The Westchester County Board of Legislators voted unanimously last week to override County Executive Robert Astorino’s veto of a $1.8 billion budget that included a 2 percent tax hike.
“After years of fiscal mismanagement in the name of ideology, we believe the unanimous (17-0) support of this budget speaks for itself,” members of the board’s Democratic Caucus said in a statement. “We are putting Westchester back on a responsible financial path by working to plug the roughly $100 million budget hole left by the outgoing administration while funding vital services all Westchester taxpayers rely on.”
Astorino, who has kept the tax levy flat since he took office in 2010, vetoed the board’s amended budget, taking issue with the increase in taxes. He also criticized 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.
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 up front. 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.