Legislator Sheila Marcotte Helps Advance Charter Revision Commission Reforms
The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) on Monday, February 10, referred the recommendations of the Westchester County Charter Revision Commission (CRC) to two committees, Budget and Appropriations and the Legislation Committee for consideration.
Legislator Sheila Marcotte, Chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee and was instrumental in helping the CRC develop major reforms to the budget process which are key elements to CRC’s recommendations.
Legislator Marcotte offered a proposal to require a 48 hour period between the time that the Budget and Appropriations Committee reports its budget additions and deletions to the full County Board and the time that the County Board meets to vote on the budget. The proposal would also require posting the additions and deletions on the County website for at least 24 hours before the County Board convenes for the budget vote.
Legislator Marcotte said, “I want to thank the members of the Charter Revision Commission for their thoughtful and diligent approach to their work, especially for the significant improvements they have proposed regarding the budget process and its timing.” Marcotte added, “I believe the budget vote is the most important vote we take every year. In the past, the minority caucus has been given as little as 30 minutes to review the final budget document before we had to make this important vote. I believe the changes that I proposed to the commission will allow Legislators adequate time to review all changes and to get the answers they need before voting. Posting the final budget on the BOL website before we vote also gives the public an opportunity to see exactly what their representatives in county government are doing.”
A former County Legislator, Richard Wishnie, served as Chair of the Charter Revision Commission and now serves as Co-Chair of the newly formed BOL Charter Revision Task Force which is charged with shepherding the CRC’s recommendations through the BOL committee process. Wishnie said, “Legislator Marcotte asked us to review the timing issues surrounding the budget process in an effort to clarify the language used in the charter and to ensure an appropriate ‘aging period’ for the Budget Act before Legislators are required to vote on it. We found Legislator Marcotte’s recommendation to our budget focus group to be well researched and we believe that those charter revisions will result in an improved budget process and a more well-informed public.”
From the Final Report of the Westchester County Charter Revision Commission:
Section 167.101(1) of the Laws of Westchester County authorizes the County Board to "revise, alter, increase or decrease" items in the proposed County budget, Currently, a public hearing is required after the Budget and Appropriations Committee has approved additions to the County budget, but not deletions from it. Typically, the County Board votes on the County budget on the same day that the Budget and Appropriations Committee approves budget deletions. That is, unlike in some counties (e.g., Suffolk), there is no "aging" period in the Laws of Westchester County for proposed budget amendments.
Commission members with experience at the Board of Legislators related that the day of the budget vote includes lengthy negotiations over additions and deletions, often within the political caucuses and often leaving Legislators who are not members of the majority caucus with no real time to consider the merits of proposed additions and deletions before having to vote on them. The waiting period proposal is intended to ameliorate this situation.
The Commission emphasized that the proposal is part of the overall recommendations for reforming the budget process and should not be viewed as an alternative to, or isolated from, the other Commission proposals.
The Commission approved the following resolution:
"Consistent with this Commission's proposal to change the fiscal year and to extend the period of consideration of the budget, Sections 167.81, .91 and .101 of the Laws of Westchester County should be amended to require that no "adds" or "deletes" are finally voted upon until at least 48 hours after they have been proposed in open session and posted for at least 24 hours on the county website."
The CRC final report can be found in its entirety at: