate method of financing the deficit bond, and the alternate method that was enacted by this legislature was a residential energy tax.”

After the initial bond resolution failed, the legislators asked for an increase, which would’ve allowed them to issue up to $95 million in bonds and have 20 years to pay that back. That also didn’t go through.

“In the world, what you ask for and what you get is not always the same in many, many areas, including government. Ultimately, what we came to by mutual agreement, mutual agreement from the senate and assembly leadership and with the county executive and this legislature, is the same $80 million for 10 years that we asked for originally,” Schoenberger said. “In that moment where we would’ve had a sales tax increase, it was going to go into a lock box, so that it would be applied toward the deficit bond. Because we’re raising it through home energy bills -- which is a method none of us wanted to do but we had no choice, we had to find a method to finance our deficit bond -- it’s not going into a lock box. I am told by the finance department that your regular sales tax money comes in one check and the one from the home energy tax comes in a second check. That check, the second for the home energy bill, will be segregated and will be applied to the deficit bond.”

The bill voted on Tuesday night also forces the legislature to submit the proposed budget, as well as quarterly revenue reports, to the state comptroller every year until the bonds are paid off, for up to 10 years.

“The state comptroller will come back with determinations and we will be bound by those determinations and have to follow them,” Schoenberger said. “To me, that’s something that I wanted very much because it makes for a healthier government.”

The state comptroller will also make recommendations regarding whether the budget submitted by the county executive to the legislature is in fact balanced, whether it contains overestimations in revenues and whether it contains revenues which may not be achievable.

“I like the fact that we have strict oversight. I feel it’s stronger than it was in previous bills,” said Legislator Ed Day. “Honestly, I really believe, and I agree with Legislator Schoenberger, we need to have someone look over our shoulder.”

Legislator Joseph Meyers said he’s disappointed the bill isn’t for $95 million over 20 years, but added that the bill voted in will help. Legislator Alden Wolfe said it doesn’t save the county, but it helps move them into the future.

“This addresses our deficit. Does it address our deficit completely? We’ll see,” Schoenberger said. “The answer is we think that there’ll be more deficit added from this year because of certain expenditures and costs that were projected in the budget, but have not been met. But at least it addresses the major part of the deficit.”

Diane Mitchell June 20, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Don't know why I am surprised at this "tax & continue to spend" mentality. And, if I read this correctly, we're giving O&R the responsibility for collecting this tax? Aren't our O&R bills already outrageously overpriced to begin with? And they just got an increase from the PSC. And the back end, where this tax disappears, has been cast in concrete as well, right??? Let me add these tax increases up: 20+% property tax increase from the county last year, now 4% energy tax increase, and people are leaving the county because our taxes are already too high to begin with, so the tax base shrinks and taxes need to be raised again because there's not enough money coming in and then more people leave and taxes get raised again . . . . Where does the madness end? In Corporate America, we used to tell people: "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is STOP DIGGING!" Someone needs to take the shovels away from these boys and girls.
JP June 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM
What layoffs? Just a ploy! LOL
Watchdog June 20, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Not just O&R, they are taxing your oil delivery. When does it end, you ask? NEVER. Read my last post. You can do NOTHING about it at the County level no matter who you vote for. Your vote does not matter on a County level. YOU ARE DOOMED, just like the rest of us.
commonsense June 20, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Guess what group currently doesn't pay their O&R bill in total, nevermind the new increases, because they officially live in perpetual poverty, sanctioned by their rebbe? We have to make up their share and now we will be forced to pay an additional 4% increase.
Watchdog June 20, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I would like to see some courageous legislator compile a list of contributions and a lst of benefits received, including grants, government assistance and forgiven real estate taxes on residential homes by this BLOC group of unfriendly people Jo will not enen exchange a simple hello to see how much they are draining resources away from the rest of us. Maybe Schoenberger will do it? WE ARE DOOMED.

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