William R. Steinhaus, County Executive
2011 State of the County Address
The Poughkeepsie Journal will be webcasting County Executive Steinhaus's State of the County Address live
on Wednesday, January 26th at 5:30pm from Locust Grove.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Legislature, and Members of the Community:
We are pleased to be here at Locust Grove Historic Site for my 20th State of the County address. It has been become my tradition to move this community address around all regions of the county such as Rhinebeck, Millbrook, Fishkill, the City of Poughkeepsie and now the Town of Poughkeepsie.
It is fitting I give the State of Our County at this historic site which symbolizes much of my agenda. The construction of this beautiful building was financed through our Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency, and it is also one of my favorite open space projects. It is not often we are able to help save as forever green property when it is on a main travel corridor like Route 9 and in the center of our largest town in population and commerce. Of course, the historic site is also a major economic generator in our tourism industry and serves as an educational, social, and recreational center for all ages.
I commend the entire Locust Grove organization, both professional staff and community volunteers, for your dedication and commitment to this precious community resource.
Dutchess County is a community that is anything but static. In fact, it has been a very dynamic community and I believe it will continue to be. Our county’s beauty and vibrancy has attracted many, and the roots of hundreds of thousands of families, as well as thousands of businesses, have grown and flourished here.
Over the years, we in county government have recognized and identified changing circumstances, the changing demographics, and the changing needs of our growing community. And while our community has faced challenges and some significant adversities, we worked to find new and different paths to overcome and survive in spite of them.
I am proud of our community’s progress but, like many of you, I am impatient for more progress in the years to come.
From my earliest years as an elected official in Dutchess County, first and foremost my commitment has been to adapt our leadership and agenda to the changing needs and priorities of both our residents and businesses, but to do so within the available resources and fiscal realities of the times.
While some voices calling for change now grow louder, ironically change is not always embraced or readily accepted by those same voices. Is it that there is unrealistic expectation that change can occur without impact and consequences, or is it because change means different things to different people?
Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric and best selling author, said succinctly “Change before you have to.” Welch specialized in organizational leadership and management in the business world and although some governments can often be hampered by too much bureaucracy and red tape, it is nevertheless an organization that on a daily basis delivers critical and essential products and services to its customers – very similar to businesses.
The winning management strategy for a government, then, must include constant vigilance and self scrutiny and a broad, well developed understanding of what future challenges will be before the challenges actually present themselves. Some might call that vision!
This is why my administration has continually practiced Welch’s adage throughout our two decades leading county government. We have worked to create a culture of continuously adapting to deliver programs and services to our residents as times may dictate. And yes, these changes have often been difficult just as we are experiencing now with the further consolidation of many executive departments, which I began nearly 20 years ago, and the continuing realignment and shrinking of our county government workforce.
Yet despite the discomfort, I trust the community’s long term survival is intact, and that’s the point. The old political model practiced by others of more money, more staff, and just plain “more” can’t work. Just look at the financial chaos in New York State government, the States of California and Illinois, or ask Nassau or Erie County at the edge of the cliff of financial collapse, or locally the City of Newburgh or the Town of Fishkill.
Dutchess County Change that Counts
There are some who believe we should change simply for the sake of change. This is not a view one in leadership should accept. There must be objective, quantifiable reason for change and with that change, we must demand results.
As we look back over the past decade and look forward to the next, we know our ability to be innovative and adaptive, to be ahead of the curve, has positioned Dutchess County government as both a survivor and a change model for others. We have proudly been a leader of that change and will continue to implement change that counts.
The lingering effects of the national recession continue to be felt at all levels of government. History has shown New York State and other governments typically lag in a recovery. All governments face unprecedented challenges in how best to provide services effectively and efficiently while balancing ever-tightening budgets.
In a report by The Rockefeller Institute of Government on the financial pressures faced by state and local governments as recession rolls into economic recovery, the question is asked, “Why won’t economic recovery feel like fiscal recovery?” Their research provides some important insight:
Dutchess County government is no exception. To address these challenges, we have practiced continuous change to stay ahead of the curve. Over the years, quality improvement, cost cutting, improved efficiencies, and a broader community outreach have continually been refined to assist us in serving more and more of our residents. Our belief in change coupled with our history of successful fiscal strategies have brought us through difficult fiscal times before, enabling us to realign and reallocate limited resources, and provide a stronger financial position for the future:
These are just some examples of the pro-active fiscal policies we practice everyday to adapt to changing economic circumstances, to work smarter and to achieve taxpayer savings.
