The Board of Legislators unanimously approved Westchester County’s $2.091 billion budget for 2021 on Monday that trims spending and the tax levy for next year and lowers child care contributions for income-eligible families.
Despite severe financial pressures caused by the pandemic, the county will see a $15.7 million spending reduction and a tax levy that is $1 million less than the current year.
Lawmakers also opted to diminish the parent child care contributions, which will fall from 25 to 23 percent.
Board Chairman Ben Boykin (D-White Plains) said the spending plan meets the values of the county by trying to assist the residents and business owners most impacted by the pandemic while also recognizing the challenges facing local, county and state governments.
“Given the unprecedented challenges we have faced this year with the pandemic and the economic crisis, this budget addresses the priorities of our residents,” Boykin said.
In addition to budgeting $52 million for child care, its earmarks $32 million for domestic violence support, an additional $5 million for housing assistance and another $2 million to address the growing food insecurity in the county, he said. There is also $5 million for economic development.
The county’s 2021 capital budget of $230 million was also approved by the legislators. It will improve infrastructure needs such as roads, parks, transportation and sanitation systems.
The county, which was looking at a worst-case scenario deficit earlier this year in excess of $200 million set aside a large portion of the more than $165 million it received from the federal CARES Act to help balance the budget, Boykin said. The voluntary separation program instituted this summer that cut the workforce by 225 positions also helped.
Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said times of crisis is when county government is needed to step forward and ease the burdens for ordinary residents.
“These are the times when government matters the most and I’m very proud to be part of a process that increases our human services, not require any layoffs, not require any additional property tax levy as well as being able to partner with our not-for-profits so they can help people directly as our partner, and also subsidize child care so that our families can get back to work and know that their children are in safe, healthy and educationally productive environments,” Borgia said.
Legislator Margaret Cunzio (C-Mount Pleasant) said the 2021 budget focuses on help those most in need while holding the line on taxes.
“It helps those that are in their houses by not having that tax increase and it helps those that need services from the government,” Cunzio said. “And this year many people who never thought they would need those services now rely on them.”
Majority Leader MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) said the budget fully funds the agencies, departments and nonprofit organizations that provide the key services county residents rely on. But she provided a bit of sobering news, saying that unless there is assistance soon from the federal government, local, county and state governments across the nation will find themselves in dire fiscal straits.
“As masterful as this budget is, without the aid and appropriate assistance from Washington, ultimately we, like all other local governments, are going to be in a very, very bad way in subsequent years,” Shimsky said.
The budget will now go to County Executive George Latimer for his signature.