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                                   2002 Budget Message

November 1, 2001

Bradford Kendall, Chairman, Dutchess County Legislature
Members, Dutchess County Legislature

Dear Chairman Kendall and Members of the Legislature:

September 11, 2001… the day our world changed.

The 2002 Dutchess County Executive Budget I submit to you today was crafted in an environment unlike any other in the recent history of Dutchess County.  The devastation of the September 11 attack on America sent a shockwave through our lives.  The aftermath of that tragedy, coupled with a national and statewide economic slowdown, and a totally dysfunctional state budget process, created an atmosphere of severe economic and fiscal uncertainty which made it extremely difficult to prepare a financial plan for 2002, and one which would also position us for 2003 and beyond.

The Governor, the State Comptroller and the leaders of both houses of state government agree the aftermath of the attacks coupled with the softening economy have reduced state revenues drastically and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.  Local governments, school districts and not-for-profit agencies were advised to tighten our belts because additional state aid would not be forthcoming.  A review of press coverage of county budgets from across New York State paints a picture unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory – large tax increases, county layoffs, elimination of services, dramatic cuts in “not for profits”, and in the case of one county, borrowing to meet current payroll obligations. 

The Dutchess County budget before you was able to avoid these drastic measures.  The objectives we seek to attain with this budget are simple: (1) to maintain our commitment to reducing the property tax burden on Dutchess County homeowners and businesses; (2) to preserve the flexibility needed to respond to our changing world; (3) to demonstrate leadership by controlling costs; (4) to reject pressure for the county budget to assume new added financial burdens; and (5) to maintain our tradition of effective and efficient service delivery through our existing traditional programs.

I am pleased the budget we worked tirelessly to develop calls for no layoffs and no reduction of our core traditional services.  In addition, the budget provides for a nearly three percent tax cut in the countywide average property tax bill. 

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Our steadfast commitment to reform has enabled us to create a county budget proposed to increase only $4.4 million, or a mere 1.5%, an amount substantially below the current rate of inflation.  To put that increase in perspective, in the forty years preceding this administration, annual growth in appropriations was below 2% only three times.  However, in the past ten years during this administration, we have kept appropriation growth below 2% four different times!

This is our seventh property tax cut in the ten budgets I have proposed since I was elected County  Executive.  The 2002 property tax levy will remain lower than that at the beginning of the  prior decade! 

Additionally, the County property tax levy continues to represent a smaller portion of all land taxes levied county wide – only 12.97% in 2002 compared to 13.5% in 2001.  While some advocate raising taxes to finance government services in this time of uncertainty, I remain committed to the simple principle that has guided my administration for a decade – whenever possible to reduce the property tax burden on Dutchess County homeowners and business owners.  The fact that today our nation is at war challenges our ability to maintain that commitment but strengthens my resolve to do so.

In the face of these pressures, the $293.5 million plan before you still is able to preserve the traditional services which we have provided our residents and includes several initiatives, some of which result from the aftermath of the September attacks and the ongoing acts of terrorism that have followed.  The budget also preserves our policies of spending control, our ongoing commitment to re-engineering our government to meet the needs of our residents more efficiently and effectively, and our success in building public/private partnerships to ensure excellence in public policy development and service delivery programs.

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Late last Wednesday night, the State Legislature acted on legislation having direct impact on county budgets.  First, the Legislature appropriated federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Title XX funds and second, they postponed the implementation of a potentially very expensive unfunded mandate.  That was the extent of the good news.  The bubble was burst, however, when the State Comptroller once again advised local governments to anticipate increased pension costs for payments to our county staff’s retirement fund.  This is increased above­ the huge increase he had initially advised last summer be built into 2002 budgets.  In total, the 2002 budget now carries the burden of $2.8 million for employee retirement benefit payments compared to the only $370,000 in the 2001 budget, which was adopted last December!  Also impacting spending growth is a projected $1.5 million increase to pay for health insurance benefits for county government workers.  In total, our proposed budget provides $15.3 million to pay for retirement and health programs for county employees.

