After 100 Days In Office, Westchester County Executive Says Budget Is Top Concern
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — George Latimer is marking 100 days in office as Westchester County Executive.
The Democrat was elected last fall, unseating two-time popular incumbent Republican Rob Astorino. Latimer is a lifetime Westchester resident — born in Mount Vernon, a product of public schools, and a graduate of Fordham in the Bronx. He was a marketing executive for two decades before jumping into politics. He has served in various roles in city, county and state government along the way, and he has never lost an election.
He ran for county executive on promises to hold the line on taxes, fight to preserve the environment, build up urban centers, increase opportunities for minorities and women in business, and increase investment in mental health and fight the opioid crisis.
During an appearance Wednesday morning on WCBS Newsradio 880, Latimer told Wayne Cabot and Paul Murnane that the budget is a top concern.
A full audit is underway, but an early look shows the county has a budget gap that will likely grow.
“The state comptroller came in to the fiscal review, identified that some revenues were overestimated — sales tax, state aide. And we know already that we have a major union contract that’s gone seven years unresolved and that’s accumulating a pretty hefty prospective charge if we’re able to close it off,” Latimer said.
The county executive said he’ll try to encourage villages to share some services as a way to cut costs.
“What we have to do at the county level is try to give them incentives to combine or work with the county on the delivery of services,” Latimer said. “We’re obviously concerned about how can identify shared services, ways of restructuring how we deliver shared services — police, sanitation — things that we’ve come to understand can be done by every local municipality but now we have to look at doing them in some combination of delivery.”
A caller also expressed concerns about what will happen to the communities that stand to lose revenue when the Indian Point Nuclear Plant closes in the coming years.
Latimer said the goal is to repurpose the land that the plant sits on.
“Part of it is going to always remain to house the spent fuel rods but the rest of the land sits on the Hudson and if it can be repurposed productively, and that’s open-ended. That’s a question economic development and how we incentivize that,” Latimer said.
He favors creating an enterprise zone “where we can give some special tax discounts that would allow us to bring something else into that land.”
“I don’t know that you’re going to get the same economic boon that you had with Indian Point but I think we can help offset it until the economy restructures itself in that area,” Latimer said.
The county executive also addressed a question from a caller who asked why a new Westchester County police commissioner has yet to be appointed.
“We haven’t found the right person yet,” Latimer said. “Public safety is an important position and we want to make sure we make the right decision. We’re not into hiring and firing and rehiring.”
Another caller asked Latimer about lighting on the Bronx River Parkway.
“All the lights on the parkway work in the Bronx section but none of them seem to work on the Westchester side,” the caller said.
The issue comes down to money. The project has to be funded through the capital budget.
“Everybody says,. ‘Well let’s keep our taxes low, don’t spend anymore money, don’t raise my taxces,’ but there are capital needs,” Latimer said.
The county executive doewsn’t sound optimistic this will happen anytime soon.
“I hope by the time I say goodbye in this position both he and I will be able to drive the Bronx River fully lit,” Latimer said.
Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s live-to-tape interview on the WCBS Opening Bell Report on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.