Latimer Discusses the County Budget
and Issues of Concern to Residents

By Janet Bear


Westchester County Executive George Latimer addressed The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit via Zoom on Tuesday, December 6th, updating all on the state of the County budget and other issues affecting Westchester residents.


Latimer began his comments explaining that the County budget is shaped by many issues raised in local community dialogue – “This is democracy in action.”  The County provides essential services for all residents, which individual communities aren’t able to provide efficiently, including sewage treatment, correctional and probationary services (including the County jail), bus transportation and various social services.  While local communities provide trash pick-up, the County operates the transfer stations, moving the trash from a transfer point to its final destination.  They also operate the parks system, County nature preserves, County pools, and golf courses.


The County budget, $2.376 billion, goes into effect January 1st.  The budget will result in a small reduction in the County portion of your local property tax (for the 4th consecutive year) while continuing to build the Reserve Fund (which has resulted in an improvement in the County bond rating).  The budget assumes a 5% inflation rate, doesn’t increase sales taxes and does not cut any major programs or services.  It fully funds the County police, correctional and probation departments, the health department, the County Department of Emergency Services and on down the line. 


Latimer addressed specific questions including the local crime rate (it’s down over the past 5 years, but car theft incidents are up slightly in the past year).  Gun crime is up slightly in a handful of areas with gun sales robust in the northern part of the County but overall, the percentage of gun ownership Is less than in many other parts of NY.  Because of the work of the County Corrections and Probation Departments, the recidivism rate is low.  “While the fear of crime is real…we have safe communities here in Westchester.”


With respect to storm water management (and flooding throughout Westchester County), Latimer supports consolidating storm water management into a County-wide district, rather than setting up individual (regional) districts.  The state and federal government must play a major role, since the price tag is so huge.  The County is providing $10 million toward the Army Corp of Engineers Mamaroneck and Sheldrake River Basins water management project, which is just getting underway, and we’ve recently learned that more County funding will be required. 


Latimer’s comments on affordable housing quoted a three-year-old report which indicated that 11,000 units of affordable housing were needed in Westchester County.  He fears that number has only grown since the pandemic.  The County has plans for between 2 to 3,000 units and the budget has $90 million for affordable housing.  He knows this is well below what we need, but the major issues are the cost of land, competition for that land from the private sector, and infrastructure needs.  The County has helped fund projects in New Rochelle and works with various local agencies to provide support in this area.  Affordable housing is necessary to ensure Westchester remains a diverse population.


When asked about the County airport, Latimer stressed that the revenue from the airport goes back into the airport, it doesn’t impact the County budget.  As was raised in recent public presentations in preparation for a new master plan, the major issues with the airport are the fly patterns (noise levels over individual properties) and the environmental runoff.  During the Q&A he also acknowledged that, because of changes in TSA operations, the waiting area (and baggage area) are undersized and will be addressed in the master plan.


When asked about Playland, Latimer acknowledged that repairs are a County obligation and are underway.  Standard Amusements operates the park (2022 was the 1st year of a 30-year contract) and 2022 was the first post-covid year of operations.  More structural improvements will be required by the County.


There were a handful of questions during the Q&A session, including inquiring about his position on banning flavored tobacco.  The County Board of Legislature has passed a County-wide ban on selling flavored tobacco (vote 11 for, 6 against).  In mid December, Latimer vetoed the bill.


As Latimer is midway through his second and final term as County Executive, he was asked about his goals and his legacy.  Latimer stated that he doesn’t believe in legacy but acknowledged his accomplishments including physical plant updates, fiscal integrity and improvements, and collegiality and collaboration across the political spectrum.  He would like the County government to feel more like local governments, since “we’re all in this together.”


The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make a better life for the community by keeping it informed of major issues of concern.  The next Zoom program, co-hosted by LMC Media, will be Tuesday, January 10th at 8:00 a.m. and will be a presentation by the Mamaroneck High School Students in the Original Civic Research and Action Program on Wage Theft.