The League of Women Voters of Westchester put out this statement on the proposed 2014 budget for the county. The Board of Legislators is expected to finalize the budget today.
The League of Women Voters of Westchester (LWVW), in a statement about the Westchester County Budget proposed for 2014 by County Executive Robert Astorino, warned that the budget numbers are based on assumptions that endanger the County’s triple A credit rating and would jeopardize some County services.
The League pointed out that Moody’s, one of the three credit rating agencies, already has downgraded that credit rating to AA-1, based in part on the County’s borrowing to pay for operating costs such as pensions.
“We cautioned against this practice in our comments on the 2013 budget,” said Sharon Lindsay, LWVW president, speaking after a consensus meeting of the League membership, “and yet the County continues to rely on a funding device that could snowball into the future. It is unsustainable.”
Moody’s also cited the county’s limited liability and increasingly depleted reserve fund, concerns also shared by the League.
The League statement also noted that there is no increase in department personnel and some deletions in key departments, including needed environmental areas. In the Planning Department, which has taken on increased responsibilities and is the lead agency in carrying out the County’s obligations under the Housing Settlement ordered by the Federal Court, there are no increases.
However, six new positions are added to the County Executive’s Office, with no explanation. The League also questions a new budget line called “Community Based Initiatives,” to be administered by the County Executive’s office.
Citing its ongoing concern for the smooth operation of voting procedures, the LWVW gave its support for six new positions requested by the County’s Board of Elections. But the League questions the BOE’s request for 1,420 new voting machines, particularly the seldom-used ballot marking devices intended for the disabled.
The League repeated its annual plea for an earlier release of the budget to give the Board of Legislators (BOL) and the public more time to review it, and for the BOL to make and publicize its additions and deletions. The League supports the recommendation made by the Charter Revision Commission that the County’s fiscal year be changed from the calendar year to one extending from July 1 to June 30 as well as five other budget-related recommendations made by the Commission.