Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today his 2006 proposed spending plan to be released by November 1 will include a tax rate decrease. Steinhaus said “While we still have a few significant decisions remaining to finalize over the next week, my goal is to release a 2006 budget which will hold spending below the rate of inflation, maintain the core services and programs vital to our county residents, and offer some new promising initiatives - all while realizing a tax rate decrease.”
Steinhaus cites “Determined spending constraint, coupled with a successful economic development agenda resulting in vibrant and sustained economic activity as important factors” in the county’s ability to lower the tax rate in his proposed 2006 budget plan.
State mandated pension costs that have spiked dramatically in past years will remain flat in 2006. Also, even though Dutchess County will still pay more for Medicaid expenses in 2006 than in 2005, the 20 year fight by county leaders against the state’s unfunded Medicaid mandate finally forced state officials to provide some relief to counties through a controlled growth formula.
Areas of the county budget in which spending is predicted to increase next year include many of the same higher costs families face: gasoline costs, incurred for the Sheriff’s patrol, highway, and other county vehicles, and heating fuel as well as electricity for county buildings and facilities. Also continuing to spiral upward for the county budget just like for families and businesses are health insurance and workers compensation costs. State mandated programs such as transportation and education for handicapped children also will escalate.
An additional higher expense will be for the County Resource Recovery facility whose operational costs for garbage disposal is subsidized by the county budget. The 2006 subsidy is expected to increase significantly over the $2.6 million appropriated in 2005.
“In the coming days, I will announce several new initiatives I’ve also included in my 2006 proposed spending plan, initiatives which will provide new important services to our senior citizens, youth and families in Dutchess County,” Steinhaus said. “I hear directly from residents and businesses everyday that the services we in county government provide for them are critical to the quality of life we all enjoy in Dutchess. I will continue to enhance our services and programs when it is affordable and sustainable.”
While the finishing touches are still being made, Steinhaus also revealed the 2006 proposed budget will have no appropriation of fund balance. “Although we experienced shrinking reserves over recent years, they rebounded and grew last year. However, we must position ourselves to face future financial obligations. Good financial stewardship requires proactively addressing the funding needs of pending union contract settlements for county employees, a potential national economic downturn or even new state Medicaid mandates resulting from future growth formula changes or cap elimination.”
Although the county’s property tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value will decrease, the impact on an individual tax bill can vary from town to town based on local assessments and state equalization rates, both factors beyond the county’s control. Property taxes to fund the county government account for just a little more than about 13% of the average homeowner’s annual property tax bill, the remainder of which is comprised of school taxes, municipal (town, village or city) property taxes and special district taxes (i.e. fire).
The County Executive’s proposed budget will be released by November 1. The County Legislature is expected to begin reviewing the budget in early November and will adopt the budget in early December.