In the recent past, the rebounding Dutchess County economy generated revenue to help offset growing expenditure pressure.  Revenue growth resulted primarily from the sales tax which grew 10.3% in 1999 and 8.4% in 2000 (contrasted with only 1.5% and 1.2% in 1997 and 1998).  The 2002 sales tax estimate of $90 million is based upon state and regional economic forecasts and the advice of financial professionals both in and outside of government.  In an attempt to be very careful due to the high level of economic uncertainty, our estimate only equals the amount projected to be realized by this year-end.  We concur with those who believe prudence dictates a no-growth estimate for 2002.  To assume growth in 2002 sales tax receipts would be reckless given reports of job cuts and increasing unemployment claims, weakening earnings projections and just as recently as Tuesday, softening consumer confidence report.  To assume deep retrenchment, on the other hand, is unwarranted given the strength and diversity of Dutchess County’s local economy compared with other regions of the state and nation. 

Other locally generated revenues are also projected to remain relatively unchanged.  Based on the release of TANF and Title XX funds last week, press reports and conversations with state agencies, state and federal revenues are budgeted under the assumption that existing funding formulas will not grow, but remain unchanged and existing commitments will be honored.  One exception is the loss of $447,000 in state Consolidated Highway Improvement Programs (CHIPS) funding which we have been advised will not be forthcoming this year or in 2002.  Additional grants and other supplemental funding streams are also not anticipated. 

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FUND BALANCE

We continue to hear irresponsible and misguided rhetoric and read about the county’s so-called “huge” $24 million fund balance. In truth, such talk is the rhetoric of the uninformed or the disingenuous.  I would recommend elected officials everywhere become familiar with a simple booklet published by the Government Finance Officers Association entitled “An Elected Official’s Guide to Fund Balance”.  Political candidates and union officials would also be well served by learning more on the topic.

Finance professionals generally agree that an undesignated fund balance equal to ten percent of budget is not excessive during good economic times.  They suggest a higher amount if the government is heavily reliant on sales tax, as is the case in Dutchess and many counties.  At the end of the year 2000, our fund balance equaled only 8.5% of the adopted 2001 County Budget. There is little disagreement among financial professionals that a danger exists if undesignated fund balance dips below five percent.  To put that amount in perspective, personal financial planners advise their clients, families or individuals to have an amount equal to six months wages in very liquid assets in case of job loss or other financial setback.  The County’s fund balance equals slightly more than one month’s income. 

In my budget message last year, I stated, “Let us not lose sight of the simple reality that our nation is in the longest period of economic growth ever.  History and prudence tell us that change will happen and we need to be prepared to respond.”  In my State of the County Address last January 22, I acknowledged the signs of the nation’s softening economy and cautioned, “Today, we need to be more cautious with county finances than last fall since so much has changed.”  No one could have foreseen the economic uncertainty we face today as a result of the combined impact of the state’s so named ‘Baseline Budget’, along with the September 11 attack on America.

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In looking at the County’s fund balance during your deliberations of this budget, be reminded that consistent with past practice, funding has not been appropriated for the costs associated with new labor contracts with the two bargaining units with whom negotiations continue.  When one considers the county has a total payroll of $108 million (salaries and benefits) and the need to fund increases for three years with one unit and two years with the other, simple math reveals it will be necessary to draw down an additional several million dollars from our undesignated fund balance.

We also frequently hear rhetoric from those uninformed people I noted earlier that we should “return” the fund balance monies “back” to the taxpayers. This of course ignores that in each of the ten years I have served as Executive we have done just that – return fund balance money to the taxpayers.  In the two prior years, 2000 and 2001, we “gave back” over $9 million each year.

The appropriation of $9.2 million for the 2002 budget (consistent with the amounts appropriated for the 2000 and current 2001 budgets) together with the funds earmarked for labor settlements, positions the fund balance at a level which is within the parameters set by the financial community and is prudent and responsive to these uncertain economic times.  This would not have been possible without the collective discipline of the Legislature and Executive to cautiously utilize fund balance.