Government at all levels, as well as the agencies that set financial reporting standards for states and localities are increasingly focusing attention on “fiscal sustainability.” The Rockefeller Institute of Government defines this as a broad and longer-range concept that represents the ability of governments, whether at the national, state or local level, to meet existing program commitments with existing resources not only in current terms but into the future.
Fiscal sustainability has long been a guiding principle for the Steinhaus administration along with strong fiscal stewardship, strategic planning and our ability to adapt to change. It is these principles that have allowed us to navigate these difficult economic times carefully and successfully.
State of the Economy
It was reported recently by the State Department of Labor (DOL) that the New York December 2010 unemployment rate was 8%. At home, Dutchess unemployment for December was 7.4%, compared with 7.5% in November and 7.7% in December 2009. While the current rate is down slightly from the 8.4% in January 2010 when unemployment reached its highest point since post-IBM downsizing in 1994, it is significantly higher than the average annual unemployment rate in our area of 4% for 2007 prior to the local impact from the economic downturn.
The local housing market in Dutchess County ended 2010 fairly flat; similar to how it performed during the year. Statistics released by the Mid-Hudson Multiple Listing Service show the year’s average selling price was $317,863 for the 1,385 single-family detached homes sold, up only 0.8% over 2009. The volume of sales for the year was down by 6.7% compared to 2009. Dutchess County housing sales for December were down 13.9% compared to December 2009, and remain significantly below 2007 statistics. For some context, in 2005 the total dollar value of “closed” residential units in Dutchess County was $879 million. In 2010 it was only half that, or $440 million.
While home foreclosures in 2010 were down 16% compared to 2009, the 2010 foreclosure rate of 1,337 is still 13% higher than the county’s foreclosure rate for 2007.For the third consecutive year, we are confronted with a decrease in the county’s tax base; this year it is lower by $2.8 billion due to declines in the residential and commercial construction market, the overall decline in home values, as well as reassessment activity at the municipal level over the past few years. This brings the total decline in our tax base since 2008 to $5.6 billion, from $38.4 billion down to $32.8 billion.
The list of fiscal challenges to provide county government services and meet residents’ needs and expectations can be daunting, particularly as our resources continue to shrink. While we are seeing modest growth in sales tax revenues, those gains disappear when weighed against the increasing cost of state mandates, the loss of federal stimulus dollars and shrinkage in other economically driven revenues. Furthermore, the fragile economic recovery will not compensate for the normal inflationary growth in expenditures required to operate county government at past levels, such as gasoline to operate our vehicles and highway equipment.
Other economically sensitive revenues also continue to be negatively impacted – including interest earnings for funds in the county treasury as a result of interest rates below 1% and lower than normal cash levels in the county’s bank accounts; permit fees are down due to a slowdown in construction; and Mass Transportation Operating Assistance revenue is down as the State’s distribution formula is factored on declining mortgage recording fees.
At the same time revenues are down, demands on our health and human services agencies continue to increase as families struggle to make ends meet, find themselves without a job, are underemployed, or deal with the stress of financial hardships. For the current heating season, homeowner applications for HEAP (Home Heating Assistance) have increased by more than 67% to almost 3,100 compared to 1,850 in 2007. Mental Hygiene’s 24/7 HELPLINE saw an increase of more than 55% in calls for assistance from almost 16,000 in 2007 to 24,800 in 2010, demonstrating the stress and mental health challenges for our residents.
A key indicator of the lagging economy is that in December 2010, the Department of Social Services reports a total caseload for its TANF, Safety Net, Medicaid, and Food Stamp programs to be 41,800 versus 28,400 for the same period in 2007. This is a dramatic increase of 47%, or more than 13,400 unduplicated cases. It’s expected these trends could continue well into 2011 and beyond.
