NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s proposed spending plan for 2012 was open to a public budget hearing Tuesday night at New Rochelle High School. The proposed $1.689 billion county budget would not increase the county property tax levy. It would, however, cut spending by $100 million and reduce the county’s workforce by 7.5 percent – eliminating 367 jobs.
Among those who spoke to the county board of legislators Tuesday night, New Rochelle resident Jimmi Manning criticized the budget’s plan to cut housing funds to the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, which he said helped him when he needed housing assistance.
“Today I know for a fact that I would be out in the street in the rain right now," said Manning, a New Rochelle school custodian, in praise of the recent help he received from Legal Services of the Hudson Valley when he faced eviction from his Glencar Ave. apartment.
Other issues addressed by Westchester residents included changes to the county’s health department budget, which proposes a 3 percent change that would reduce the department’s budget from $165 million to $160 million. Also, people questioned the budget’s suggested 5 percent decrease in spending for the department of parks and recreation – bringing expenses from $51 million to $48 million, and the proposal to close six of the county’s nature centers.
According to Astorino’s budget, three neighborhood health centers will no longer receive county funds: Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center – which serves Mount Vernon, Yonkers and Greenburgh, Hudson River Healthcare – serving Peekskill and Yonkers, and Open Door Family Medical Center – which serves Ossining, Port Chester, Sleepy Hollow and Mount Kisco.
The county said ending contracts with these centers would save the county a combined $1.9 million in tax levy funds.
Other vocal community members were from the staff of My Sister's Place, an organization that advocates domestic violence and human trafficking awareness, which was eliminated from next year’s proposed budget. "We change lives," said Pam Howard, the group’s supervising attorney. "We provide safety and hope necessary to children and adults.”
The next budget hearing is scheduled in northern Westchester on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Somers High School. Another is set for Dec. 6, to be held in the county legislature’s chambers on the eighth floor of the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains.