Letter: Locals Seek State Intervention of County

The following letter is from Jim Flynn on behalf of the Clarkstown Taxpayers organization addressed to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli


To: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

We are writing to you to ask your help in dealing with the catastrophic fiscal problem in Rockland County. Our Elected Officials at the County level have failed us. The current County Executive and Legislative leadership have been unable/unwilling to take the actions required to put us back on sound financial footing. During 2012 the County became Insolvent. Their few attempts at dealing with the crisis have been poorly conceived and have accomplished nothing.

Since your Office performed an Audit, at the request of Legislator Ed Day in 2010 the financial situation has deteriorated drastically. For the past 3 years the budgets they developed and approved have $20 million plus deficits built into them. From the $52 million deficit identified in your report, our deficit has grown as of 12/31/12, according to the County Auditors, to $114 million and by 12/31/13 will reach $140 million. Along with this they will have run up a debt of $50 million by amortizing current pension payments into the future. Their actions and/or inaction have destroyed our credit rating.

All this has occurred while they have  doubled the property tax from $60 million in 2011 to $96 million in 2013, plus another $20 million in utility and other assorted taxes. We fear that unless your office steps in and takes oversight that they will continue their misguided efforts and put us even deeper in the fiscal hole. Due to an insane benefit program, employees are entitled to lifetime Healthcare benefits after 5 years of service, which was never funded. At this time that item alone accounts for $32 million a year or 30% of the current tax levy and is projected to exceed $50 million by 2019. When combined with the current Pension Plan contribution it practically consumes the entire tax levy.

According to some estimates the tax levy must be increased by $17.5 million for a 10 year deficit bond, $24 million to cover the existing revenue shortfall in the 2013 Budget, and $12-15 million to cover the required Pension Contributions. This $53-57 million increase does not include normal expense growth or the $4 million a year increase in Healthcare Funding that is required.  The County needs to be restructured. While some Legislators, including Ed Day, Christopher Carey and Joseph Myers, have attempted to bring some sanity to the process, we feel that the current County Executive and Legislature Leadership do not have the ability or desire to make the hard decisions required to fix the Problems.

As we feel another rating downgrade is imminent (3-6 months) time is of the essence.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Jim Flynn 

