GovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Westchester Budget Unanimously Adopted, Signed By Latimer

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Officials surround Westchester County Executive George Latimer Monday afternoon as he signs the county’s $2.37 billion budget for 2023 in Valhalla.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the $2.37 billion 2023 budget Monday afternoon hours after the Board of Legislators unanimously approved the spending plan.

In the final week before its adoption, legislators added money to reopen two mental health clinics that had been closed, reduced the parents’ share of contributions from 10 to 5 percent for those who qualify for subsidized child care and increased spending by $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money for neighborhood community health centers.

Another $750,000 in ARPA funds was appropriated for Westchester Connects, a program that partners with the Westchester County Association to improve internet access for residents, and lawmakers added $350,000 for smoking cessation programs. The latter initiative was one of the issues raised during the recent public hearing and board vote to prohibit flavored tobacco products in Westchester.

Board of Legislators Chair Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said the county residents will be well-served by the 2023 budget.

“At the very end of this process, we were very pleased to be able to make improvements to the good budget that we received from the county exec, working and negotiating with the county exec’s team to reduce the parents’ share for child care, to help the child care facilities around our county, (to) make sure they can stay open to provide service for our county,” Borgia said.

For the fourth consecutive year, the budget reduces the property tax levy in 2023, this time by about $6 million despite an additional $150 million in spending, Latimer said. More than half of the additional spending is a result of about $68 million in ARPA funding that the county must put toward certain expenses and nearly $12 million to cover an anticipated 5 percent average inflation rate next year, he said.

“The important thing to understand is we now have less property tax levy today then we did the day we walked into office five years ago,” Latimer said.

When Latimer entered office at the start of 2018, the parents’ portion for subsidized child care stood at 27 percent. He called it “a savings for hard working people.”

“That is a proactive investment in human beings and human capital through child care,” Latimer added.

Budget and Appropriations Committee Chair Vedat Gashi (D-Yorktown) said with the additional mental health services and money for child care, the county has made wise choices.

“It’s something I’m tremendously proud of,” Gashi said.

The county will have a projected fund balance of about $448 million at the end of 2022, Latimer said. Nearly 500 of the 5,027 positions will remain unfilled but are included in the budget in case positions need to be filled at some point.

Department of Community Mental Health Commissioner Michael Orth said the county’s commitment to serving residents was illustrated by the allocation of money to mental health. More than $17 million is earmarked for that line next year.

There is also about $6 million for the Mental Health Crisis Response Team.

“They have made a statement that addiction and co-occurring disorder need attention,” Orth said. “And, they have told all of us here in the county that we matter.”

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