News Release

 

For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000
countyexec@co.dutchess.ny.us

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2002

County Executive Announces Year End 2001 Financial Condition

Poughkeepsie. . . Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced Dutchess County’s 2001 year-end financial report has been forwarded to the Dutchess County Legislature by Finance Commissioner Rita Brannen. “While still sound, Dutchess County’s finances changed this past year,” commented Steinhaus.  “ The unappropriated fund balance we built and continue to fight hard to protect was lower by $2.4 million in 2001 compared to 2000.  It was the cushion we needed to weather the economic downturn of 2001 and the domino impacts of the 9/11 tragedy.”  

Year 2001 total revenues equaled $285.8 million and expenditures equaled $285.2 million. The county’s General Fund, in which the finances for the majority of county services and facilities are recorded, ended the year with revenues of $260.3 million. Sales tax income totaled $88.4 million, a 5.4% percent increase over 2000.1  Reflective of the general economy, sales tax receipts were particularly strong in the first half of 2001 but fell sharply in the second half.  State and federal support and reimbursements increased 13% over 2000 due in large measure to formula-driven reimbursements of the increased cost of ongoing County programs and grants for new or expanded services.  General Fund expenditures totaled $258.7 million.  The attached chart summarizes the various categories of county spending in 2001.  Dutchess County ended its fiscal year at a very favorable 23.6 percent of its Constitutional Tax Limit and only 9.3 percent of its Constitutional Debt Limit reflecting the careful, disciplined fiscal decisions made over the past years. 

Moody’s Investors Service in 2001 once again recognized Dutchess County’s financial competence when it rated Dutchess County’s bonds Aa1 – one of only two counties in New York State to achieve this enviable rating.2

Dutchess County has a bond rating of Aa1, which is higher than 94% of New York Counties (outside of New York City) with a Moody’s Bond Rating

Moody=s Bond Rating for

NY State Counties

 

Rating

 

Number of Counties

# Of Counties

Aaa

1

Aa1

2

Aa2

7

Aa3

1

A1

5

A2

15

A3

8

Baa1

5

Baa2

2

Baa3

1

In its rating report, which was issued prior to September 11, Moody’s cited Dutchess County’s stable financial position, improved liquidity and ending fund balance.  They also pointed to Dutchess County’s expanding economy, renewed job growth, reduced tax appeals, and its manageable  debt position with rapid payout.  As recently as January 23rd of this year, Dutchess County earned the highest rating possible (MIG 1) from Moody’s on its 2002 Series A Bond Anticipation Notes.

Moody’s Investors service issued a special report in November 2001 entitled, “Credit Stability for New York Metropolitan Credits Linked to Overall Fiscal Management and Economic Diversification in the Wake of the September 11th Tragedy.”  In it they projected credit stability for New York area local governments that over the past decade cultivated economic diversification and built up significant financial reserves – both of which were achieved in Dutchess County.  

However, they also noted that governments that are highly dependent on economically sensitive revenues such as sales tax or growing state aid could have problems – particularly if they do not have large financial margins.  This could be a significant problem for some counties as reports indicated 35 New York State Counties received less sales tax income in 2001 than they did in 2000.  The County Executive observed, “To maintain our enviable Aa1 credit rating, we are encouraged by the Moody’s report to continue our conservative budgeting practices; to protect our fund balance; to maintain service levels and revenue streams which insure an overall structural balance between operating revenues and expenses; and to act proactively to curtail expenditures if sales tax or other significant funding streams should fall short of projections.  We must also keep a vigilant eye on our local economy, particularly employment figures,” (The Dutchess County unemployment rate hit 4.4% in January 2002 versus 3.3% in January 2001). 

The reform agenda implemented by County Executive Steinhaus over this past decade resulted in a smaller county government workforce today than in the 1980’s and also cut the previous rate of expenditure growth.  Unlike other governments that become bloated with pet programs that sounded good in a strong economy, Dutchess County, for the most part, remained focused on its traditional core mission.  In fact, the 2002 Dutchess County budget cut property taxes for the seventh time in the ten budgets under the Steinhaus administration!  This is in stark contrast to a recent report that over 70% of New York State counties surveyed increased 2002 property taxes. 

Absent an extraordinary economic expansion, it is likely the fund balance will be drawn down again in 2002 and 2003—particularly to pay the skyrocketing costs of Medicaid and other unfunded state-mandated programs, as well as yet-to-be-resolved labor agreements with two major employee groups.  Commented Steinhaus, “While much has changed and will continue to change, the basic tenets of creating and sustaining stability in government, and by extension ensuring economic security for the families and businesses of Dutchess County, remain the same for me and my administration today as they were when I became Executive in 1992.  We must provide a solid financial foundation upon which to build, and we must maintain strong fiscal stewardship of the county government – everything else we do in our government and for our community is dependent upon it!  One of the few certainties in governance is that there will be cycles of uncertainty.  We cannot be afraid of it; we must be prepared for it.  It will be those governments and communities solidly positioned to deal with it who will be able to achieve success.”

The Annual Financial Report is released today, April 30, by the County Finance Commissioner required by law to be forwarded to the State Comptroller, the County Comptroller and the Dutchess County Legislature.  It includes the operating results and balance sheets of all funds and account groups.  The statements included in the report are reviewed in the annual comprehensive audit of county finances conducted by an independent accounting firm whose report will be issued later this year.


 

 1Sales tax receipts are subject to retroactive adjustments by the State of New York based upon audit and filing of amended returns.

 2Ratings as of January 2002.  Only Westchester County, where local municipalities guarantee the county property tax levy, holds a higher Aaa rating.

 

-end-

2002 Press Releases