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COUNTY WORKFORCE

During 2001, the county and the Deputy Sheriff’s PBA agreed on a four-year contract covering the period 1/1/00 through 12/31/03.  That agreement included the total restructuring of the deputies’ pay plan that placed Dutchess County Deputy Sheriff salaries in a competitive position with those of surrounding police agencies.

The County and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) are currently in mediation to help reach agreement on a new contract to replace the one which expired on 12/31/00.  Unfortunately, the County and the Sheriff’s Office second union, CWA (Corrections Officers and civilian employees), have been unable to reach agreement through negotiation, mediation and fact finding on a replacement for the contract which expired on 12/31/99.  There is a history of the county not being able to reach a settlement with this employee group that dates back to the prior County Executive.  Due to this stalemate and pursuant to the requirements of the State’s Taylor Law, I will soon send to you my contract settlement recommendations for your consideration.  The 2002 budget provides full funding for all provisions of the expired CSEA and CWA contracts including individual salary increment increases, health insurance coverage, retirement benefits, etc.  However, the budget does not provide for anticipated new cost of living increases or any other provisions to be negotiated and implemented with the new agreements.  Those costs will need to be addressed through an appropriation of fund balance after the Legislature approves the contracts.  The budget funds all other classes of employees fully.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in our annual awards ceremony where we acknowledge employees who have achieved service milestones in their careers.  This group symbolized the talented, dedicated and hard-working people who are the backbone of our service delivery system.  I take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank all Dutchess County employees and to assure those working without new contracts that we will continue our discussions with the union leadership to achieve realistic and fair agreements on your and the public’s behalf.

One of my primary objectives  as County Executive has been to restructure the way Dutchess County government does business.  We have made progress on many fronts.  The budget before you contains 1,962 positions, reflecting not only the absence of layoffs, but also the addition of 18 targeted new positions and the deletion of eight positions we held vacant.  The County’s workforce will remain smaller in 2002 than it was in the late 1980s yet our service delivery systems have been expanded, strengthened and improved.

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Key to the county’s success in managing change has been my unrelenting belief in the value of fostering community and organizational partnerships and collaborations.  Examples include the Criminal Justice Council, the Children’s Service Council, Children’s Health Initiative, Workforce Development, WIB Youth Council, Team Dutchess Economic Development, etc.  I often refer to this approach as breaking down the silos of government and community service delivery systems to provide for a more panoramic vision of what is ahead.  I am convinced this approach has improved public policy decision-making and service delivery for our residents.  

As outlined later in this message, it is an approach I will employ again in our response to potential threats against county employees, facilities and the general public.  This style of governance and community wide inclusiveness, while proven successful, far-reaching and cost effective, demands intensive participation, coordination, energy and leadership from the Executive, his assistants, the Sheriff, Emergency Response Coordinator, and has increased dramatically with time.

You will note I have budgeted the vacancy factor at $2.9 million, the same amount as in the 2001 Budget.  I ask that this amount remain unchanged.  The administration agrees with the Legislature and its auditors that significant savings accrue as the result of “normal” employee turnover.  However, as the vacancy factor dollar bar gets raised, it becomes necessary to delay hiring for extended periods to achieve the required level of savings to satisfy vacation and sick leave payouts plus vacancy factor.  These delays have become counter-productive as they either force departments to utilize expensive overtime to get the job done or make it impossible for them to meet their service delivery objectives.  In effect, every dollar the Legislature raises the vacancy factor beyond “normally” accruing dollars, it is in fact eliminating positions for extended periods of time and cutting services to residents, whether that is by taking sheriff’s deputy patrols off the road or cutting staff that plow snow and fill potholes. The Executive Budget holds the line on overtime and limits the addition of new positions on the premise that a stable vacancy factor will enable the filling of vacant positions more expeditiously than in the recent past.

