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2012 County Budget Finalized With 27 Overrides

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- County lawmakers finalized the 2012 Westchester budget Thursday morning after overriding 27 budget line items vetoed by Republican County Executive Robert Astorino last week.

Bipartisan support reversed some of Astorino's vetoes, including restoring $1.09 million for neighborhood health centers, $990,000 for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, maintaining four positions at the Board of Elections and providing some funding for the Greenburgh Nature Center and ArtsWestchester.

The Democratic super majority was responsible for overriding vetoes that would have nixed funding for ethnic festivals, cut slightly less than $2.5 million for Invest in Kids youth programs and discontinued the Route 76 bus from Rye to White Plains.

Democratic lawmakers also overrode a veto of $3.5 million that would raise parents' share of subsidized daycare from 15 percent of the difference between their income and the poverty level to 20 percent, instead of the 35 percent Astorino proposed.

Chairman of the Board of Legislators Kenneth Jenkins (D-Yonkers ) said many of the overrides were with contract agencies that provide services residents expect on a smaller budget than the county could run the services on.

"We’re not really that nice of people. We’re just cheap people. We’re making investments in places where the delivery of services can be done at a more efficient level and when we do that we keep people employed," said Jenkins. "Some of these programs are in danger of being shut down if the support isn’t there from regional governments."

Overall, Jenkins said the legislators were pleased to have crafted a budget "that's right for Westchester," which includes residents' priorities, but doesn't raise taxes.

"Working with the administration, we were able to identify places where we shared concerns and understand and respect the places where we had differences," said Jenkins. "We will move forward with the differences today."

Astorino said he anticipated the veto overrides but was still satisfied with the $1.69 billion budget.

"I felt it was important to take principled stands on items in the budget that I believed were detrimental to both taxpayers and the effective management of county government," Astorino said in a statement. "That said, the overall 2012 budget, while not perfect, is sound because it follows the goals I laid out from the start – do not increase the tax levy and protect the county’s triple-A credit ratings by not raiding the fund balance, or so-called rainy day fund, to pay for operating expenses.

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