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|William R. Steinhaus, County Executive|
Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus began the day at an early 7:30 AM breakfast meeting with more than 500 county officials from across New York State including county executives, chairs of county legislative boards and county administrators at the 2009 New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Fall Seminar in Saratoga, New York. The dominant issue facing county leaders is how to deal with potential cost shifts from New York State as the state faces its perennial budget gaps and how to avoid having those state costs transferred to county property taxpayers.
“Our senators and assembly members need to make some of the tough decisions that county officials are making in order to close the budget gaps,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “For years, state officials have ‘fixed’ their budget problems by shifting costs to counties and county property taxpayers, and mandating counties to deliver state services. Our local property taxpayers can no longer afford ‘business as usual’.”
Dutchess County, along with counties across the state, is facing fiscal pressure from declining revenues, shrinking tax base, increased demand for county services, as well as lagging reimbursements from the State for state mandated services delivered at the county level. These fiscal pressures make it extremely challenging to manage the County’s current 2009 budget and prepare a 2010 budget.
New York State Budget Director Robert Megna addressed the joint breakfast meeting this morning to discuss the dire straights of the state budget, noting New York State’s operating budget is facing a $2 billion deficit by December. According to Megna, the state is facing “unprecedented” financial challenges. Megna told Steinhaus and other county leaders that state revenue declines are even worse than the declines seen eight years ago, immediately following 9/11. County officials asked for flexibility and relief from onerous state mandates if state funding is reduced for mandated programs.
County Executive Steinhaus noted with disappointment Dutchess County Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins did not join the dozens of other legislative chairs from across NYS by choosing not to attend the NYSAC meeting with officials from other counties. “This was another missed opportunity for Chairman Higgins to join a unified, bi-partisan effort to address cost shifting concerns with state officials,” said Steinhaus.
County Executive Steinhaus commended Megna’s statement that Governor Paterson wants to avoid tax increases and close the state’s gap through spending cuts. “Governments at every level are facing extraordinary fiscal challenges but must recognize that property taxpayers’ wallets are empty. State spending cuts and mandate relief are the only answers,” concluded Steinhaus.