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Democratic Majority Restores Money to 2011 Budget, GOP Balks
Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators have come up with a plan that they say will eliminate proposed cuts to services and still maintain a 1% tax decrease for residents.
Last month, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino presented the proposed spending plan that included cuts to numerous social service programs.
Yesterday, the Westchester County Board of Legislators Committee on Budget and Appropriations unveiled its suggestions, announcing its proposed additions and changes to the spending plan before the December 6 required deadline.
The Committee's plan includes $43 million in new spending and restores child care services, mental health services and the Section 8 Program.
The Democratic majority said it was "committed toards full rstoration of Astorino's proposed dramtic cuts to child day care services which would require large parental contributions."
It also says it's committed to restoring the County's Section 8 program, arguing the County's cost to running the program is minimal and that the County can lose money if it's eliminated.
And, The Budget Committee is also proposing the restoration of funding to four community mental health clinics in Peekskill, Mount Kisco, Yonkers and Mount Vernon that had been slated for closure.
Budget and Appropriations Committee Chair Jose Alvarado (D-Yonkers) said "Throughout the budget process, we've heard from County residents by way of hearings, phone calls, emails petitions and letters," adding, "they told us they wanted core services maintained, health clinics available and child care provided to those in need without the burden of more taxes."
Meanwhile, Republican members on the County Board of Legislators branded yesterday's budget maneuvers by Democratic lawmakers as "fiscally irresponsible" and called the addition of $43 million in spending "a total disregard for the taxpayers of Westchester."
Minority Leader Jim Maisano raised strong objections to the Democrats' taking $10 million from the County's 2010 fund balance. Maisano said using the money that government accounting rules require to be reserved for the 2012 budget, and could result in Westchester losing its AAA Bond rating.
Said Maisano, "This is the first time the Board of Legislators has raided the current year fund balance to do the budget for the following year. Auditors told us not to do this, saying this was a risky scheme that could place our bond rating in jeopardy."
The County Executive's proposed 2011 budget reduced spending from 2010 by some $33 million. Maisano says he's confident that if the new changes are approved, that the County Executive will veto the plan. He also questioned whether Democrats will have enough votes to override the expected veto.
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