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FACILITY SECURITY AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE

The tragedy of September 11, with its lasting impacts, is very much on the minds of all local officials. Our proximity to New York City, the significant number of our residents who commute there, as well as our responsibility for the public’s safety places particular demands on us as a government to be prepared to respond to any catastrophic event.  Accordingly, I have formed the Dutchess County Security Task Force, a multi-department team possessing notable security and counter terrorism training and experience.  The Security Task Force has devoted a significant and increasing amount of time and resources in reviewing, planning and implementing initiatives to tighten security and has collaborated with private sector security professionals as it continues its review of existing security measures.  I have also created a multi-faceted program to address a wide variety of incidents, including a sophisticated, fully staffed Hazardous Material Response Team to respond to and control situations involving suspicious substances.

The 2002 budget appropriates funding to reinforce both our security procedures and emergency response and preparedness capabilities.  On the advice of the Director of Emergency Response and the County Attorney, I discuss this issue here with great caution, believing it unwise to outline specific plans.  However, I call your attention to appropriations earmarked for safety and response in the following areas:

  • In the Health Department, funding for additional staff as well as initiatives to enhance planning, training and communications;  
  • In Emergency Response, funding for staff, equipment, computer software, and technical services;
  • In Public Works, funding for equipment, technical services and building alterations; and  
  • In OCIS, funding for staff and enhanced security of the county’s electronic processing capabilities.

We will continue to assess, prepare, and take action to protect county facilities and to ensure the resources and protocols are in place to protect our employees and the public we serve.  I ask for your support of these appropriation requests.

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SERVICES TO CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

Five years ago, bold welfare reform legislation was initiated.  Its overwhelming success continues to pay dividends in Dutchess County, with more people working, the number of recipients declining and more children obtaining the support they deserve.  The welfare rolls have consistently dropped, thanks to our efforts, the community and the dedicated professionals who have chosen to make “people” their career.  In 1995, our Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseload was 2,387 and our Safety Net (SN) caseload was 968.  As of October 26, 2001 our TANF caseload has cascaded to 798 and our SN caseload plummeted to 319.  These are dramatic results!

During this period, we have developed positive services and achieved lasting results for DSS clients, staff, and our community.  I have been insistent we expand certain day care opportunities; supportive of merit incentives programs offered for children and respite programs for grandparents; and I encouraged transportation services and job mentoring programs to help people get, keep and succeed at employment.  We have worked to be sure DSS has been an active participant in the new Workforce Investment Board and in Dutchess Works, the County’s one stop center for employers and job seekers.  The department sponsors a Sex Abuse and Child Fatality Review team.  We partner in food nutrition programs, and conferences to protect frail adults and healthy and/or at-risk children; we target services to non-working, non-custodial parents for employment-related activities; and we have sponsored new training initiatives such as Family Development Credentialing, helping people achieve self-sufficiency and independence.

In my proposed Year 2002 budget, I am appropriating $5.4 million for day care.  We provide day care subsidies to more than 1400 children monthly!  I have factored into our increased appropriation for 2002 a change in the parents’ co-pay formula. I am decreasing the parents’ co-pay to 30%, which will save $500 per year for a single parent family of two with a yearly gross income of $25,000.  This change will have a significant positive impact on many low-income families striving to achieve independence and stay off the welfare rolls -- while still keeping county day care expenditures at a level our property taxpayers can afford.

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Another day care initiative for 2002 is my enhancement to our contract with the Child Care Council to fund a part-time position in order to step up the number of annual home inspections of family day care providers from 20% to 50% (inspections of Day Care Centers are performed by New York State).  We are committed to making sure children in care are safe and secure.

Over recent years, one area I have set as a top priority is collection of child support because it is the right thing to do.  Our Child Support unit collected $21.44 million in child support from absent parents in FY 2000.  We prepared 4,553 petitions for support and 366 petitions for paternity, and as state law allows, arranged for over 1600 driver’s license suspensions resulting in 299 respondents making child support payment agreements.  We are fully committed to further progress in this area in 2002 on behalf of our impacted children and families.

