Stressed Taxpayers Ask Astorino For Relief

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Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R-Mount Pleasant) speaks at Cortlandt Town Hall Wednesday evening.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R-Mount Pleasant) speaks at Cortlandt Town Hall Wednesday evening. Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

CORTLANDT, N.Y. – Addressing an audience of more than 70 at Cortlandt Town Hall Wednesday evening, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said his upcoming proposed budget would close an $86 million deficit by asking unions for concessions, among other measures.

"We could have several hundred layoffs if the county and the unions don't come to an agreement real soon, like 10 days," Astorino said. During a presentation he said the deficit represented about 800 jobs. Astorino said he expects to release his proposed budget in the next three weeks.

"We can't keep up with the cost of a county employee," Astorino said. "Either the cost of labor has to get less, or we have to have less people."

He said the average Westchester employee is compensated at $73,789, and $113,635 when fringe benefits are included.

During a question-and-answer session which followed Astorino's presentation, Cortlandt resident Michael Rizzo said he paid $30,000 in property taxes last year.

"Half of my family already moved to South Carolina, Florida, San Diego," said Rizzo, waving his tax bills. "I'd love to move out of here, but I have a business in the city." Combine local property taxes with state and federal income taxes, Rizzo said, and $55,000 of his earnings went to taxes.

Although questions ranged as broadly as health care and education, the evening's recurrent theme was tax relief. Astorino said he would not increase the county's $528 million tax levy, or total amount of money raised through property taxes, but that tax relief was not being provided by Albany or Westchester's nearly 450 independent taxing authorities.

"This tax cap, as you're starting to learn, is a typical Albany shell game scam," Astorino said. He said pension reforms such as Tier 6 were not providing timely mandate relief. Astorino also said New York governments could negotiate more efficiently without the Triborough Amendment. The law does not allow public labor unions to strike, but allows expired provisions in public labor union contracts to continue indefinitely.

"I have a different point of view on some of the things the county executive talked about," said county Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), whose goals included increasing energy and government efficiency. "The most important thing is for us to find ways to work together," she said about the Board of Legislators and Astorino (R-Mount Pleasant).

Astorino also discussed the county's lawsuit with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county entered into a housing settlement with HUD in 2009, and is complying with requirements to build 750 affordable housing units. After HUD withheld millions of dollars in grant money to the county for Astorino's failing to "promote" source-of-income legislation, the county sued the federal agency, and is currently in the appeals process after a lower court found in favor of HUD.

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Comments (3)

Catherine Borgia is a crony self serving political leech. She claims to want to work with Rob Astorino gets votes to sue him everytime her master ken Jenkins says to do so .

She claims she disagrees with Astorino on a number is issues ? What exactly ? She has no substance , just baseless claims to remain nuetral so she can climb the political food chain. Does she think unions should pay for health insurance ? Will she vote to lay them off if that don't ? Take a stand and not be a wimp , or move over and let some real people make serious changes

You have to be living on another planet, if you believe there should be no layoffs because there is no money to pay for all the largess of previous bad management and greedy unions. Of course, you have to lay people off. The idea of a lifetime job is ridiculous and the sooner the unions and their members understand what everyone in the private world knows the better it will be for them and the rest of us. While you are at it get rid of those horrendous defined pensions, and start to pay for your health plans with an amount that is reasonable.

It's always so interesting to me that Democrats on the County Board of Legislators are always saying "The most important thing is for us to find ways to work together," but what they really mean is do it their way.

Westchester residents need to remember that it was the Democrats led by Andy Spano, Ryan and Jenkins et al that got us into this mess by spending and taxing more every year and giving Westchester County the honor of being the highest taxed county in the U.S.

Thank goodness for people like Linda Puglisi and Rob Astorino, who are on different political sides of the aisle, but are both fiscally intelligent and respectful of the taxpayers they represent.

But, I still can't wait to sell my home and get out of NY. I can't afford to live here anymore.