Legislator Kantrowitz Speaks Out Against United Water Rate Hike Request


Last night I spoke at the evening session of the Public Service Commission hearing on United Water’s request for a 29% rate increase. I opposed both the requested rate hike and the recent Administrative Law Judges’ decision which recommended a 15% increase.

I quoted from the scathing report of the New York State Department’s Utility Intervention Unit (UIU) which stated that its investigation “discovered several significant instances of fiscally imprudent and inappropriate managerially conduct,” and that “[M]any issues on record show management’s inability to provide a standard level of service when compared to other New York utilities.” The request for a huge rate increase is unconscionable given the reported failures of United Water’s management. Granting any increase at all would be inappropriate until such time as United Water improves its management and establishes a record of compliance with proper practices. I urge everyone to read the UIU which can be found online here: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=13-W-0295&submit=Search+by+Case+Number

Last night’s meeting was only to address the requested rate hike. Upcoming hearings will address the proposed desalination plant which would also cost ratepayers dearly. Please exercise your right to be heard when additional United Water cases are scheduled for a Public hearing,

Posted on 24 Apr 2014, 14:36 - Category: In the News

Re: "Rockland's bonds come at a price" (Journal News April 6, 2014)

Comments on  "Rockland's bonds come at a price" (Journal News April 6, 2014)


The Journal News completely missed the point when it reported on the Legislature's recent inquiry into the cost of the County's deficit bond. The Legislature was right to question the Administration's initial report that the bond interest rate was 2.7% and the $11.7 million in bond premium could be used to further reduce the deficit. The Administration was wrong and it was "double dipping" in its report of otherwise good news.  It was the representation of the reduced rate resulting from the premium combined with using the premium for further debt reduction that was not accurate and the subject of questions by myself and others on the Legislature.

What I personally questioned at the Legislature's Budget and Finance committee meeting was the initial representation in a press release that the bond interest rate was 2.7% and the premium of over $11M received on the bond could be used to reduce the deficit. If the premium is used to reduce the deficit, then the interest rate must be reported at the full coupon rate of 5%. If the premium is used to pay down the interest,(which is what the law currently requires,) then it is fair to say that the "effective" rate on the bond is not 5% but rather 2.8%.

It was inaccurate to initially imply that the County could use the premium to pay down the deficit and then claim that it only had to pay back the $96 million at 2.8%. It is the premium received on the bond issue that reduces the 5% coupon rate to the 2.8% effective rate. Counting the premium twice-- deficit reduction and interest reduction -- is the type of accounting that got the County into trouble in years past.

Sometimes asking questions is the right thing to do, and not necessarily politically motivated. After years of financial missteps that have left Rockland County the "most fiscally stressed county in New York," I applaud my colleagues on the Legislature who, like me, asked pointed questions to get accurate information. The Legislature is the appropriating branch of government. It is incumbent upon all legislators to understand and be well informed on this issue. That is exactly what happened at the last Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

Repairing Rockland's fiscal mess is a huge project and both the executive branch and the legislative branch of county government play crucial roles in a successful outcome. Our system of checks and balances works when questions are asked, meaningful discussions are encouraged, alternatives are considered and compromises are worked out. Disagreements are part of the process. The entire Legislature, Democrats and Republicans, have been working together in a bi-partisan manner over the last 3 months to improve Rockland. The County Executive has a partner in the repair process, but not a rubber stamp. My role as a legislator is to represent my constituents as best I can and make sure that their voices are heard and their tax dollars are handled with serious care and concern. If that means questioning what appears to be a mistake then I will continue to do so, even if it ruffles some feathers. In my short three months on the Legislature, it is clear to me that the days of legislators sitting back and simply accepting everything they are told are long gone.

Congratulations to the County on the successful bond issue. It is the beginning of the road to recovery that our County needs and deserves.

Barry Kantrowitz Rockland County Legislator, District 5

Posted on 22 Apr 2014, 16:37 - Category: In The News

Legislature Approves Kantrowitz Resolution On School District Oversight

New City, NY  (March 19, 2014) – The Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution sponsored by Legislator Barry Kantrowitz (District 5/New City-Pomona) that supports bills introduced in the State Legislature, that if passed would establish the “New York State School Taxpayers’ Protection Act” and a process to address charges that may arise concerning financial improprieties within public school districts outside of NYC.

