WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino pledged continued fiscal discipline and economic growth on Thursday evening, during his seventh State of the County address, which was delivered in the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains.
The county budget and the county property tax levy are both less than they were when Astorino, a Republican, first took office. During his speech, he pledged to keep spending flat and not raise taxes for the seventh year in a row.
“I came into office in 2010 on a pledge to stop the madness,” Astorino said. “And guess what? We’ve done that. The record is clear. Spending is down, taxes are down. And we’ve shown that government can work and live within its means at the same time – just like you and me and everyone else.”
The night’s most moving moment came when Astorino honored Joseph Lemm of West Harrison, the late New York City Police detective and Air National Guard staff sergeant who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in December 2015.
Astorino awarded Lemm the county’s highest honor – the Distinguished Service Medal and on June 6 a bronze plaque will be dedicated and permanently placed at the Westchester Fallen Heroes Memorial Walkway at the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla.
Astorino spoke to the Lemm family saying they had something greater than the county’s sympathies: “You have a dad, husband and son, whose bravery and service to others will echo for eternity. Your loss is too big to put into words. But his memory is big enough to forever fill your hearts with pride, strength and comfort. He was a Superman to many. A beacon for us all.”
Astorino also provided updates on several other key issues facing the county, including:
-- Playland Amusement Park. The county Board of Legislators has scheduled a vote for May 2 on the public-private $60 million partnership agreement with Standard Amusements to manager Rye Playland. If approved, Astorino said it won’t be long before residents see “great enhancements and new attractions” at the park.
-- Federal Housing Settlement: Astorino said he believed that HUD doesn’t want the county to build the 750 affordable housing units on time because they want a “settlement that never ends.” Astorino said his approach from the beginning will remain – “fulfill the county’s obligations and defend the constitutional rights of our municipalities to control their local zoning.”
In response, county BOL Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, an Ossining Democrat, reiterated many of the concerns members of the Democratic Caucus have voiced about the operational and financial management of Westchester County. In a three-minute video, Borgia summarized that “everything starts and ends with our finances and at the moment ours are in bad shape.”
“Our roads and bridges continue to be in significant disrepair; flood-prone coastal neighborhoods have been neglected and homeowners fear damaged every time there is rain during high tides; and providers of services for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and mental health disorders are turned away because the administration refuses to honor its responsibility to the health, safety & welfare of Westchester residents,” Borgia said.
“Over the last seven years the county has missed lots of opportunities to consolidate and share services amongst municipalities. As a former Town Supervisor, I’ve seen how these mergers work and the significant savings they yield for taxpayers," Borgia said.