Federal welfare reform legislation limited the period an adult can receive TANF to five years.  Next month, in December 2001, the first Dutchess County clients will “clock off” TANF. The New York State Constitution requires that the State provide assistance so these clients will transition to the state’s Safety Net (SN) program.  Because Dutchess County has been so successful in fostering self sufficiency for clients with successful employment, mentoring, literacy, day care, and transportation programs, we estimate only 32 cases will lose federal eligibility in December.   The Year 2002 budget reflects an estimated 50 new transitions to SN next year and allocates just over $400,000.

Medicaid in New York State, the ‘mother of all mandates’, has left the arena of medical coverage for the poor and has become health coverage for low to moderate income New Yorkers.  Medicaid is projected to increase 5.63% over the 2001-projected amount to $33.8 million -- $33.8 million directly from Dutchess County real property taxpayers! -- an amount equal to two thirds of the County’s $50.9 million property tax levy. The increase for 2002 reflects, in part, the addition of Family Health Plus, a new state mandated component of Medicaid for low income New Yorkers.     This new program is an outgrowth of the Child Health Plus Program into which nearly 2000 children were enrolled between June 2000 and September 2001.

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In our Child Protective Services (CPS) unit, reports of child abuse and neglect continue to increase, sadly tracking at an unbelievable 20% above last year.  To respond, I am recommending two additional staff to investigate reports and to train, coordinate and assure quality control of this division.  I am also recommending an additional Assistant County Attorney to be assigned to Social Services to handle increasing caseloads in CPS, Child Support and child welfare cases in general.  I believe it is critical we enhance the legal support currently available.

At the request of Commissioner Allers, I have also included in the Year 2002 budget an appropriation of $103,000 to assess our current child welfare program operations.  We will contract with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) to assess current program performance in meeting our desired outcomes for children and families.  The CWLA is comprised of a team of seasoned professionals who have had many years of direct operational experience.  They have a well-established record of being able to progress quickly and efficiently to a level of detailed assessment while engaging staff at all levels in a positive process.

Not often talked about is the Adult Protective Services unit.  Abuse and neglect in our elderly population unfortunately does exist and is growing.  In fact, the caseload has increased from 2,800 in 1995 to 3,625 cases in 2000, a startling 30% jump.  Guardianship cases increased from seven in 1995 to 33 in 2000, and payee cases have doubled.  Therefore, we are recommending two additional staff for this unit to better protect our vulnerable adults. 

Through its Social Services Department, Dutchess County sets the standard for others. Innovative and forward-thinking services and programs have been cultivated with remarkable results.  Cooperation and partnerships with local community agencies have resulted in constructive advances and positive local feedback and success stories.  Dutchess County Social Services, with the help of its partners, has had its programs showcased in Albany, Syracuse, and Ithaca, as well as in places like Texas, California, and Turkey!

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DOMESTIC ABUSE RESPONSE TEAM (DART)

It has been my long held belief that a coordinated community effort is required to reduce the incidents of domestic violence. All facets of the community, the government, law enforcement, the courts, social service providers, the health care system, clergy, and employers need a coordinated response.

Together with District Attorney Grady, I proposed the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) be established in 1998 to provide this role in an effort to prevent domestic violence from escalating, reduce repeat offenses and hold batterer’s accountable.  Initially a pilot project in the City of Poughkeepsie was funded by a federal grant from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a county match of in-kind services.  In 2001 the program was expanded into the Town of Poughkeepsie with a commitment to expanding into the City of Beacon in 2002.  These expansions will result in prosecution and victim services being provided to approximately 75% of the cases that enter the criminal justice system.

The success of this program is well documented and I support the recommendation of the District Attorney to continue program funding.  However, we must be mindful that due to program expansion and reduced federal funding, the cost to the County of the DART program has increased from $53,488 in year 2000 to $177,348 in year 2001 to $312,607 proposed in year 2002.  We must examine any further expansion with a critical eye to ensure additional investment produces comparable returns.