on Behalf of The Clarkstown Taxpayers


Michael N. Hull January 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM
In 2012 home sales went up 15%, home prices went down! Rising taxes are driving prices down and stealing everyone's equity. If you are a senior rising taxes will take away the 1.7% increase in your social security in 2013; those who tax you will take the equity in your home. The sheriff's horses are in the budget! When it comes to horses or seniors the horses will be 'fed' and the seniors will be 'bled'. Why do we need horses? - For 'crowd' control I am told. Perhaps to control a crowd of destitution-bound seniors? There are 110 patronage jobs in the County. Speaking about the budget Legislator Jobson said: "It’s funny, all the fat cats get taken care of, but the little people are the first ones to get kicked out of the door. We could have cut 100 six-digit jobs out of that county budget and not a soul that resides in this county would have said, ‘boo,’ because they would’ve never even noticed it." http://newcity.patch.com/articles/legislators-vote-to-override-county-executive-s-veto One of the legislators has his own 'fat cat job' in Clarkstown at taxpayer expense. http://www.lohud.com/article/20120823/OPINION/308230035/Editorial-Clarkstown-puts-political-clout-before-all-else-hiring-Frank-Sparaco Clarkstown is continuing to rack up debt too. Over $100 million. The County bond rating is one step above junk. Clarkstown's is AAA. How come? It's the same taxpayer paying both Peter AND Paul!
Laborers Local 754 January 24, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Although we do not always see eye to eye with the Taxpayers group, the above letter was very interesting. If the information in it is correct, it is obvious why there is a fiscal problem at the County. Lifetime healthcare after five years of service? That is an extremely expensive benefit and if it was negotiated without a funding mechanism it is easy to see why there are problems.
Bradley Jensen January 24, 2013 at 01:45 PM
We need urgent intervention! Great letter, but you are going to need a voice several magnitudes higher in order to get attention and hopefully action. Ghandi was able to amass the people and change India. Next step is to do the same with the residents of Clarkstown. Perhaps a residential/business mass mailing to awken all of us and a phone number to call in Albany (i.e. the people that matter) so people can demand action? What about bringing in the news media on something like this? Sounds big. Time is of the essence.
Brenda M January 24, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Mr. Carlucci and Mr. Zebrowski Please discuss this letter with the appropriate people in Albany. This group of legislators and the County Executive will be doing all of this again later this year with what I suspect will be the same result. There is no opportunity for us to change the makeup of the legislature in the foreseeable future and we will not have a new CE until he or she takes office in 2014. We can not afford this fiscal incompetence at the county level to continue. We will have an opportunity to change the make up of the Clarkstown board this year and stop the deterioration there too. Frankly, I think all three up for election in Clarkstown should be replaced - the Democrats Hausner and Gromack and the Republican Hoehmann. They have voted as a block. And getting rid of Ballard gets rid of the county legislator's patronage appointment at the same time.
Steve January 24, 2013 at 02:43 PM
Well done Mr. Flynn , as one can clearly see Legislator Day had the foresight to request an audit in 2010. Unfortunately some Legislators didn't heed Mr. Day's warning. Thankfully Carey and Myers are on the same page with Day. We need a new Executive who will bring the county back to where it needs to be. Day is the man for the job. His record speaks for itself.
VERY WELL WRITTEN..!! what is very real in clarkstown..a/k/a clowntown is the following..while they continue to give raises of 6% to "da clerk of da works" and raise of way over 12% over 5 years to the cops..here is a visual reality..drive up main street..empty chase bank..behind it empty drug store ..up the road another empty chase bank..a tire center kirks just closed..go up the street empty produce store..keep driving empty lot across from chase empty for over 5 years? keep going empty dollar store....another huge empty car tire place!!!and another empty drug store!!it says maybe a car parts store is coming!!! so people..reality is "clarkstown has a huge amount of Emptyness!!!! seeing believing..We are a 70% consumer driven economy...looks Like Joe the consumer is on vacation!!!opps I left out the new center at the other end of town..also very pretty but very very empty!! and the new reality is"People are moving out of here in droves..and many homes have 2 or more familys moving in quietly...the new reality of who is living in the houses.SO KEEP GIVING RAISES BUILD BOARDWALKS TO NO WHERE..GIVE TEACHERS AIDS HEALTH INSURANCE ON THE TAXPAYERS BACKS.AND KEEP BORROWING.
Jack Moolick January 24, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Thank you Jim Flynn for clearly and succinctly defining the disastrous financial situation we are faced with in Rockland. Led by Harriet Cornell and Iln Schoenberger, who rubber stamped the phony and yes probably fraudulent (included millions in income from red light cameras which were illegal) budgets of Scott Vanderhoef, we are a bankrupt County, and if the State does nit step in, we are DOOMED. There is no end to their madness. I remember Legislator Ed Day ( not my Legislator) bringing this financial madness to our attention several years ago but no one listened. The time has come to take all responsibility for our fiscal affairs away from this group if self-serving politicians. We are a greying community and our Senior population, is getting trampled on at all levels of Government.
One has to think..maybe someone can write a book...the couinty of rockland and the Titanic how not to steer a ship and how not to run a goverment!!!!maybe sell a new item..a blindfold for all those in charge with writing on each eye...Titanic...Rockland County" maybe make it out of velcro so each town can add their names to it when needed!!!
Michael N. Hull January 24, 2013 at 03:48 PM
