When Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced his proposed 2020 budget would help alleviate local homeowners’ property tax burden, many were skeptical. Was this just political grandstanding? Where would the money come from? Now, we’re finally getting a look at the full details behind this plan.
At a press conference Friday, the county executive presented his proposed 202 operating budget in front of the Board of Legislators, and both civil and governmental community leaders. All-in-all, the budget will total $2.1 billion and, as promised, should include no borrowing and a $1 million property tax cut for local homeowners.
“We made a commitment to freeze County property taxes, and now we can go a bit further and cut the County’s property tax levy,” Latimer says.
The cut itself is essentially being paid for by the Westchester County Property Taxpayer Protection Act, passed this summer, which raised local sales tax and use tax in the county by 1%. About $40 million or 30% of collected revenue is being shared back to locals — 20% to municipalities and another 10% to Westchester school districts — which is being directly credited with preventing any property tax increase in Greenburgh.
“The reason why the town was able to have a 0% tax increase is because of the decision … to share revenues from the sales tax with local governments,” says Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. “This shared revenue will make it easier for all local governments to comply with the [federal property deduction] tax cap and work to end Westchester’s distinction of having the highest property taxes in the United States.”
Other key features of the budget include adding $10 million back into the county’s “rainy day” reserve fund, a complete lack of borrowing to pay its operating expenses, and a moratorium on “one-shot” deals, all intended to help restore the county’s AAA credit rating.
“Ongoing small business growth is contingent upon our fiscal health and economic promise,” says Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Gayle Machica. “It has been incumbent upon County Executive Latimer to restore fiscal order to a budget that had been pushed past a reasonable threshold.”
Marchica describes the proposed budget as “a well thought out and sustainable approach to a longer-range plan.”
Other investments the budget makes include:
• $1.5 million for new housing and community development initiatives
• $1 million for economic and workforce development
• $400,000 more funding for environmental initiatives like energy efficiency, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and more
• $150,000 of 2020 census programs
• An additional $250,000 to Playland’s marketing budget
• A 3% bump to non-profit groups
Finally, a big push for this budget will be investing in Westchester’s children. An expansion of the Westchester County Youth Bureau’s Invest in Kids programs will include new pilot programs, serving at-risk county residents up to 21 years of age. Moreover, county-run child care services will see a slight price decrease: Parental contributions will be reduced to 25% of the total cost — a 2% decrease.
The proposed budget has been submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators, which is charged with passing it by no later than December 27, 2019.
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