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CHILDREN’S HEALTH INITIATIVE

My Year 2002 budget includes another $500,000 commitment to the Children’s Health Initiative (CHI) – a program I started two years ago with your support to develop new and innovative educational programming to teach our children the harmful health effects of tobacco.  It is a collaboration of many partners, including the United Way (administrative and fiscal agent for the program), the Executive Office, our Youth Bureau, Health department, and Social Services department, local schools, hospitals and health organizations, and others under the umbrella of our Children’s Services Council.

One highly acclaimed example of what has been funded through the CHI is a smoking prevention educational program offered by The Children’s Media Project to assist middle school students to understand how media works to influence and manipulate the audience’s choices.  By using Smoke Screens workbook, the students with teachers or parents are able to critically analyze the hidden messages present in tobacco companies’ advertising in print, television, and in videos.  The workbook provides specific examples to help students dissect the language, the colors, the images, and the music in the media to figure out what is being said or not.  This workbook provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to abstain from smoking.  The CMP’s curriculum incorporates the Center for Disease Control and Prevention standards and also supports the NYS Performance Standards as outlined by the Department of Education.

CMP has also developed six high quality, video tobacco prevention service announcements with local high school students.  Three videos were shown at the Hampton’s International Film Festival in October.  Smoke Free Dutchess will use the PSAs for local broadcasting.  

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PRESERVING LIFE – AUTOMATIC EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (AEDs)

In 1996 I championed the effort for the County to join in a collaborative venture, Operation Heartbeat, spearheaded by the American Heart Association of Dutchess County, the Community Fund of Dutchess County, Laerdal Corporation, IBM, and area hospitals. Operation Heartbeat is a program designed to strengthen the “chain of survival” and increase the survival rate of individuals suffering from cardiac arrest from five percent to twenty percent.  The chain of survival is a series of four steps to successfully treat a sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack: early access to care (dial 911); early CPR; early defibrillation; and early advanced care.

Having already successfully implemented steps 1 and 2 (our 911 facility is fully operational and our Health Department, in partnership with the American Heart Association, has provided CPR training to over 3600 high school students -- overall more than 16,000 adults and students have been trained).  In 2001 I announced an initiative to strengthen the third link in the chain, early defibrillation. With your support, and recognizing that in many emergencies Deputy Sheriffs arrive on the scene before emergency medical services personnel, we began a three-year program to equip 53 Sheriff’s vehicles with Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs).  Because early defibrillation is the only way to treat most cardiac arrests when time is of the essence, we believe that enhancing the number of AEDs throughout Dutchess County will have a major impact on saving lives, especially for those individuals who live in more rural areas.

My 2002 budget proposes to accelerate and expand the AED program we announced in 2001.  I have directed the departments of Health, Emergency Response, and Risk Management to work with the Sheriff’s Office to accelerate the implementation of the AED program from three years to two.  In addition, I have called upon Dr. Caldwell to establish and implement an AED program for county operated facilities.  Therefore, in addition to acquiring the remaining AEDs for sheriff vehicles, the 2002 budget takes the unique step to include funding to place AEDs in five county office buildings and to provide training needed for proper use.  We believe this program will increase the chances of survival for cardiac arrest victims significantly.

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EDUCATION

Dutchess Community College continues to fill a vital need in the academic world by offering a full array of educational opportunities to the entire community, traditional and non-traditional students alike, at very affordable rates.  This budget includes nearly $8.18 million to support Dutchess Community College operations, an increase of $378,750 over the 2001 budget.  This is the first increase in county appropriations needed since 1998.  We are proud of all that DCC offers to our community, and we remain committed to providing a quality higher educational facility for our residents.  As a result of the state’s ‘base line’ budget process this year, the community college must now deal with a $700,000 shortfall in state aid for 2002.  While spending controls and increased enrollment will soften the blow in this academic year, additional reductions in state support will undermine the already precarious balance of state/county/tuition financing that has traditionally funded the institution – a loud and clear signal must be sent to the state that that is unacceptable to us.  Dutchess County property taxpayers cannot afford to assume an expense that rightfully belongs to the state.

