Fiscal turnaround has Rockland County close to eliminating deficit

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New York’s Rockland County is on track to eliminate a deficit that once totaled $138 million by the end of the the year, according to results of a new audit announced Monday.

County Executive Ed Day attributed the multi-year turnaround to “careful management and planning” following years of mismanaged spending.

The audit, which was presented by outside auditors, Marks Paneth, to the Rockland County Legislature at its Nov. 2 budget review, said that the county reduced its negative fund balance from $16 million at the end of 2015 to $4 million for 2016, according to Day.

The audit was reviewed by Rockland Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat and Budget Director Steve Grogan.
"We project by the end of 2017 the deficit fund balance will be completely eliminated,” said Day during a press conference. "It's a near miraculous turnaround of a county that was on the brink of fiscal collapse."

Day, who was first elected in 2013, noted that the county is still paying off a $96 million deficit bond at a rate of $13.2 million per year. He said the county has saved between $3 million to $5 million on debt service costs since 2014, which combined with the wiping out the budget gap has led to five consecutive debt rating upgrades. The county’s general obligation bonds are rated A-minus by Fitch Ratings, BBB-plus by S&P Global Ratings and Baa1 by Moody’s Investors Service.

“We have gone from near junk bond status to the A category in just three years,” said Day.

Day, a Republican running for re-election Tuesday against Democratic challenger Maureen A. Porette, has urged the county legislature in recent years to sell a county-owned building for $4.51 million. Initially the sale would have been used to pay off the county’s deficit, but Day stressed Monday that he wants to use proceeds for settling union contracts.

Rockland County is located about 25 miles north of Manhattan and had a population of 311,687 in the 2010 census. The county was among 35 local governments cited in a 2014 fiscal stress list compiled by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

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