State Budget Impact
Earlier this month, State Comptroller DiNapoli cautioned, “The state is facing a budget deficit of up to $10.5 billion. The state has to end irresponsible fiscal gimmicks and overspending.”
It’s uncertain how the 2011-2012 state budget will impact county government finances. If the state decides to hold back or cut reimbursement to counties as they did last year, its possible Dutchess County government may be forced to issue short term debt later this year for the first time in 20 years to meet our fiscal obligations until state revenues owed to the county are received.
We were pleased to hear Governor Cuomo announce one of his priorities for 2011 will be property tax cap legislation in recognition that New York property taxes are nearly 80% above the national average. In Dutchess County, we took bold steps and made progressive change that included spending cuts, departmental consolidation and restructuring, the elimination of many areas of discretionary programming, the second year of management salary freezes, and no cost of living raises for union employees. We have reduced our county government workforce to its lowest level since 1985. We took all of these steps to successfully deliver a property tax freeze to the residents of Dutchess County for 2011, so we know it can be done.
However, I must strongly emphasize that property tax cap legislation simply will not work without the Governor and state legislators rolling back the state mandated spending dictated to county governments. State mandated programs consume our entire local county property tax levy of $100.6 million and much more. According to the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC), just 9 state mandates consume 90% of the county property tax levy across the entire state.
Medicaid continues to be the single largest mandated program for county government. The 2011 county budget includes more than $41 million paid by local county taxpayers. In 2009 and 2010, all counties including Dutchess, received temporary federal stimulus funds (FMAP) to offset the cost of the state mandated Medicaid program. Congress extended these temporary funds for the first six months of 2011; however, this temporary relief will end in June creating a huge gap to be filled by property taxpayers in the 2nd half of 2011 and beyond.
Costs for the state mandated Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education programs are projected to be $23.3 million dollars. Mandated costs for day care, juveniles, foster care and public assistance programs are projected to be nearly $57 million. In view of the Governor’s goal of a property tax cap and with the potential for further cuts in state funding, the final state budget must include mandate relief to maximize 3rd party insurance reimbursements for a portion of Early Intervention costs.
My 2011 proposed budget included a plan for change to a new Public Defender’s Family Court Unit to address the problem of rising state mandated assigned counsel costs. These court-ordered and state mandated costs exceeded a startling $2 million in 2010. My proposal would have saved taxpayers a projected $500,000 in 2011 and compounding annually going forward. Unfortunately, the County Legislature and the Family Court judges did not support this proposal. At the same time the potential half million dollar savings was removed from the budget, the assigned counsel funding adopted by the Legislature falls short of the projected need by nearly $400,000.
Since assigned counsel rates were raised a few years ago, more and more counties have successfully moved from individual court appointed private attorneys to other less costly and more effective solutions. By bringing this function in-house, services can be improved and quality representation can be provided at a significant savings to our property taxpayers.
My reform proposal coincided with the state’s newly adopted indigent legal services funding methodology. A change to the proposed Public Defender Family Court Unit model would improve the County’s chances of receiving additional grant funds to help offset future indigent legal services costs.
In 2011, my administration will continue the analysis and discussions with other counties. We are also eager to see the plan which the Family Court judges have promised they will develop this year to reduce assigned counsel costs. As part of their process, it’s important the Family Court begin to track assigned counsel caseload and expenditure data closely as any cost savings recommendations must be based on current and complete data.
The state mandated MTA Mobility Tax will cost county government more than $385,000 in 2011, a recurring annual expense. This unfair payroll tax imposed on businesses, governments and not-for-profits across the MTA counties, including Dutchess, must be repealed by the New York State Legislature and Governor.
The total estimated cost for state mandated programs and services in 2011 is nearly $131 million – not including staff and costs to administer these programs.
State imposed mandates choke county government budgets and leave fewer and fewer dollars for local services such as road maintenance, Sheriff’s services, veterans’ services, youth programs, park facilities and other programs that are important to our local residents. We are hopeful the Governor’s newly established Medicaid Redesign Team and Mandate Relief Redesign Team, which includes the participation of local Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro, will deliver relief for counties and our property taxpayers. Albany must achieve results through mandate reform to make a property tax cap a successful reality.
