Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino on Tuesday vetoed a $1.8 billion budget that had been approved by the Board of Legislators earlier this month, one that included a 2 percent tax hike.
“Raising property taxes on the already overburdened taxpayer is the last thing we should be doing right now,” Astorino said in a statement.
Astorino also took issue with the board’s omission of the $30 million in revenues that would be gained from entering into a public-private partnership with an outside firm to operate the Westchester County Airport. Instead, legislators proposed pulling $21.5 million from the county’s fund balance.
“With Washington about to cap state and local property tax deductions, the most irresponsible and hypocritical thing to do is to make matters worse by hiking our already sky-high taxes,” Astorino said.
Astorino announced in November that Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. was selected to operate Westchester Airport in a $1.1 billion public-private partnership. The Manhattan company was recommended by a six-member task force composed of members of Astorino’s administration and the county Board of Legislators.
As part of the deal, the county would get more than $1.1 billion over 40 years, including $300 million upfront. It would be reimbursed $10 million for airport police, with payments increasing 2.5 percent a year for a total of $674 million. The county expects to receive an annual revenue stream of $6.5 million that could be applied to the budget.
However, during a Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting earlier this month, Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said the airport revenues were “too speculative” to be used in the budget.
Kaplowitz said soon after Macquarie’s selection that any decision on an airport deal with a private partner should be delayed until the incoming administration of Democrat George Latimer, who defeated the two-term Republican incumbent Astorino, has researched the competing proposals.
Following Astorino’s veto, the budget will now go back to the legislators, who would need a 12-vote majority for an override.
For the new budget to take effect, it must be approved by the board by the end of the year. Otherwise, the 2017 budget would remain in effect as Latimer takes office, along with a 12-to-5 Democratic board majority.
Astorino has kept the tax levy flat since he took office in 2010.
“For the past seven years, working in a bipartisan manner, we have been able to adopt budgets that have fully provided for services and programs and did not rely on the county’s reserve funds,” Astorino said. “The board’s budget will hurt taxpayers.”
Credit ratings service Standard and Poor’s affirmed the county’s AAA bond rating, but revised its outlook from “stable” to “negative,” citing the county’s reliance on one-time revenues to balance county budgets.