Below is a Newsday Westchester article on the latest lawsuit in county government – this time over child care funding. Unfortunately, most of the Democrat County Legislators have adopted a troubling strategy of suing County Executive Astorino when they disagree with him. It’s partisan…It’s political…It’s about obstruction over governing. When you read their quotes in the article, you will think the sky is falling for child care in Westchester, and that is far from the truth. Here are the facts before you read the article:
- County Executive Astorino presented a common sense idea in the proposed 2012 budget to raise the child care contribution by some parents from 15% to 35%. This would free up funds to help even more families and also help reduce county spending. The Republican Legislators were open to the change, ready for a thoughtful discussion and open to a compromise, but the Democrats just said NO, even though it is not even their decision to make, since the contribution percent is legally set by the Westchester Social Services Commissioner and must be approved by the State.
- The Democrats then amended the budget based on a parent contribution of 20%, but when they did this, they did not restore enough funding to cover the County’s child care expenses for 2012. This left a $2.5 million hole in the budget.
- This budgeting mistake will cause child care funding to run out over the summer.
- The Astorino Administration then took the responsible action to ask the State to set the contribution at 35% to ensure we have enough funds to cover child care costs this year. This request was approved by the State.
- And what did the Democrats do – they sued the County Executive yesterday! Yes, they created the problem by amending the budget in an irresponsible way, and then sued the County Executive after he was forced to clean up their budget mess.
We all realize that child care is very important to many families, and I remain supportive of the County assisting working families with this expense. However, here is another fact – the County currently spends more for child care than we are mandated to do under law – and the taxpayers of Westchester are paying about $8 million of the total $33 million bill for child care. Whether the parent contribution is 20% or 35%, or somewhere in between, our county and its taxpayers have been very generous and caring in our child care funding.
Whether the issue is child care or any other County funding stream, I will continue to urge the County Executive and County Legislators on both sides of the aisles to find ways to provide services in a more affordable and cost-effective manner – because we must hold the line on county spending and taxes. Lastly, I will keep working to bring our county leaders together to negotiate rather than litigate.
PS: Please join us for my annual beach party fundraiser on June 7 at Dudley’s in New Rochelle. Check out link for more info:
Westchester day care subsidy feud heats up
Newsday Westchester – Link: http://newyork.newsday.com/westchester/westchester-day-care-subsidy-feud-heats-up-1.3753212
Updated: May 31, 2012 6:52 PM
By CHRISTIAN WADE firstname.lastname@example.org
The battle over child day care subsidies in Westchester County is headed for a courtroom.
On Wednesday, Democrats in the County Legislature filed a lawsuit against County Executive Rob Astorino asking a county judge to block the Republican leader’s move to increase family contributions for child care by about $120 a month.
The lawsuit, filed in Westchester County Court by legislators Ken Jenkins, Peter Harckham, Lyndon Johnson and Mary Jane Shimsky, asks a judge to grant an injunction against the increases and set a trial to challenge the proposed changes to the contributions. The lawmakers argue that many low-income families can’t afford the increases.
“Many of them will have to take their children out of day care and stop working to take care of them,” Jenkins and other lawmakers wrote in a 28-page complaint filed along with the lawsuit. “Some will have to be placed on public assistance, at the taxpayer expense, and may not be able to return to their previous employment.”
An Astorino spokesman said the lawsuit didn’t change the reasoning for the increase.
“The Democrats on the Board of Legislators didn’t put enough money in the 2012 budget to cover the cost of the county’s day care program,” said Astorino spokesman Ned McCormack. “Ironically, the lawsuit, if successful, will only speed up the day care program running out of money.”
In February, Astorino called for a 15 percentage point increase in contributions, from 20 percent to 35 percent, and limits on the number of children who can participate in the program. The county says the increases are needed because funding for day care subsidies and other programs for low-income families will be depleted by July 31.
More than 3,500 children participate in the county’s day care programs, which cost an estimated $30 million a year to operate. About 75 percent of the funding comes from the federal government.
The changes, which go into effect on Friday, will increase family day care contributions by roughly $6 a day, per family, according to figures from the county.
Democrats in the County Legislature say that would create a hardship for working families and have lobbied state officials to reject Astorino’s move, efforts that have so far been unsuccessful. They argue that Astorino violated the county charter by making the cuts after the Legislature had set the contribution at 20 percent in the 2012 budget.
Last month, Democrats passed two largely symbolic resolutions: one requesting that state laws be amended to require approval of any changes to funding be approved by the county Legislature, and a second asking the state Office of Children and Families Services to intervene in the dispute over increasing the day care contributions.
The vote was split along party lines, with the Legislature’s Republican members voting against the resolutions.
“It’s simply cruel to force this change on hardworking Westchester residents in the middle of the year, especially when there has not been a decent argument made as to why the change — and resulting financial hardships — are necessary,” said Shimsky, (D-Hastings-on-Hudson).
Legis. Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle), the county Legislature’s Republican minority leader, said the ongoing dispute shows “fundamental” differences between both political parties over the county’s role in subsidizing child care.
“We’re basically dealing with numbers,” he told Newsday. “We don’t have enough money in the budget for child care, which is why we need to increase the contribution to 35 percent.”
He said called the decision to file litigation to block the cuts “unfortunate.”
“This is government by lawsuit and I think that’s very unfortunate for the county’s taxpayers,” he said.
Astorino and Democrats on the board have been feuding over the day care subsidies since he took office in 2010. Last year, the board voted to restore $4.3 million of day care subsidies cut from the 2012 budget.