Other non-discretionary costs, beyond the oppressive state mandates, also factor heavily into county spending. State pension costs to fund our employees’ retirement, health insurance costs, and workers’ compensation combined are projected to be nearly $44 million in 2011. Energy costs for county government are estimated at almost $4 million.
We must continue to be adaptive and flexible to successfully react and adjust to quickly changing circumstances that even under the best of conditions can be unexpected and unanticipated. We will continue to monitor the state budget process over the coming months. It may be well into 2011 before we know the final outcome and full impact on the programs and services we deliver and fund at the county level. As information becomes available, we will identify the adjustments needed and adapt to those changes as best we can.
Dutchess has fared better than many counties, as we have worked to control costs and respond to our fiscal challenges through continued restructuring and reorganization. My 2011 reform plan, endorsed by the County Legislature, includes major consolidation of executive departments, streamlining operations to more efficiently serve county residents while cutting costs, and doing so with fewer county employees than in 1985.
We continue to foster successful collaborative partnerships with community agencies and local businesses and to maximize our investment in technology to work better and smarter with shrinking resources. Focusing on program outcomes and best practices, we’ve worked to provide quality, cost effective services for taxpayers’ dollars.
Dutchess County government continues to stand out statewide. Dutchess taxes our residents 24% less per capita and spends 25% less per capita than the statewide county average. Our indebtedness per capita is an impressive 66% below the statewide average. Dutchess County’s outstanding indebtedness represents a mere 4% of the constitutional debt limit. Of particular importance to Dutchess County property taxpayers, the county property tax levy totals only 16% of the county’s constitutional taxing limit.
Dutchess County’s cost control and innovative practices set it apart from other governments. According to the latest information available from the Business Council’s Public Policy Institute and the Empire Center for New York State Policy:
In November 2010, Moody’s Investor’s Service, our bond rating agency, assigned a Aa1 rating to Dutchess County, substantiating the county’s sound fiscal management. This enviable rating reflects the county’s financial position despite the economic challenges facing all New York counties. Only two counties statewide are higher than the Dutchess Aa1 rating.
Our experience tells us we must strive to go even beyond fiscal sustainability to maintain an organization that is flexible enough to adapt to changing financial conditions and resilient enough to insure ongoing fiscal health. Preserving a reasonable fund balance is critical to achieving this goal, although it becomes increasingly more difficult to realize in tough economic times.
Through strategic, multi-year planning and continuous change, the administration has worked to position county government to best address the needs of our residents in the short term as well as the long term, in good times as well as hard times. However, as county government faces the reality of doing less with less, innovative, strategic thinking and continuous change becomes more important than ever. This will be the key to operating efficiently and effectively with fewer resources. We know waiting for economic growth to return cannot be our strategy.
That is why I proposed a 2011 Dutchess County budget with no increase in the tax levy and a decrease in spending.
The budget adopted by the Legislature, however, did increase spending and used an additional $3.2 million in fund balance to offset this additional spending, causing serious concerns about our ability to sustain a satisfactory level of fund balance moving forward. Moody’s believes the maintenance of a stable and satisfactory fund balance will be a key in future ratings, making it more important than ever we are prudent and practice pro-active fiscal management. We all have the fiduciary responsibility to plan for the short term while looking forward on a multi-year basis, including protecting and strengthening our fragile fund balance.
The 2011 budget includes $1.7 million in mortgage tax revenue based on a July 1st effective date and a $132.5 million sales tax revenue estimate which includes the extension of the ¾ of 1% sales tax rate increase in effect since 2003. Both the mortgage tax and the sales tax rate extension require “home rule” legislation from Albany. Our county legislature will need to act quickly to secure the required state legislation to realize these revenues relied on to fund county programs and services. Without the support of Albany lawmakers for this important legislation, Dutchess County government stands to lose nearly $4 million in 2011 and a daunting $30 million in 2012 and beyond.
As always, this administration will continue to manage the $404 million budget based on the current economic climate and the county’s fiscal picture. We may need to defer some expenditures until we have a clearer picture of the county’s finances for 2011. Funding adjustments may also be necessary later this year based on the final state budget outcome, local legislative policies, and the economy’s impact on our revenues needed to pay for the services.
