At the end of the second quarter, Westchester was projecting a $10 million deficit in the $1.7 billion 2013 budget, less than the $30 million deficit projected last year at this time.
With conservative projections and recovering tax revenues, Budget Director Larry Soule told a legislative committee this week that he expected the county to end the year with a balanced budget.
Sales tax collections are running $5.4 million over budget, with $1.1 million of that due to municipalities. That puts them higher than the 2007 peak for the first time since the recession. Mortgage taxes are $1.3 million above budget.
Soule also said the county has been able to cover tax refunds due to assessment challenges without the $13 million in bonding the administration proposed in the budget. The Democratic majority on the Board of Legislators had refused to take up the bonding legislation and Soule said it is no longer necessary. Democrats said that showed the validity of their projections.
“We did not act on it because of the sincere belief that we did not need to,” said Legislator Judy Myers, D-Mamaroneck, chairwoman of the Budget Committee.
The county is saving money on salaries from vacant positions. That is offset by more overtime in the Corrections and Public Safety departments. At the same time, fewer corrections officers are out with injuries, which is also resulting in savings.
The Corrections Department has lost money because the county is housing fewer federal inmates. Parks Department revenue is down by $2.6 million due to Playland, the Ice Casino—still closed after Hurricane Sandy—and lower golf revenues.
For future budgets, Soule said he’s hopeful that recovering revenues will make it possible to avoid the deep cuts used in the past to balance the budget without tax increases, including reducing the county workforce by 15 percent.
“Can we continue to reduce expenses the way we have?” Soule said to the committee. “No. That’s a trend that can’t go on forever.”