Business leaders said they are optimistic about the future of Westchester County under the leadership of George Latimer as its chief executive officer.
"The new county executive is committed to a positive business environment in Westchester, so we're very encouraged about that,'' said Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester.
"I think there will be a continued focus on sustainability,'' Gordon told Daily Voice of the emphasis on moving toward greener, conservation-oriented office construction and energy-saving systems.
There also will be a continued focus on workforce development and retraining workers with new skills to adapt to increased employment needs in high-tech or health-care fields.
"I think we'll see additional focus on strengthening the Planning Department in the county," Gordon added in a December interview.
Under former County Executive Rob Astorino, the property tax rate remained flat for eight years. The new county budget calls for a 2 percent tax rate increase.
Despite Astorino campaign claims to the contrary, Gordon said she thinks Latimer is committed to keeping property taxes low.
The Board of Legislators reached a deal in mid-December on a $1.8 billion budget that increases county property taxes to balance operating expenses.
The budget approved by the county BOL eliminated the $30 million Astorino said the county would receive from privatizing Westchester County Airport and increased funding for non-profits. It also added jobs to the county executive's office and Department of Public Works.
PKF O’Connor Davies, Westchester County’s independent auditors, advised county legislators in mid-December that the budget proposed by Astorino included unsecure revenues – such as the money for the proposed airport deal - which left it structurally imbalanced. Without a recurring revenue source, this budget will collapse and the county would be further down the road toward another negative adjustment to its credit rating, the auditors said.
“For the outgoing administration to include $29 million of revenue for their proposed airport deal – and never even send the deal to us for review is downright irresponsible governing,” said county Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat. “We are here to do serious work, Westchester residents rely on services provided by a balanced budget."
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