In order to adapt to the changing needs of our residents and changing economic circumstances we must overcome natural resistance to change and be always willing to evaluate it, not just from our own personal viewpoint, but the bigger picture of what is best for our community as a whole. There must be a willingness to look at everything, and not cling to engrained beliefs of “how it has been in the past”. One particular area that comes to mind is union employee contracts.
The difficult fiscal environment in which we live and work has brought change for all of our employees. For the second year in a row, the 2011 proposed budget provides for no cost of living increases for confidential and management classification employees. There are also no cost of living increases for the three employee bargaining units as the PBA contract expired on December 31, 2008, the CSEA contract expired on December 31, 2009 and the DCSEA contract expired on December 31, 2010. However, step increments are included for bargaining unit employees and longevities are included for all employee units. Additionally, for the third year in a row, merit increases have been eliminated for confidential and management employees. Additionally, County elected officials will not receive any salary increases in 2011, nor will they have received salary increases for a four year period.
There is an opportunity to change how we all think about our labor contracts. We are currently in negotiations with our three established labor unions, the PBA (Sheriff Deputies), the DCSEA (Corrections), and our largest employee union, the CSEA. A new fourth labor union, DCSA/NYSUT, representing 21 employees in select professional level positions, will also require negotiation of a new contract.
The fact is our unionized employees receive competitive salaries and attractive benefits, including: a desirable pension plan, health insurance benefits, dental and optical coverage, paid vacation, holiday, personal, compensatory and sick time, group collective bargaining negotiations on their behalf, the considerable job security of Civil Service protections, union representation including legal counsel, overtime, beeper pay, and callback pay. State law (Triborough Amendment) guarantees the conditions of public employee union contracts such as health benefits remaining in place when the old labor agreement expires and a new contract has not been settled yet.
On average, pension costs as a percentage of payroll have increased from about 11.9% of payroll in 2010 up to 16.3% of payroll for 2011. Health insurance premiums, on average, will increase by about 12% in 2011 compared to 2010. With the escalating cost of state pension contributions and health insurance, all employees are actually receiving a five to ten percent increase in compensation this year even without contract settlements.
At the state level, Governor Cuomo is calling for a wage freeze for state employees, the potential of a less generous Tier VI pension plan and a temporary suspension of the Triborough Amendment to relieve cost burdens on state and local government. With the Governor vowing to implement a property tax cap for local governments, the New York State Conference of Mayors is asking for a freeze in municipal pay to help them live under the cap. Additionally, the Statewide School Finance Consortium, which represents more than 200 of the approximately 700 school districts across the state, is calling for a pay freeze for school employees as a cost-savings option.
Counties across the state have eliminated positions and services, and are anticipating further cuts in 2012 and beyond as stimulus funding disappears, further state aid reductions are likely, and the economic downturn continues.
Here in Dutchess County the continued reality of the lingering economic recession required tough decisions and major changes in the 2011 budget process, most notably significant reductions in workforce as well as the reduction and elimination of programs and services. A total of 87 full time equivalents were eliminated in the final adopted budget. We worked diligently with those employees impacted by staff reductions to find suitable employment opportunities within county government and minimize the need for layoffs. We are very pleased there were enough positions open, notably seven positions filled in Social Services, for the majority of employees impacted by this workforce reduction.
Unfortunately, there were 12 layoffs that were unavoidable. There are alternatives, and in my mind better ways to deal with the high cost of government. Its important public employees and the unions that represent them acknowledge and understand the fiscal realities we face now as these realities will continue in 2012 and beyond. There must be a willingness to change if governments are to weather this serious economic downturn.
Our goal has always been to acknowledge and reward our employees for the outstanding service they provide as we recognize it is our dedicated and hard working employees who have helped us to successfully adapt and adjust to changing circumstances. It is through their continued commitment to work smarter and more productively that we are able to successfully move our bold reform plan forward.
