Democrats demand answers about $60 million county deficit


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  • The Democratic Caucus cites the Orange County Administrative Code provision (above) requiring the County Executive to submit forecasts of estimated revenue and operational and capital needs.



— The Democratic Caucus of the Orange County Legislature is demanding a meeting between the Orange County Executive, Steve Neuhaus, with his financial advisors and all county legislators.

A letter to the county executive

May 16, 2014
Mr. Steven Neuhaus:
All policy makers involved in Orange County government share concerns for economic conditions facing the people of Orange County, budget deficits, and sales tax collection short falls. We are dismayed to hear your frequently mentioned statements referring to an alleged $60 million deficit. We urge immediate action.
As a first step, the Democratic caucus urges that a meeting with members of your administration and all Legislators be immediately scheduled. The Finance and Budget Directors and appropriate Department heads are essential participants. Our caucus expressly requests further explanation and elaboration on the $60 million deficit you have apparently identified. Additionally we request your focused attention on the enclosed Orange County Administrative Code Section 4 2 A; referring to “Annual Budget Forecast;” Procedure; Guideline. Specifically the Budget Directors and the County Executive are required “to submit a budget forecast for the ensuing fiscal year....statement of the indebtedness of the county... estimates of revenues....for each unit of County government....forecast of the operational and capital needs of the county.
The Orange County Legislature respectfully refers to the May 10 Code compliance date requirement. It is of vital importance that all required information be supplied to the legislature in order to effectively consider of expenditures suggested by the Executive Branch.
We will forward our Caucus request for this informational meeting to the Chairman of the Orange County Legislature, Mr. Brescia and other Legislators. If we can be of assistance in expediting implementation of this reasonable request please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sincerely,
Jeffrey Berkman
Democratic Minority Leader

"The County Executive states repeatedly that Orange County faces a $60 million deficit," said Jeff Berkman of Middletown, Minority leader of the Orange County Legislature, in a press release Friday. "We insist upon an explanation of how he comes to this conclusion."

Berkman said that he and the nine-member Democratic Caucus "recognize that the Legislature and the County Executive must work together in a time of limited resources. But it is imperative that the legislature be informed in detail of how Mr. Neuhaus arrived at the $60 million figure."

The Democratic Caucus cites the Orange County Administrative Code provision requiring the County Executive to submit budget forecasts, estimated revenue and forecast operational and capital needs.

Berkman said the Democratic Legislators "urge immediate action on this request and will forward the concerns of the Democratic Caucus to the Chair of the Legislature and all the Legislators regardless of party affiliation."

Budget office responds
Neil Blair, Director of the County Division of Budget sent the following response to The Chronicle on Tuesday: “Mr. Berkman’s request for information is out of date, but I welcome his interest in the budget process. The reports he cites have not been issued since 2010 and have never been directly solicited by the legislature. In fact, it appears the committee referenced in the law that Mr. Berkman claims the report should be sent to, a committee called ‘Finance and Administration,’ does not exist in the Orange County legislature this year. Going to the heart of the question, though, the state of the county budget is as follows: We have an anticipated 2015 budget gap of approximately $60 million. We have $43,459,585 in anticipated capital expenses next year. My office is happy to develop and send reports to the legislature anytime they ask. I encourage Mr. Berkman to propose any changes to county laws to reflect where the legislature would like those reports sent and we will do our best to accommodate him.”

See sidebar for Berkman's letter to Neuhaus on May 16.

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