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Rockland County Executive Proposes Sain Building Sale As County is ‘Being Battered from all Sides' by COVID
NEW CITY—Saying the county is “being battered from all sides” from the coronavirus and faces significant revenue shortfalls ahead, Rockland County Executive Ed Day submitted three draft Resolutions to the County Legislature on Aug. 18 that include reviving a plan to sell a shuttered county-owned office building and raising the county’s sales tax.
Day says the resolutions will generate additional revenue, help stabilize Rockland’s finances and allow for proper budgetary decision-making for 2021.
The first resolution authorizes the sale of the Sain Building (18 New Hempstead Road, New City) with all proceeds from the sale to be applied to offset any financial losses caused by COVID-19. The original purchase offer for the building in March of 2016 was $4.51 million. The prior sale would have also returned the building to the property tax roles and generated $500,000 in total annual property tax revenue for the Town of Clarkstown, Clarkstown Central School District and County of Rockland. The building was officially closed in December of 2017.
The Rockland County Legislature failed to approve the Sain Building to National Development and subsequently the Massachusetts-based firm notified the county in October 2018 it was no longer interested in acquiring the property.
“We are facing never before seen impacts on our budget and need to do everything possible to decrease spending while finding ways to increase revenue; through our previous actions we have reduced year over year spending by more than $18 million at the end of June. But between the predicted revenue shortfall of $40 million to $50 million and New York State now cutting 20% of promised state aid and reimbursements we are being battered from all sides,” Rockland County Executive Day said. “If we just accepted this fiscal situation it would result in the need for 200 layoffs. That is why we need to take these additional steps to protect our employees from possible layoffs and property taxpayers from the double-digit rate increases of the past.”
The second resolution calls for the temporary addition of one-half of one percent to the local sales tax to take effect Dec. 1, 2020, or as soon thereafter as possible, for a period of three years until Nov. 30, 2023. The resolution would also need to be passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo. The current sales tax rate in Rockland County is 8 and 3/8ths percent, this resolution would raise it to 8 and 7/8ths percent equal to the rate of Yonkers and New York City.
The third resolution would push back the 2021 proposed County Budget submission requirement from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 23, 2020. Rockland is due to receive two sales tax disbursements from New York State on or before Oct. 1, 2020, with two additional disbursements due to the county on Oct. 7, 2020, and Oct. 13, 2020. The proposed three-week delay would allow for the collection of more data and therefore a more accurate projection of the 2021 proposed County Budget, Day noted.
“These three resolutions are just the latest actions we have taken to protect taxpayers from the fiscal tsunami caused by the pandemic. The temporary sales tax Resolution is the lynchpin of our ability to successfully navigate these unprecedented times and the passage of all these resolutions by the County Legislature and New York State Legislature will help us continue to chart a responsible path forward. We have already met with legislative leadership and notified every legislator of the criticality and need behind these resolutions,” County Executive Day said.
The County Executive is hopeful the resolutions can pass the County Legislature at its next session on Tuesday, Sept., 1.
Additionally, County Executive Day notified the County Legislature last week that the county would only move forward with $19,975,000 in capital borrowing down from the $40 million that was planned for pre-pandemic. This borrowing reduction will not influence the 2020 Budget but will cut principal and interest payments on these projects from $3 million to $1.5 million in 2021.
The capital spending cut will not impact the start of construction on the long-delayed new facility for the Rockland County Highway Department in Chestnut Ridge. A contract to build the new facility, valued at nearly $35.5 million was recently awarded to Worth Construction of Bethel, CT. The county has previously borrowed funds for a portion of the project.
“We closely reviewed the necessity of each of these projects and are only moving forward with those that are already in progress, those which will show a positive return on investment or those which are critical infrastructure improvements. The last economic recession resulted in the delay of many of these projects and since taking office I have refused to kick the can down the road for future generations of Rocklanders to deal with. But make no mistake, we are moving forward in a fiscally responsible manner and will not repeat the mistakes of the past which led to the $138 million deficit I inherited upon taking office,” said County Executive Day.