The Allison-Parris Office Building in New City. (May, 15, 2012)

The Allison-Parris Office Building in New City. (May, 15, 2012) Credit: Photo by Faye Murman

It's no surprise that towns in Rockland don't think much of County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef's deficit-reduction plan: It passes millions in costs down to them.

And they'll no doubt pass those same costs down to the very same taxpayers who've already seen their county property tax bills go up 30 percent this year.

Seems like trickle-down taxation. Sound familiar? It's what New York State does to counties, in the form of mandates. But that doesn't make it right.

Rockland's dire fiscal predicament includes a staggering deficit and a credit rating downgraded by Moody's Investors Service to near-junk status. In response, Vanderhoef recently unveiled a contingency plan aimed at offsetting a $21-million mid-year budget shortfall. The plan included 150 layoffs, selling county buildings, cutting not-for-profit contracts, and enacting motor vehicle and energy taxes that made some folks hot under the collar. He's also banking on $18 million in yet-to-be realized union concessions.

Another part of his plan calls on the county's five towns -- Clarkstown, Orangetown, Ramapo, Stony Point and Haverstraw -- to pick up $1.4 million in local election costs; $1.8 million in community college charge-backs, a peculiar mechanism in New York whereby counties pay a percentage of tuition when students go to community colleges outside their own county; and $585,000 for a regional intelligence unit made up of local police officers.

Just as an increase in sales tax isn't an answer to Rockland's fiscal problems, neither is passing down expenses to towns.

The Board of Legislators, which is set to vote on a series of these deficit plans Tuesday, should be wary of the pass-alongs. It needs to find other spending cuts.

Rockland towns have already approved their spending plans, so they would have to make their own cuts or tap into reserves in the face of these added expenses. Neither will be easy given the state of municipal finances these days and New York's property tax cap. In future years, Vanderhoef's proposals no doubt would mean tax increases.

The county executive argued that in the absence of the State Legislature approving a 0.375 sales tax increase for the county to help pay for borrowing $80 million to eliminate the deficit, these were the painful, yet necessary, alternatives.

Rockland County needs help, including from the state in controlling mandated costs. But placing some of its burdens on towns isn't fair.

Remember, it all comes out of the same taxpayers' pockets.