PELHAM, N.Y. Unfunded state mandates are among the top of issues facing Westchester, according to County Executive Rob Astorino, who listed his concerns and goals for the county during a town hall meeting held Wednesday in Pelham.
State mandate is one of the biggest problems we have to face on any level, said Astorino, a Republican. We are getting clobbered and eaten alive by state mandates.
Calling it the State Mandate Trap, Astorino said 82 percent of Westchesters tax levy was due to mandates that total $448,550,000. Of nine mandates assigned by the state, Medicaid takes up $216 million more than that of California, Texas and Pennsylvania combined, he said.
In March, Astorino said he and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent, went to the state legislature in Albany to convey their opinion that there is an absolute need to make real pension change. He said this concept is a nonpartisan issue and that New York needed some real pension relief, now.
Astorino said the pension bill is projected to increase to $91 million next year and then $105 million in 2014. In 2001, he said the pension bill was $2 million.
The father of three spoke about the progress of his goals since taking office in January 2010. They include protecting and giving relief to the already overburdened taxpayers, preserving essential services such as busing, homeless prevention, roads and bridges, plus promoting economic growth.
According to Astorino, from 2005 to 2010, taxes rose 17 percent and decreased 2 percent from 2010 to 2012. He said that government spending was up 23 percent from 2005 to 2010 and has decreased 7 percent over the past two years. The county tax levy, he said, stayed the same at $548 million from 2011 to 2012 and there was little to no change in sales tax ($355 to $364), federal aid ($188 to $203) and state aid ($248 to $247).
After his presentation, a Pelham resident asked what could be done to help the budget. Astorino said that consolidation was an option and pointed to a 2009 law that "makes it easier to get initiatives on the ballot."
The Pelham forum was the latest in a series of Ask Astorino outreach initiatives, including four tele-town hall meetings, where residents have been involved through telephone, Facebook and Twitter.
Check with The Pelham Daily Voice for a report of Astorinos thoughts on the Affordable Housing Settlement and a proclamation he gave to a Pelham resident.
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