The Rockland County Legislature voted on the 2014 budget Thursday night. Legislators voted 11-6 to pass the amended version of the County Executive’s proposed budget after New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli reviewed the plan and recommended that the county address the 9 million dollars in overestimated revenues in energy sales taxes and bond income. The new plan will call for a 9.9 percent tax increase for residents, the same as it would have been had they voted for the original plan, but in the new budget 3 million dollars in sales tax revenue has been added. County Executive elect Ed Day was among the six that voted against the amended plan, stating that his vote symbolized his thoughts that residents should not have to pay another 9.9 percent in property taxes. Michael Grant, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee stated that following the Comptroller’s requirements ensures the 96 million dollar bond that Governor Cuomo approved last month.
A Nanuet woman was killed after being struck by a car on New Clarkstown Road Wednesday night. According to Clarkstown Police 64- year old Krystyna Izbinska was crossing the street around 6:00 PM when she was hit by a Mercedes and was pronounced dead when emergency workers responded to the driver’s 911 call. The police brought in an accident investigation team and closed the road until 11:00 PM last night. The cause of the crash in not officially known, police believe that the driver did not see Izbinska crossing. Police stated that the driver will most likely not be charged for the accident.
According to Rockland County’s Finance Commissioner Stephen Degroat, Moody’s Investors Service raised the county’s credit rating from negative to stable on Tuesday. According to the report the 96 million dollar bond that was approved in November was the major reason for the rise in ratings, as it will allow the county to pay back a large amount of the 127 million dollar deficit. The County Legislature will be voting Thursday on the proposed 2014 budget plan, and if revenue is lower than is stated in the plan, the credit could easily drop back in to a negative rating. Currently Rockland has the lowest rating in New York State, just above “junk status”, though the analysis released by Moody’s states that the bond represents a positive outlook for the county. The group reported that the credit rating could go down again since a deficit will still exist after the bond is put toward the debt and the county currently has a limited source of income.
On Monday the Spring Valley village board held its first meeting with its new members. Mayor Demeza Delhomme, who was sworn in Monday afternoon, stated that the priority for the board is going to be the East Ramapo School District and he proposed a “non- binding” resolution that would declare the school district as being in a crisis situation. The district has recently had financial problems resulting in less funding for programs such as music and the arts, though they received an advance in lottery funds in November, giving them 3.5 million dollars toward extracurricular programs. According to Delhomme the resolution will allow the village board to assist the school board in creating benefits for the 9,000 students. The resolution proposed that members of the village board attend school board meetings and that the district provide financial and academic reports. The plan passed 3-0, trustees Asher Grossman and Anthony Leon choosing not to vote, though Grossman stated that he supports the board’s intent to help the student’s within the district.
Bones discovered in Harriman State Park on Saturday that were believed to belong to missing murder suspect Eugene Palmer were found to belong to an animal. According to Haverstraw Police Chief Charles Miller the bones were spotted by Clarence Palmer, the missing man’s oldest son, and his friend Kevin Rose, by the Lake Welch Dam. The two men found the skeleton of a forearm, shoulder, and fingers and brought them to the Rockland County Medical Examiners Office, but officials have not uncovered what type of animal the bones came from. The family and police have been searching for 73- year old Eugene Palmer for over a year, since the murder of his daughter- in- law Tammy Palmer in September 2012. Family believes that the elderly man died in the woods from multiple health conditions and were led to the bones by a tip from a psychic. Police continue searching the woods around where Palmer abandoned his pickup truck the day of the murder, but have spread their investigation to friends and family throughout New York State, incase he is alive and hiding.
As of Wednesday Democrat Andy Stewart has been in the lead for the position of Orangetown Supervisor. Stewart, the current Supervisor, is leading Republican candidate Walter Wettje by 3 votes. Wettje had held the lead by 36 votes since the November 3 General Election, until Stewart won 30 of the absentee ballots. According to Rockland County Democratic Elections Commissioner Kristen Stavisky 42 of the 54 disputed absentee ballots have been counted and the candidates will return to court on Monday at 11:00 AM, when the remaining 12 ballots will be counted and state Supreme Court Justice Victor Alfieri will determine their validity.
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The East Ramapo School District is in court with the tenants of Colton Elementary School over the agreed sales contract. The Congregation Bais Malka and the Hebrew Academy for Special Children are suing the district, stating that they are owed 1.3 million dollars in rental credit towards the sale price of 6.6 million dollars. According to the attorney for the renters, Paul Savad, the contract was signed in 2011 and the congregations, who have rented the property since 2009, continued paying rent between July 2011 and July 2013. Savad stated Tuesday that his clients have been cleared and obtained a mortgage and the district is stepping out of the deal arranged in the contract. State Education Commissioner John King held the agreement up for a year and a half, after a resident of the district filed an appeal, but he recently allowed the sale to move forward. Officials for the school stated that the rent credit is not owed because the tenants owe $551,286 in back rent as of September 9 and much of the rent prior to July 1 was not in full. According to Savad the lower payments were a mutual decision. If the school district forgoes the sale they would lose 5 million dollars on revenue already in the 2013- 2014 budget.
New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli has released his review of the proposed 2014 budget plan. Governor Cuomo recently signed the Rockland County Deficit Financing Act, allowing the county access to a 96 million dollar bond to help decrease the 128 million dollars of debt. As a part of the deal Dinapoli will provide advice on the budget plan. According to county auditors the deficit could rise to 145 million dollars when finished with his review Dinapoli called the proposal “overly optimistic.” The budget lists that the County will receive 14 million dollars from the Residential Energy Tax, though in reality it will collect 8.7 million. Overestimating revenue is one of many reasons deficits can grow, without the expected revenue coming in to cover spending, debt is built up. Dinapoli’s review recommends that the county should not wait to pay back the remainder of the debt, as they are planning now. After the 96 million dollars are put towards the deficit there will be at least 32 million dollars left to pay off. The Legislature is currently working on a plan to start paying back the remaining deficit in 2015, but Dinapoli stated that the county should not push back the payments and take care of it as soon as possible because more debt can easily be acquired on top of that. As a part of the deficit bond the Comptroller will be supervising the repayment of the debt throughout the process.
All of the towns and three villages in Rockland County agreed on budgets last week. Earlier in the process Ramapo was set to raise taxes 25 percent, though officials stated Wednesday that they managed to lower it to a 4.5 percent increase. According to town board member Daniel Friedman there will be a $300,000 salary reduction and a $125,000 decrease in overtime and consulting costs. Friedman stated that the t$$own will be monitoring spending during the next year to prevent the originally expected$138 increase in taxes. Orangetown adopted a budget of 67.36 million dollars and in order to meet the 1.66 percent tax cap the town reduced road resurfacing costs by $320,000 and discarded the plan to spend $200,000 on new police cars. Taxes for Orangetown residents are expected to rise by 3.2 percent. Stony Point adopted a 20.57 million dollar budget and taxes will go down by 3.12 percent. Sloatsburg’s tax levy will decrease from 1.74 million in 2013 to 1.70 million in 2014. Montebello’s is lowering from 1.23 million to 1.17 million and Airmont taxes will rise 4.05 percent.