Westchester budget: Parks Department to lose 22 positions, cut festivals

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It was the Parks Department’s turn in front of the Board of Legislators Budget Committee Monday and department officials laid out the significant cuts the parks will face.

Spending on the county’s 50 parks will decrease from $50 million to $47.6 million, a 4.8 percent decrease. The tax levy would go down even more steeply, by 16.5 percent to $12.6 million (the department raises 73 percent of its budget in revenues from fees and other sources).

To reach that level of spending, 22 positions would be cut, 17 of those through layoffs. Nature center curators and ethnic festivals at the Kensico Dam Plaza are among the cuts. The layoffs, including of two people added during the course of 2012, would bring departmental staffing down to 249, including three funded through grants. Cutting the 12 festivals saves $100,000.

“They can do them but the Parks Department cannot pay for them,” said Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor.

Because of staff cuts, crews are working more often in teams rotating between several parks rather than having an employee assigned to one particular park. Equipment is also moving around more, O’Connor said. Redeployment is the watchword.

With the curator in charge of the deer management program on the layoff list, O’Connor said they are still working out how to continue the work.

The department is expecting a loss of revenue from the Ice Casino at Playland because it will not be fixed for several months. But the county has business interruption insurance that may pick up the $1.5 million in lost revenue.

Three of six curators at nature centers will be cut but their duties will be taken on by other conservation staff who will be assigned full time, O’Connor said. Where the public may see a difference, O’Connor said, is in the speed of cleaning up fallen trees on the sides of the Bronx River Parkway and the frequency with which grass will be cut at parks.

Legislators questioned keeping golf fees the same while cutting so much else in the budget but O’Connor said they have already gone up $6 over the last three years, putting Westchester near the top of the middle of similar courses in the region.

“We desperately do not want to carry the entire department on the backs of the golfers,” she said. The golf course fees cover the costs, she said.

The county’s parks served an estimated 3 million people in 2012, O’Connor said.

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8 Comments

  1. ‘ “We desperately do not want to carry the entire department on the backs of the golfers,” she said.’

    REALLY??? At this point 126 middle-class workers in county government stand to LOSE THEIR JOBS, 22 in the parks department, and their commissioner is espousing her desperate need to alleviate any inconvenience to GOLFERS??? That is truly disgusting, and blatantly shows the culture that has been fostered by county executive Astorino over the last 3 years.

    Westchester County may barely survive one more year of his tyranny…but at least now we can count the months until Westchester voters can exercise our ability to rectify the mistake we made in 2008 – especially the 73% of voters WHO DID NOT BOTHER TO VOTE. Here’s the clear result of what happens…golfers may suffer…

  2. the county budget is approximately 20% of your total property tax bill…of that 20%
    80% is the result of state mandated costs..that means that the budget actualy in
    control of the county executive and board is represents 4% of your total property tax bill
    the rest is either state mandated meaning you would have to pay it anyway even if
    there were no county at all or it is the result of your school and town or village tax
    bills which keep going up because you keep voting for them…now lets assume that
    the average middle sized home pays about 20,000 in anual property taxes…four per cent
    of that is under the control of the county elected officials…that’s eight hundred dollars
    a year EIGHT HUNDRED…or said in another way less than 70 dollars a month..how much
    in property taxes will be saved by cutting 126 jobs and decimated county parks…
    how much you ask…maybe…FIFTY CENTS a month in county taxes…that is why cutting
    the county budget shouldnt be the issue..the issue should be balancing what you are losing
    with what it is costing you…when you bend over backwards to let people know you are
    cutting the cost of government they have every right to inquire what you are cutting and how
    those cuts affect you personally…126 people losing jobs is only the tip of the iceberg
    they pay taxes too and they spend money in this economy…my sense is that this kind of
    cutting is counterproductive..as for golfers..they can and will always pay a little more because
    they usually can..clubs are 200 bucks a piece and balls are 25 bucks a dozen and most
    golfers don’t put any limit on how many of either they buy

  3. Its really too bad Astorino can’t come in & run New Rochelle like the county.

    That’s a city on the brink of financial disaster. Borrow, borrow & more borrowing. That’s New Ro!

    @ county worker, government shouldn’t be in the business of creating jobs as every penny it spends comes from its citizens. Sorry for your loss, but taxes are extreme here in Westchester and something has to give so I commend Astorino for keeping a lid on things and cutting the budget rather than simply look to pass a tax increase. That’s cowardly & really the easy way out. I would’ve cut the county police force too.

    @ reality, now that your guy Latimer won, will he do anything to reduce mandates and not support higher/new taxes/fees? He talked a good game on the campaign trail, now it’s show time. I just hope he’s in the minority. Time will tell.

  4. Yes, that is the ticket. Fire the same real workers who worked in clear storm knocked trees in parks, in county roads, who worked alongside cops and emergency repsonders to assist and deliver supplies, generators, other stuff for the storm rescue and clean up efforts.

    Yes, that is the illogical and evil treatment Astorino has to make room for more political hacks who end up floating all the time when budget cuts are made.

    November 2013 cant arrive fast enough for sure

  5. It is sad that once again, Astorino is trying to ax some of the curators at the nature centers. Who will they replace them with? It will be hourly employees who are currently working under the curators’ directions. These people are good people, they just don’t have the experience or expertise to run the nature centers and the summer camp programs. The curators work their butts off to run the summer camps, all of the educational programs for school groups and families, keep the trails safe and clear, in addition to running research programs, such as the deer management program and lots of others, too. The hourly people who will replace the curators will not be given any benefits. That’s the true reason Astorino wants to replace the curators, he wants to cut the budget on the backs of the employees. Commissioner O’Conner is kidding herself if she thinks that there will be minimal disruption to the parks, if this budget axing goes through

  6. We should cut out Kathy OConnor and that double dipper (collecting a NYS Pension while collecting MUCH too MUCH as director of “Freinds of Parks” –and still in OConnor’s lap each day Joe Stout

    Talk about conflict of interest. You got the Former Parks Director Stout raking it in from a wing of the County Parks Dept while advising the GF, who is the current Parks Commissioner, on matters that affect real worker’s lives.