FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 20, 2013
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-419-5221 (cell)
Salary Costs Lift Astorino’s Budget Transfers For 2012 into Stratosphere
$52 million transfer package should have been submitted by year-end, say auditors
White Plains, NY – Although it is expected that the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) will approve legislation to allow County Executive Rob Astorino to transfer $52 million between accounts in order to balance the County’s books for 2012, several members of the BOL Democratic caucus remarked today that a large part of the transfer was more proof that the Astorino Administration remains plagued by persistent problems in “getting the numbers right” and adhering to a practice of open and transparent governance.
First and foremost, throughout 2012 the BOL was warned by Budget Director Lawrence Soule that the County was running at a potential deficit fluctuating between $9 and $29 million.
Excluding the County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) costs solely covering an intergovernmental transfer for the Westchester County Medical Center, $29 million is now needed to cover various shortfalls in the 2012 Budget.
The Astorino Administration included the 2012 year-end transfers to the BOL in almost 300 pages of other documentation and legislation within minutes of the agenda filing deadline on May 6, 2013.
“For Westchester’s County government to operate at its optimal level there needs to be a true collaboration and working partnership between the County Executive and the Board of Legislators,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers).
Jenkins added that internal control related matters identified in prior year audits of County noted that the Office of the State Comptroller has been especially critical of clean-up budget transfers enacted after year end. The County auditors even quote a comment in a local government’s Report of Examination that reads, “Making Budget transfers after the fact, particularly months after the fiscal year is over, defeats the purpose of adopting and monitoring the budget.”
Moreover, the departmental requests presented to BOL did not match up to the actual departmental requests. (These departmental figures, required by the County Charter, were purposely left out of the 2012 budget book by the Astorino Administration and only released to a reporter when a Freedom of Information request was filed.) The County’s Department of Public Safety’s 2012 actual salary related requests were $ 4.1 million more than adopted in the 2012 Budget, and similar requests by the Department of Correction were $8.1 million more.
The bulk of the necessary transfers relates to under-projecting costs for salaries and benefits. As a result of the Astorino Administration’s failure to budget funding for unsettled contracts, $13 million in transfers are required to cover related deficiencies in the Departments of Public Safety and Correction.
“A Budget Director of a large corporation who presented such inaccurate figures to its Board of Directors and made this kind of mistake would lose his or her job,” said Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL Budget & Appropriations Committee. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Administration hasn’t had a handle on the numbers. Who can forget County Executive Astorino’s famous 166 million dollar projected deficit for 2010 that ended being a 67 million dollar return to fund balance?”
Within the year-end budget transfers for 2012 there is also $11 million to cover shortfalls in fringe benefits.
The year-end budget transfers follow the news that the County’s Department of Social Services saved $39.9 million in normal operating expenses for 2012—even with the family share for child care subsidies at 20%, which Soule inaccurately said would end up costing $3.6 million more than budgeted.
“Instead of delivering millions of dollars to the County’s fund balance, the Astorino Administration’s 2012 budget transfers are wiping out savings created by the Board of Legislators’ good governance and smart spending,” said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson), a member of the BOL Budget & Appropriations Committee. “These expenditures were all predictable and should have been in the budget to begin with, not presented after the fact.”
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