The latest spending plan being proposed by the Westchester County Board of Legislators would increase childcare enrollment by 400 slots.
County officials announced the additions to the County Executive Robert Astorino’s $1.7 billion budget proposal Monday night, following a Budget & Appropriations Committee meeting chaired by Legislator Judy Myers, D-Larchmont.
In all, $2.5 million worth of additions were made to the budget, including increases in spending for the Title XX childcare program. Two positions that were cut in Astorino’s proposal, the Director of Water Agency and Environmental Project Director, were also restored.
“It’s important that the 2014 County Budget provide a crucial umbrella of protection for the lives of Westchester residents and our natural resources,” board Chairman Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers. “We have focused on balancing the needs of our residents and making decisions that are fiscally responsible in these budget additions. I’m confident that they’ll be part of the final budget negotiations with the Administration.”
County lawmakers said the spending increases would be offset by revenues expected from the new operations deal at Playland and reductions in staff spending already proposed in the budget.
Childcare enrollment has remained frozen since 2010. The need for funding increases has been a consistent talking point for residents and childcare professionals at the last two public county budget hearings.
“This is simply a matter of the Board responding to the concerns we’ve heard at the budget hearings over the past few years,” said Myers.
Legislators said the Director of Water Agency and Environmental Project Director positions are involved with the county’s responsibility under Federal law requiring the maintenance of a safe public drinking water system.
“These two staff members have a great deal of experience and institutional knowledge,” said board Majority Leader Pete Harckham, D-North Salem. “Right now, the county is in a sensitive situation regarding environmental protection, and letting these two veteran professionals go at this point seems like a bad idea.”
Two groups of additions are being made for the sake of greater budget transparency. First, a number of Department of Social Services staff positions are being moved out of trust accounts and into the operating budget. Those positions are paid for by the Medicaid administration and have no affect on the tax levy.
The second addition, program funding is being broken out of the Community Based Initiative line in the Proposed Budget’s Miscellaneous budget and placed in the proper department budgets.
Donna Greene, spokesman for the County Executives Office, said Astorino is still waiting to see how the Board of Legislator’s final proposal before he makes comment.
A third and final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Westchester County Center, located at 198 Central Ave. in White Plains.
The BOL Budget & Appropriations Committee will consider deletions to the proposed budget on FridayA special meeting of the Board of Legislators will be held on Monday, Dec. 9 at 10:30 a.m. in the BOL Chambers to consider an Act adopting the 2014 budget.