Branda Says Latimer's Use of CARES Act Money Just Another Budget Gimmick
The Journal News reported on George Latimer's 2021 budget announcement earlier today, including the use of CARES Act (stimulus) money to close the budget gap:
Westchester County Executive George Latimer wants to slightly cut spending and reduce the county property tax levy in 2021.
Latimer, a Democrat, unveiled a $2 billion budget proposal Tuesday that would reduce the property tax levy by $1 million for the second year in a row if the plan is approved by county lawmakers.
No cuts to services are planned, with the county leaning on $168 million in COVID-19 CARES Act money this year to offset a grim financial picture.
By using the federal money to pay for COVID expenses this year in the emergency services, health, public safety and correction departments, the county is projecting an $88 million surplus in 2021 Latimer plans to draw down to balance the 2021 budget.
“We are not going to let what COVID did to hurt us stop us from doing our job,” Latimer said at a news conference on the budget held in his office.
The CARES money and Family First aide allowed Westchester to add a projected $88 million to a $75 million reserve fund at the start of 2020. The reserve fund, viewed as an indicator of municipal health, has been depleted to plug budget holes dating back to the previous administration from around $140 million four years ago.
Republican Dan Branda, who is so far the only candidate to announce he'll run against Latimer in 2021, said in a statement he questioned how the federal money was appropriated.
The money was earmarked only for new expenses in 2020 directly related to the pandemic.
Branda said he was "concerned that George Latimer is not doing the right thing when it comes to spending federal CARES Act money, and at the end of the day he is relying on a gimmick to balance this budget."