Westchester Legislators Discover Troubling Inaccuracies in Astorino’s Proposed 2013 Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2012

Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)

Westchester Legislators Discover Troubling Inaccuracies in Astorino’s Proposed 2013 Budget

White Plains, NY – At the very onset of the review of County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s Proposed 2013 Budget, members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) have discovered troubling discrepancies in the numbers that have been presented.

During the first hearing on Astorino’s 2013 Budget, Dr. Grant Mitchell, Commissioner of Westchester County’s Department of Community Mental Health, offered testimony that totally conflicted with information presented in the 2013 Proposed Budget.

This caused the BOL’s budget staff to begin the laborious process of reconciling all County department staffing levels from the 2012 Adopted Budget to the 2013 Proposed Budget. Looking initially just at Department of Social Services (DSS) staffing, the 2012 to 2013 reduction in the Proposed Budget is 45 positions (page B-21), but in Astorino’s budget presentation on Wednesday, he pointed out that 75 positions would be eliminated in DSS. (See page 14 of the Power Point presentation: http://www3.westchestergov.com/images/stories/pdfs/2013ProposedBudget.pdf )

“The Board of Legislators requires accurate information to do its job,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “These discrepancies call into question all of the projections contained in the 2013 Proposed County Budget, and now our staff and auditors will need to spend critical time verifying revenue and spending figures.”

Jenkins sadly noted that the BOL has been grappling with bad numbers and a paucity of budget information since Astorino’s first proposed budget in 2011, when the County Executive projected a $166 million deficit that turned, almost magically, into a $67 million return to fund balance. Last year the BOL was not provided with the initial department requests in the 2012 Proposed Budget, as required by the County Charter, which hamstrung efforts to develop an Adopted Budget. And this summer County Budget Director Lawrence Soule testified to the BOL that he had deliberately not included added salary costs in the Proposed 2012 Budget—a decision, he said, that he “lost sleep over.”

“I hope these inaccuracies are mere flukes and that we do not see more of them during this budget process,” said Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations Committee. “Westchester County taxpayers—and legislators—deserve to know exactly what the spending and revenues figures are in this budget, and we already off to a bad start in terms of veracity.”

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Bazzo 11/18/12

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