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County Faces $86M Hole, 800 Possible Layoffs

Westchester politicos seek union concessions in lieu of layoffs to balance 2013 budget.

 

Political leaders in Westchester County are aiming to close an $86 million hole in the 2013 budget while eliminating as few jobs as possible, county executive Robert Astorino announced Thursday—an undertaking that would require sacrifices from unions.

The $86 million uptick next year will be caused by state-mandated price tags, like soaring pensions and Medicaid expenses, officials said.

"Our revenues do not keep pace with automatic spending increases," Astorino said during an preview of the 2013 county budget. Astorino must submit the fiscal plan by Nov. 15; legislators have until Dec. 17 to adopt the budget.

The Republican politico noted the county is committed to not boosting the property tax levy, and not dipping into reserve funds. Raiding back-up cash would negatively impact Westchester's fiscal status, Astorino said.

And with state and federal aid stagnant, and no massive influx from the county sales tax, Astorino is hoping unions will make concessions—primarily by contributing to their own health care.

County employees' health care cost taxpayers about $120 million this year; the expense is expected to jump to $125 million in 2013.

"This is a plea to unions," Astorino said. "I'm asking leadership to meet with us directly—it's time for unions to negotiate in good faith."

The county has already struck deals with three local unions, including the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association (COBA). Now, Astorino is pleading with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and others to walk the same path.

Settlements with these unions are crucial to avoiding layoffs, Astorino said. Closing the $86 million hole with job cuts alone would slash some 800 public positions.

Astorino said he is vehemently opposed to eliminating that many positions—which would total 16-percent of the county workforce—but noted a lack of settlements would inevitable lead to deep cuts.

"The goal is not to decimate county government," Astorino said. "But there will be layoffs in we don't get savings."

Astorino did not detail which department are in the cross hairs for possible layoffs, but noted "each department is being scrutinized." The average county employee makes approximately $110,000 annually, including benefits, officials said.

Other savings could be achieved through borrowing, cutting certain services, limiting money spent on libraries, museums and after-school programs.

The county's 2012 budget, which runs $1.697 billion, is currently facing a $15 million shortfall with three months remaining in the year, Astorino said. To close the gap, the county executive is planning to liquidate surpluses that would have carried over, and to limit new hires.

sayitsnotsojack October 19, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Danny do you not understand the written word, the county is going broke, $125.000.000 (that is Million) dollars next year for health care, and only the good lord knows what the defined pension cost will be, but it will knock our socks off. Agreed, those contracts were given and they should never have been but that was then and this is now. Therefore, either the unions get off their bulling pedestal or their members are going to lose their jobs. Time for public employees to remember they are public employees who are paid with taxes. This is actually a good thing as just maybe the democrats will realize that their liberal spend and tax ways are over.
sayitsnotsojack October 19, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Who will administrate the social services budged of $578,176,159? Come on folks have to get them checks out to the needy, and illegals, did I mention the able bodied young men 21 and older they too.
George in NY October 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM
JM, I would recommend you take the next County Correction test. There is no maximum age as long as you can pass physical requirements. With your education and experience you will surely be an asset to the Department. Then you too can get on the gravy train. You too can have a cushy salary. All you have to do is apply and get on board. You will find little threat of Indians taking your job there. And I believe you start at 50K right after you go through the big gates and they lock down behind you with a clank. Bingo on the gravy train. I amazed you didn't jump right on that band wagon years and years ago. Hell what did IBM offer back then besides bonuses, nice office to work in, stock options, benefits, private country club, normal hours, holidays off? You could have been in the yard with the gang members singing I'm on the gravy train hurrahs. Why in the world did you ever select such a inglorious position at someplace called IBM? I'm sorry you choose wrong, you should have donned the cheap uniform and road the wave of posterity to cell block C. Laughing all the way about your cushy position. Thankfully still time, get that application today!!!!
UnionForLife October 19, 2012 at 11:07 PM
When they say $110k including benefits everyone is shocked but that figure includes health care, sick days, vacation time, and pension cost. Politicians like to throw that "annually including benefits" figure out because it gets just what it got here a shock factor of how could they make that much? JM just a suggestion, call up your HR department and ask for you salary with associated benifits figure. You will be shocked to find out that you are probably not far from that $110K figure as you think.
judy malatino October 21, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Why are our county employees making this kind of money!!!Why do we NEED a county govenrment????? I've lived in many states..no county government...lived just fine. This is just another layer of government we don't need.

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