Board Passes 2020 Operating, Capital and Special District Budgets
On Monday, December 9, the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted 15-1 to pass the county's 2020 operating, capital and special districts budgets.
The $2.1 billion operating budget, which includes a $1 million cut to the county property tax levy, continues work begun last year to strengthen the county's finances.
The 2020 budget uses no on one-shot revenues and contains no borrowing to fund operating expenses. It also adds $10 million to the county's fund balance. 2020 will be the second year in a row that the county has added to its rainy day funds, after years of declines under the prior administration. Rebuilding the county's fund balance is essential to protecting the county for the future and improving the county's credit rating, which keeps County borrowing costs low.
The budget strengthens crucial services for Westchester families, especially in the area of child care, including increased support for the county's Invest in Kids programs. There's also more funding for nonprofit organizations which provide early childhood support programs. The budget also includes an increase in the reimbursement rate paid to child care providers, to make it easier for parents to find affordable, high quality child care and easier for providers to recruit and retain qualified workers who are being lost to higher paying jobs in other areas, like New York City.
The 2020 operating budget also increases money available for eviction prevention programs, expanding legal help for those facing eviction in Yonkers, and extending that support to Mount Vernon, Ossining and Peekskill. The programs help people remain in their homes, saving the county millions of dollars annually by keeping families out of the shelter system.
There's also additional help for legal services for domestic violence survivors and for community health centers and criminal justice reform.
The capital budget commits $20 million to County funds that support the creation of new units of affordable housing. It also continues efforts begun last year to accelerate long-lingering projects needed to repair and improve County roads, bridges, parks, and refuse and wastewater treatment facilities. Among other efforts, these include commitments to renovate Memorial Field in Mount Vernon and reconstruct the South County Trailway.
Board Chair Ben Boykin (D-White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison), said, "We began the legislative term with a goal of stabilizing the county's finances while continuing to provide essential services to the people of Westchester. Today we're passing budgets that do just that -- reducing the property tax levy, replenishing the County's fund balance, providing new revenue to local municipalities and school districts, investing in our children, and enhancing services for the people of Westchester. These budgets reflect our commitment to sound financial management and to our social values."
Board Vice Chair Alfreda Williams (D-Elmsford, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown) noted, "I am gratified that we are passing a capital budget with such a strong commitment to advancing the availability of affordable housing in Westchester County. As the County's recently released Housing Needs Assessment shows so starkly, leadership at the County level on the issue of affordable housing is imperative for the future well-being of Westchester. I am also extremely pleased that we have increased support for child care and our social safety net."
Majority Leader Catherine Parker (D-Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye), said, "I'm pleased that we've been able to cut the county property tax levy and put money into the county's reserves, while increasing the commitment to our nonprofit, community-based partners. These organizations provide cost-effective, indispensable support to working people in Westchester in areas of health care, domestic violence support, the arts, and especially affordable, high-quality child care, which is the foundation on which Westchester's future will be built."