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Westchester 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 the 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.

Happynewyorker October 18, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Well my sister got layed off from Astorino's office last month, I guess now it's 799 possible layoffs!
keither October 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Golly! They better hope they dont get laid off. Here is why, once you are no longer a member of the Westchester Government Coutry Club you might find thing in the real world dont operate the same. 1) the average employee dosent make $110,000. 2) There are no automatic pay increases, in fact most people I know have made LESS the past few years. 3) "Soaring Pension costs" what private company is offering a pension? 4) People in the private sector actually pay for a good portion of health care costs as well as 401K Westchester ranks as one of the highest taxed areas of the country. I say lets cut 1000 jobs and for the rest who are spared, across the board examination of compensation be brought in line with the private sector. And to finish, lets remember who serves who. It is the Private sector that funds the Public sector. You are here to serve the public, not to serve yourselfves. This has gone wayyyyy to far !! Slash and burn ..Lets get the costs under control!

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