Change, while sometimes difficult, does bring progress. My 2011 reform plan, endorsed by the County Legislature, includes major consolidation of county departments. This downsizing, merging nine executive departments down to just four, is the boldest reform of county government structure since the current charter structure was created in 1968. However, this is just another step in my administration’s history of continuing to look at how we are structured and how we operate in order to make change that works. The idea of consolidation and realignment is not new; we began eliminating and consolidating county departments as early as 1993 and we will be reviewing further downsizing, rightsizing, consolidation, restructuring and realignment in the future to maintain fiscal sustainability.
Realignment activities are underway and will be continued over the next several months to fully implement our overall consolidation plan. Our largest effort is the consolidation of the Office for the Aging, Veteran Services Agency and the Youth Bureau into one department now known as the Department of Services for Aging, Veterans and Youth, with separate divisions focusing on the specific needs of seniors, veterans and youth. This restructuring resulted in over $1 million in cost savings for taxpayers in the 2011 budget. Already we are beginning to see the “synergy” of the new department in shared information and training opportunities, cross pollination of cost efficiency ideas and streamlining of administrative tasks.
The first year of transition and administration of this new structure is critical to its success and long term benefits.
Aging Services will implement the Community Living Program to serve seniors who will decide what services and goods are needed to remain comfortable in their homes. We will continue targeted outreach for the Medicare Savings Program and promote the various wellness and prevention benefits available to Medicaid beneficiaries. According to the most recent data available, Dutchess County is close to or better than the state average in many of preventive health screenings, but it is clear there is potential for yielding even greater health benefits and long term cost savings.
We will step up our efforts to recruit and utilize volunteers and other community service organizations in providing services to our senior population. During 2010 we witnessed an excellent example of the community coming forward to pitch in to help out where government must scale back. When our Nutrition Program was scaled back to 4 days per week from the traditional 5, the St. Rocco’s Society in Beacon jumped in and has been providing meals every Friday to dozens of seniors in Beacon. We commend and applaud the efforts of this organization and believe it represents an example of the generosity of time, effort, money and spirit that exists in Dutchess County, and it also shows that government does not have to be the only service delivery system. The Division of Aging Services will work to facilitate and cultivate more such examples in the coming year, both on the part of organizations and individuals.
In July, I held a Veterans Resources Forum. This forum was for veterans 60 and older with full time active duty in the military, their spouses and/or caregivers to learn how to make the most of their veterans’ benefits. The event held at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System, Castle Point, attracted over 225 attendees. This year, Veterans Services will repeat this successful program in another part of the county and will also hold its Sixth Annual Veterans Appreciation Day, November 5 in the Wallace Center at the FDR Library as part of our outreach efforts to those who have served our country.
In 2010, we served over 10,200 veterans and their families, an increase of 9% over 2009. That’s an extraordinary number of veterans whom we get to thank personally for their sacrifices on behalf of us all.
Youth Services will continue to administer state funding for both nonprofit and municipal youth programs, will offer general counseling services for youth and their families facing school or family problems, and diversion services for low risk PINS/JD youth referred by Probation. The advisory Youth Board members and staff will discuss new opportunities for youth leadership and participation in decision-making in their local communities.
Ensuring Mental Health Services for Families in Stress
“Change before you have to” has been a guiding principle in the Department of Mental Hygiene to meet the needs of its clients in an ever changing culture of treatment practices, regulations and fiscal challenges. In the early 1990s, we began changes to our service delivery model for mental health, substance abuse and children’s services with decentralized clinic locations throughout the county that continues in 2011. This restructuring led to a downsizing of county positions without a reduction of services for those families and individuals needing assistance. During this period, the department became more involved in providing evaluations in criminal and juvenile justice systems in order to divert offenders from jail/detention placements to new alternatives to incarceration services.
In the mid 2000s, we went through a year long workload review of all internal and external programs which led to administrative reorganization to increase efficiency. The study supported an increased role for our 24 hour/seven days a week HELPLINE Hotline program based on the growing number of general calls and calls from the suicide prevention call boxes on six mid-Hudson bridges, now also including the Walkway over the Hudson. Eighty-four lives have been saved since the inception of this hotline.
