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August 22nd, 2012

This Week in Orange County 8-22-12



Orange County Executive Edward Diana
This week marked our second week of Orange County budget hearings. During this time, every County department meets with me along with Budget and Operations staff to review their proposed budgets for the coming year. It’s never an easy time, but this year has been one of the most difficult ever.

After many years of cutbacks, hiring freezes, and challenging departments to do more with less, we’re now asking County Departments to tighten their belts even more. In these difficult economic times it’s critical that we look at every aspect of County Government so that we can continue to keep taxes down and provide residents with programs and services they need.

Budget staff and I go through department plans with a fine tooth comb reviewing the budgets line item by line item looking for additional opportunities to cut expenses without sacrificing services. The goal set for each department was to build a 2013 budget that requires no increase in support from County tax dollars. Just like private individuals, we must plan, and stick to, a budget that is within our means. As families throughout the County well know, that can be tough when costs for basic necessities, like fuel, food, and utilities, continue to escalate. Those rising costs affect private citizens as well as public entities, like County Government. Quite frankly, the outlook for 2013 is grim.

My administration has a reputation for being fiscally prudent. We have made decisions for the good of the County and the people who live here. Those decisions have earned us a Triple A Bond rating, one of only two counties in all of New York with that distinction. That rating further benefits us as it allows the County to borrow money for capital projects at the best rates available.

While there are other counties and municipalities in New York State facing bankruptcy, our commitment to financial responsibility has served Orange County well and helped us stay on a stronger financial footing than many others have during the continued economic challenges our state and nation have faced. A budget that is out of balance will surely jeopardize that rating and our continued financial health.

That is why I am so determined to maintain our financial strength - it’s the right thing to do for the good of all Orange County residents. I firmly believe that when all is said and done the 2013 budget will be one that makes sense, one that we can all stand by and be assured of continuing the programs, services, and quality of life that we are privileged to enjoy here in Orange County.

Speaking of doing what’s right – if you haven’t heard, FEMA recently conceded that the damage sustained by the Orange County Government Center as a result of last fall’s storm was more significant than the $505,290 that they first offered. County staff and I were completely dissatisfied with the initial offer and urged FEMA to re-evaluate the situation.

After three evaluations and considerable perseverance by our County team, the most recent estimate valued the damage at more than $3.6 million that can be used toward renovating or rebuilding the Government Center – a far cry better for the residents of Orange County.

It’s also an outstanding example of what we do each and every day for the people we serve – we work to protect their interests and provide for their needs as best we can to ensure that Orange County continues to be the best county to live, work, and raise a family.

Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.

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