In an article in Newsday 'Rockland again looks to float $80M bond' dated January 23, 2013 by Sarah Armaghan it states: "A piece of legislation aimed at digging Rockland County out of its financial hole has again been introduced before the state Assembly. The same bill was considered in 2012 and failed. In 2012, Zebrowski co-sponsored the bill with Jaffee and Carlucci. Although the bill passed in the Assembly, it was not taken up in the Senate before the Legislature adjourned, and died. In its present form, the bill would allow Rockland County to float an $80 million bond issue to cope with budget deficits. But that might not be enough to manage the deficit that already has accumulated. The last official estimate of the county's shortfall, put together at the end of 2011, put the total deficit at $96 million. The bill also includes a clause calling for financial oversight from the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli. Scott Vanderhoef would have to submit his budget 30 days before the Legislature is set to vote on it. DiNapoli would review it and make recommendations before handing it back to the county Legislature. The bill would give DiNapoli broad power to reshape the county budget. It grants him authority to review the county budget and make "recommendations" for changes, in essence obligating the Legislature to accept the recommendations." The deficit is climbing faster than the State can pass anything to save us! Whatever the outcome taxpayers pay!
Mike January 24, 2013 at 03:59 PM
The real scary thing is we are on the same "ship' in terms of NYS and the country as a whole. But Obama and his crew will continue with the Keynesian fiscal and monetary policy until it all implodes within the next few years.
Pat Godfrey January 24, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Thank you Jim Flynn on doing the research and explaining what a dire situation Rockland is in. Obviously the legislature spent us into this mess and has no intention of stopping. They only raise taxes and make no spending cuts. Next year when the budget comes up they will not make any cuts in spending and raise taxes again. The biggest expendature is unfunded mandates, the unions in particular get these sweet heart deals that the taxpayer has to pay for. How do they get it? The union give big money to our legislature representatives and then the legislatures that are supposed to be representing us give the unions our money in salary, medical, pensions, etc. This is the cycle going on and the democrat legislatures in particular are owned by the unions. So all they do is raise taxes on us and give it in some form to the local unions. They are afraid not to give the unions what they want because the unions will support some other candidate and get them out of office.
James Flynn January 24, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Mr. Godfrey thank you for your comment. The large cost of healthcare benefits for retires is not due to the average union workers you spend 30 years working for the County. It is due to the County Executives and Legislature negotiating and approving these benefits and not funding them. As long as they did not bother to include the cost of these benefits in their budgets they could hide the true cost of Government. This allowed them to continue to give lifetime benefits to family and friends after just 5 years of service. Some recent studies project that 50 percent or more of cost of retiree benefits go to these short term employees 5-9 yrs of service. The unfounded mandates that some politicians are blathering about are simply the costs that they have never funded properly.
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day January 24, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Well done, Mr. Flynn. It is folks like you who join the few of us who welcome the attention of the people on the goings on within their government that helps us keep the focus on the problems, and work towards finding solutions. Thank you!
James Flynn January 24, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Mr. Hull we must stop the bleeding and fix the problems first. Otherwise next year we will have an 80 or 96 million deficit bond and will still have a 60-100 million dollar deficit.
the real reality will be as follows"CHAPTER 9" BANKRUPTCY...BECAUSE EVER POLITICAN LIKES TO DO THE WALK BUT VERY FEW TALK THE WALK..WHY? because they dont want to ALIENENATE THEIR UNION BUDDIES.. ChAPTER 9 IS A REALITY FOR MANY CITIES,TOWNS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. to expect what is in Rockland to Man up is a dice roll..the rea;ity of why this country isnt growing is simple." the Banks gave loans to approximately 30% of people who never should have been given loans..hence the retraction in the country....the banks are still hiding a few Million underwater loans so that they dont lower their net worth due to lower values than the loans amount... THE TROUBLE IS THE DIS-CONNECT OF ALL THE UNION EMPLOYEES IN REGARDS TO THE TAXPAYERS WHO FUND THEIR SALARIES.THEY DONT CARE..200,000 A YEAR COPS DO NOT MAKE A TOWN..HIGHER TAXES EACH YEAR LOWER PROPERTY VALUES...THAT IS REAL REALITY..ROCKLAND AND MOST OF ITS TOWNS ARE ALL SINKING INTO THE MUD...WE HAVE A PERPETUAL SANDY EFFECT WITHOUT THE WATER
and seriously....for those on maple ave to even consider a $4 million dollar boardwalk to nowhere...is beyond comphrehension...what revenue is it going to project??$0..and not al lthat far away is a park and rockland lake that many people walk around..with their dogs and ride bicyles..so maple ave should take their heads out of the dirt...stop reckless spending..Opps you are going to borrow the money!!forgot..
Michael N. Hull January 24, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Those of you have read this letter may also care to read the article "Nanuet's Nightmares" http://nanuet.patch.com/d/blog_posts/nanuets-nightmares which shows that budgetary concerns extend within the County to the Town of Clarkstown. In this article Mr. Flynn discussed the question: "What has happened in Nanuet that has driven school taxes up 60% in the last five years and 15.27% just this year alone? And in answer he discussed several main causes of this dramatic increase.
Mike Hirsch January 24, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Well done Jim. Thank you.
Jim Shannon January 24, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Mark my words, if all this foolishness doesn't stop ............ and be reversed for that matter.........homeowners in Rockland are going to see the real value of their properties plummet even more so. I suspect the process has already started. The fiscal situation defies reality. Shame on the leaders who have let this situation materialize. We are all going to be hurt badly because of all this irresponsible management. J. Shannon
Watchdog February 02, 2013 at 12:14 PM
We are still awaiting at least an acknowledgement from Cuomo and Di Napoli to Jim Flynn's succinct letter highlighting the impending fiscal disaster we face in Rockland. Cornell and Schoenberger, who incredibly wants to be The next County Executive, have not only restored the cuts made but want to spend MORE., even though it s clear we are BANKRUPT. The only voice in the Legislature warning of this impending disaster over the past four years has been Legislator Ed Day, who is also a candidate for CE. There as never been a clearer choice.


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