Assembly bill A.1328 and Senate bill S.1781 recommend, among other things, the creation of an independent state agency, the Office of the Inspector General for Education.  The IG would have the authority to investigate allegations of corruption, financial improprieties, unethical misconduct or other criminal conduct within public school districts outside of NYC.   The bills also would incorporate extensive financial safeguards and sanctions for violations of school district finance laws.

Legislator Kantrowitz said, “This bill increases the financial reporting requirements, protects whistleblowers, and establishes a statutory framework to deal with corruption and fiscal mismanagement in school districts throughout the state.  The cost of this needed oversight should be covered and exceeded by the savings that will come from reduced incidents of fraud and improper conduct.” The bill also proposes to curtail unfunded state mandates, which Kantrowitz said, “should ease the financial burden on districts and local tax payers.”


Posted on 20 Mar 2014, 13:18 - Category: In the News

County Legislature Passes Kantrowitz Resolution on Medicaid Fraud

Legislature Passes Kantrowitz Resolution
Supporting Incentives for Counties to Investigate and Prosecute Medicaid Fraud

New City, NY  (March 6, 2014) – The Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution sponsored by Legislator Barry Kantrowitz (New City-Pomona) that requests the New York State Legislature pass Assembly bill A.5042A and Senate bill S.2617A which would provide a greater incentive to local governments to combat Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse by ensuring the local governments would receive reimbursement of 100% of the local share of any savings resulting from successful fraud prosecution, or 10% of the total savings, whichever is greater.  Under the current law, the State receives most, if not all, of any recovery even if obtained at the cost and expense of the County.  

“Rockland County District Attorney Zugibe, his investigative staff and our Department of Social Services work exceptionally hard to uncover instances of Medicaid fraud,” said Legislator Kantrowitz.   “Right now, any money recovered through the County’s efforts goes to the State, with no local benefit.  This law, if passed, will create a greater incentive to pursue Medicaid fraud claims as financial recoveries will first reimburse the County for its local share of the defrauded money. I am very pleased that both the Rockland County District Attorney and the Department of Social Services supported the passage of this resolution.”  

Posted on 11 Mar 2014, 14:15 - Category: In The News

Update on New Hempstead Road Snow Removal

Who knew that the simple problem of clearing a sidewalk after a storm could “snowball” into an ongoing dispute between the County and the Town of Clarkstown.

In early February I received some complaints that the new sidewalks on New Hempstead Road from Little Tor Road to Main Street had not been cleared of snow.  People resorted to walking in the roadway down the hill on New Hempstead.  My calls to County and Town departments resulted in each claiming the other was responsible for clearing the sidewalks. Eventually, the County Facilities Department cleared the sidewalks, but no permanent resolution was reached.

State Highway Law mandates that the responsibility to maintain sidewalks, even on County and State Roads, lies with the Town.  The same law, however, allows the Town to pass the responsibility on to abutting property owners so they are primarily responsible for clearing the sidewalks along their property.  Clarkstown and most other towns have adopted such a rule, and along New Hempstead Road, the County is the abutting land owner for most of the stretch between Little Tor and Main Street. 

At the February 25, 2014 Rockland County Legislature Planning and Public Works Committee (PPW) meeting, I raised this issue so that it could get resolved. The County representative told the committee that since the New Hempstead Road project was not yet completed, the sidewalks had not been turned over to the Town.  Accordingly, at least until the project is completely finished, the County and its contractor have to work out the sidewalk cleaning.  Once the project is finished this June, we will need an answer as to who is going to do the snow removal next winter.

Toward that end, the PPW Committee directed that the County Attorney review the conflicting laws and determine whether the Town is within its rights to insist that the County, an independent municipal entity, but an abutting landowner nonetheless, must remove the snow.

This matter will remain on the PPW agenda until it is resolved.  If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, do not hesitate to contact me at Kantrowb@rockland.co.ny.us or at 845-638-5751

Posted on 6 Mar 2014, 11:21 - Category: In The News

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