County Exec. Latimer Proposes $476M Capital Budget Plan for 2022

County Exec. Latimer Proposes $476M Capital Budget Plan for 2022
From left, Westchester County Executive George Latimer hands off the proposed 2022 Westchester County Capital Budget to Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin.

WHITE PLAINS—Westchester County Executive George Latimer unveiled a $476-million capital budget plan on Oct.14 that includes $50 million for the funding of affordable housing projects in Westchester County.

The proposal, now before the Westchester County Board of Legislators, also includes funding for roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants and county parks.

Among the more notable items includes $4 million in funding to explore the future use of the Westchester County Center, which hasn’t been used for recreation or events since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

The fourth proposed Capital Budget of his administration also earmarks investments in hybrid and electric vehicles, and recreational facilities such as Playland, Memorial Field, and the completion of a continuous Bronx River Pathway from New York City to Kensico Dam Plaza.

This budget proposal requests $476.4 million in new appropriations on an all funds basis for 2022. This appropriations request breaks down as follows: $291.9 million for general county purposes; $152.4 million for the sewer and water districts; $4.1 million for the refuse district; and $28.0 million for Westchester County Airport.

Latimer said of the Capital Budget proposal, “Over the past four years we have made significant investments in our county’s infrastructure, while maximizing efficiencies to reduce costs, improved the County’s bond rating and we have done all of this while cutting county property taxes for our residents. We are not here to let things fall apart while spewing rhetoric – we are here to get results and to make life better for the over one million people who call Westchester County home. This is our county, and together we will work to make Westchester County the strongest it can be.”

Year-to-date the County has expended more than $119 million on capital improvements. The backlog of capital projects has also been reduced by $400 million since Latimer took office in 2018. Over the past three years, Latimer’s Administration has made great strides to improve the capital program and increase efficiency. Administration officials pointed to the approval by the New York State Legislature, at the county’s request, to eliminate the $10-million bond referendum cap, as one of the administration’s most notable accomplishments. The lifting of the bond referendum cap ultimately saves the county money by eliminating extra costs from breaking up projects unnecessarily into pieces, county officials stated.

County Budget Director Lawrence Soule said, “We have made progress toward improving the county’s Credit Ratings while continuing to invest in our infrastructure. Fitch Ratings recently removed the negative outlook (current rating AA+ Stable) on the county’s general obligation bonds citing the county’s strong underlying revenue growth potential and significant ability to implement policy decisions that would close budget gaps and maintain very high financial resilience. They further state that the revision from negative to stable reflects their expectations that the county will maintain its improved financial resilience over time based on recent operating results that have bolstered general fund reserves. An improved credit rating has the positive effect of lowering the County’s borrowing cost for capital projects.”

Housing Investment

A total of combined $50 million is budgeted for land acquisition and infrastructure improvements to support the development of affordable housing within the county. If approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators, the 2022 Capital Budget would represent the largest single year commitment to affordable housing in county history.

Westchester County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond said, “The county’s contribution to affordable housing helps to create strong communities where members of the workforce and community volunteers can live. We need to be able to house those that provide the services that contribute to our great quality of life all across the county.”

Environmental Conservation / Transportation

Long committed to environmental conservation efforts, the County Executive has earmarked: $31.9 million in appropriations for the purchase of electric hybrid buses for the County’s Bee-Line Bus System; $4.3 million to begin the process of electrifying the county’s two bus garages; $1 million for the installation of EV charging stations at county facilities; and $1.1 million for improvements at Hilltop Hanover Environmental Center.

Westchester County Parks

Westchester County Parks saw unprecedented demand during the pandemic and the County Executive has continued his commitment to improve and enhance this vital county resource. The County Executive’s proposal also includes $4 million to begin the process of re-imagining the Westchester County Center. The County Center has not had a major improvement since the 1980’s, and an examination of the entertainment space is needed especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the Westchester County Parks System, a combined $45 million has been allocated for structural improvements to the Ice Casino at Playland and Playland Amusement Park.

Economic Development

Under the 2022 proposed Capital Budget, over 2,000 permanent jobs will continue to be supported in the county. Latimer said none of these strides would be possible without our partners in the construction industry.

Environmental Facilities

Major improvements are planned for the Mamaroneck and Yonkers wastewater recovery facilities in 2022. $37.5 million is included for Mamaroneck for a variety of improvements including nitrogen and phosphorus removal to protect the Long Island Sound, emergency power systems and odor control. At Yonkers, $22.6 million is included primarily for additional odor control measures and the completion of the methane recapture project that will allow the facility to generate approximately 70% of its energy needs.

Westchester County Airport

The Westchester County Airport is also included in the proposed Capital Budget with $28 million in new appropriations for improvements to the potable and fire suppression water systems to ensure the health and safety of all employees and patrons at the facility.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has received the proposed Capital Budget and will in the near future be given the proposed Operating Budget. The Board of Legislators are charged with passing the county budget by the end of December 2021.

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