Latimer Announces 2020 County Budget Provides Tax Cut for the First Time in Nine Years
By Janet Bear
What’s happening in Westchester County? If you were present at the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit breakfast meeting on December 9th, you had the opportunity to hear Democratic County Executive George Latimer, speak on a wide range of issues that impact residents’ lives, communities and pocketbooks.
In response to specific questions raised by The Local Summit, Latimer spoke about the 2020 county budget that was approved by the county legislature the prior evening. The budget provides a $1 million tax cut, for the first time in nine years. The county tax represents about 20% of a property tax bill, so there will be a small tax savings. To achieve this reduction without reducing county services (70% of which are mandated by the state), the county looked for alternative revenue streams. These included equalizing the sales tax rate to 8.375%, renegotiating several contracts and developing new revenue streams (with Air B&B and Con Edison).
The budget includes $10 million for land acquisition and $10 million for infrastructure so that the county can address the demand for more affordable housing. The recently released Westchester County Housing Needs Assessment Report provides extensive data that will be helpful in obtaining future grants. Latimer is taking a cooperative approach with the local governments and in January will begin regional meetings to address this issue.
Latimer explained why he submitted legislation to limit the County Executive’s term to a maximum of 8 years (currently the limit is 12 years). While the county legislature does provide checks on the executive branch, the County Executive has unitary power. As Latimer stated, “restraint of power is wise” and he feels that a two-term limit is appropriate.
The Q & A session covered a broad range of issues, including addressing the environmental priorities of his administration. Per Latimer, “We’ve put funding into converting to electric use vehicles (buses and county vehicles) and built vehicle charging stations on county land”. In addition, the county has begun several initiatives including looking for a local site for food scrap recycling, working on a solar collection plan, and aggressive tree planting on county land. “We can only operate on local issues, the macro issue needs to be addressed by our federal government”, stated Latimer.
Latimer spoke of the Immigrant Protection Act that his administration passed which ensures that if a person interacts with the county police, the police won’t turn you over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) without a judicial warrant. “We want our immigrant population to work with law enforcement and not be fearful of them.” He also passed a Language Access executive order that ensures that county information is available in an individual’s native language.
The issue of the recently approved salary increases for the legislature was raised when Latimer was asked, “Why he didn’t receive a raise in the 2020 budget?” Latimer admitted that he “didn’t raise his salary because of the optics”, but he stressed that the 2020 budget has stabilized Westchester county finances and was approved by the four Republican legislators.
This breakfast forum was hosted by the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit, an informal community council that seeks to make life better for all in the tri-municipal area. Its monthly meetings are held at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck at 7:45 a.m., generally on the second Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, January 14 on the topic of Community Comprehensive Plans.