On Thursday evening in White Plain’s Legislative Chambers, Westchester County Executive George Latimer addressed an at-capacity crowd — while still more tuned in via livestream and televised coverage — to discuss the state of Westchester over the last year.
“Over these past 12 months, since I last stood before you, I have signed many bills and executive orders to help the people of this county have a better life, and to help their children have better lives,” Latimer says. The overall theme of the night was that Westchester is a community that supports our fellow residents, and is willing to work hard to do so.
“Here in Westchester County we take care of each other. We do not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters — we won’t have that.” Latimer, in thanking the board, service officials, and other county employees, notes that the current Board of Legislators is the most diverse it has ever been in terms of perspectives, backgrounds, and experience, and championed its achievement in being the only woman-majority county board in New York State.
One economic highlight of the evening included touting last year’s budget for falling well below the county’s allotted property tax cap, an imposition Latimer says was “purposefully devastating” for a county where many residents have just seen their annual property tax deductions hampered by thousands of dollars. The loss of the SALT tax, he says, “punishes the states that build necessary mass transit … that provide more professional police and fire services, and ensure a higher quality of K-12 education,” describing it as “federal dollars being taken away from us.”
As a result, Latimer says, “We have crafted a comprehensive Property Taxpayers Protection Act that will ensure a 0% County tax freeze for Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021.” The new plan has bipartisan support on town, county, and state levels and is expected to bring in an additional $40 million or more in annual revenue. Another key detail, Latimer points out, is that the plan will “begin to restore our depleted reserve funds and raise back our bond rating to AAA status over time, all for one penny on every dollar of consumer spending.”
Other talking points included the addition of new rides, concessions, and “Coaster,” a new mascot for Rye Playland; reduced overnight flights at and more stringent monitoring of noise pollution near Westchester County Airport; and the expansion or creation of several new committees and advisory boards covering issues from women’s and veterans services to law enforcement.
“It falls to you and me to strive so that everyone can realize that opportunity. That we rise to the challenges at hand, that we find common ground,” Latimer says. “The greatest challenge is to give people hope, that we can rebuild trust, by accomplishing tangible things that benefit their lives. That challenge is greater than any one bill, any one budget. It is greater than any one speech, and it is greater than any one County Executive.”
You can view the full State of the County address here.