MILLBROOK DMV

On October 19, 2001, I sent to the Legislature the Eastern Dutchess County Government Services Feasibility Study.  As mentioned in my transmittal memo, the Millbrook Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was not recommended to be consolidated into an Eastern Dutchess government center because the DMV operation is more comparable to a retail business operation than our traditional county service profile.  Therefore, it makes more sense to maintain the Millbrook DMV in the Millbrook Business District.  The 2002 budget provides funding for lease, fit up, and furniture expenses to relocate the office to larger quarters in the Thorne Building.  This initiative has the added benefit of providing the Village with needed income that we believe will enable Mayor Ciferri and the Village Board of Trustees to achieve their vision of establishing a Village Government Business Center in the Thorne Building.

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FIBER OPTICS

Another exciting initiative for next year is my proposal for development of a high speed fiber optic “pipeline” among county buildings.  The data transmission speeds provided by fiber optics will allow the county to improve our Wide Area Network (WAN) (at least 30 times faster than now) and will open up many more new opportunities to move county government forward.  Because fiber optic cabling has an almost unlimited potential to grow, extend and carry substantial amounts of data very quickly at modest incremental costs, it will allow a much improved and efficient means for providing bandwidth intensive applications such as optical imaging, web and client server systems, e-mail, and GIS mapping.  Fiber optic cabling will provide the backbone for improvements to the county’s WAN and offer a clear future for our advancement into new computer technologies requiring substantial bandwidth.

In a related matter, in addition to maintaining the county’s financial commitment to the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the 2002 Executive Budget provides additional resources to support a telecommunications program in which the county actively participates.  This initiative seeks, among other things, to enhance telecommunications infrastructure capabilities for public and private use across Dutchess County.

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In addition to the specific highlights I have provided to you, my Year 2002 budget maintains and in some cases enhances our traditional services for our youth, our senior citizens, our veterans, our mentally ill population, and the thousands of residents we serve with our health programs.  We will reach out to our veterans in the eastern corridor with a new monthly presence by the Deputy Director of Veterans Affairs; we will provide a new bus service between Wingdale and Brewster in the east; we will expand the very successful exercise program for our seniors and our caregiver support programs for the elderly; we will continue to strengthen our youth programming -- for the first time our annual Youth Survey results showed a majority of our youth believe there are enough activities for them!; we will continue our flu shots and vaccination programs as well as our environmental services in the Health department; and our Mental Hygiene department will continue to oversee Project Liberty, a federal grant program which is being used to provide crisis intervention, counseling and support services for county residents who have been affected by the World Trade Center attack and subsequent events.  We have been careful to maintain the level of support we believe is necessary in our administrative units to provide for the responsible and smooth operations of county government.

We live in a world different from any other in modern American history.  We have witnessed live the destruction of symbols of our democracy.  Our nation feels the grief of the families of those who perished on September 11th.  We have now experienced first hand the pain others around the world have endured as the result of random acts of terrorism.  As Americans do, however, we have pulled together, charted our course, and moved ahead with renewed energy and resolve.

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It is in this spirit that I submit this, my tenth budget as County Executive.  As each of its predecessors, it represents my commitment to providing high value, cost-effective government services to the residents and businesses of Dutchess County.  In addition, it preserves the financial and organizational flexibility we need to respond to the changing economy and new security threats, it controls costs, and it again reduces the property tax burden.

The executive branch looks forward to building upon the successful foundation created in the legislative budget review process over the past two years where discussion was service oriented and focused on what was to be achieved through the county’s investments in services (outcomes) rather than on what materials and supplies those investments would purchase.

In closing, I wish to express my thanks to my entire executive office and budget staff, to all my executive department heads and to the independently elected officials for their assistance and cooperation in the development of the Year 2002 Executive Budget.

Sincerely,

WILLIAM R. STEINHAUS
County Executive

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