In 2010, Mental Hygiene activated change through the consolidation of four Continuing Day Treatment programs into three and closing the Southern Dutchess Continuing Day Treatment (SDCDT) program, reassigning staff and patients to other programs. We also began the process of transferring the Continuing Day Treatment program to Occupations, Inc, the vendor chosen through a Request for Proposal process. This program transfer will continue over the next couple years.
The Clinic for the Multi-Disabled and the Special Services Team were consolidated to generate more revenue and increase efficiency with the overall aim of improving access to treatment and quality of care using less staff. Conversion to a modified electronic record and the electronic prescribing of medications implemented for the psychiatrists and nurse practitioners were also completed. These changes and the continued emphasis on efficiency allowed us to eliminate 26 positions in the 2011 budget.
Social Services of a New Era
During the past 19 years, the Department of Social Services (DSS) faced major changes in the areas of Welfare Reform. The focus has shifted from one of entitlement to self-sufficiency and employment. Child welfare and adoption reform brought increased focus on prevention, family preservation and freeing children for adoption and stability more quickly. These major paradigm shifts required significant leadership, investment in training and technology, and creating community partnerships to meet these new outcomes. We have been able to use new, real time data for decision-making and incorporating best practices over the past decade to better meet the needs of our residents.
The department’s focus has shifted from an agency that technically assisted the chronically and generationally unemployed to an agency focusing instead on breaking down the barriers to work and keeping working families employed. The emphasis is on employment, mentoring, day care, training, and transportation. By offering supportive services the Department continues to help working families survive and succeed.
Some of DSS’ successful employment best practices include:
Breaking down barriers could not be achieved without our Chamber of Commerce partners. The Mentoring/Work Now Program mentors are instrumental in assisting clients with job searches, soft skills, resumes, and obtaining and retaining jobs. The Youth Employment Services program addresses the needs of youth between the ages of 14 and 20 with mentoring and tutoring services to prevent generational welfare. The Responsible Parent Initiative has mentors working with parents to stay on the road to self sufficiency instead of becoming cut off from the crucial support services by not following the regulations.
In 2010, DSS partnered with Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board to implement the Transitional Jobs Program which partners with local businesses providing subsidized funding to hire DSS clients. The program goal is to provide the individual with employment, training and educational opportunities to help them prepare for unsubsidized employment. Employers can receive up to $8 per hour for each individual they hire for up to 12 months, depending on the type of job and training required. So far the program has realized a 67% rate of retention as the program continues into 2011.
Clearly, these programs represent a defined change in the way we approach welfare and strive to make permanent and lasting impacts on the self sufficiency of our working families with the added benefit of saving taxpayer dollars.
Let’s talk about a change that counts for taxpayers. When I first took office in 1992 it was clear an investment of additional staff was needed in the fraud investigation unit in Social Services. While that was not necessarily popular at the time, the County saved $4 million dollars in the first full year of operation. In 2010, the County saved $12.5 million dollars. The cumulative savings/cost avoidance totals a staggering $130 million dollars - well worth the investment!
Over the years the child welfare division has changed significantly with a focus on prevention and family building by creating crucial partnerships with community agencies and other county departments. When it is necessary to remove a child from the family environment the objective is to provide the stability of an adoptive home as soon as possible.
Our Children’s Services unit supports collaborative efforts between DSS, Probation and the Youth Bureau for services to meet the needs of youth designated as “Persons in Need of Supervision” (PINS) and at-risk youth in Dutchess County. We place an emphasis on PINS diversion, juvenile delinquent diversion, and pre-trial juvenile services in Probation by incorporating proven assessment tools, Structural Family Therapy, Functional Family Therapy, Curfew Monitoring, and Electronic Monitoring which has significantly reduced DSS’ out-of-home placement youth over the past five years saving taxpayer dollars while strengthening families. The Deputy Commissioner of DSS and the Deputy Director of Probation received the 2010 State Director’s Award for Outstanding Probation/DSS collaboration from the New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives.
The provision of preventive services for families, designed to prevent the need for children coming into foster care due to neglect and abuse, continues to be a crucial service. These services are provided by our Children’s Services caseworkers and our collaboration with community contractors - some examples are noted below:
It is important to note one of the most significant shifts in thinking and collaboration is between DSS children services unit and law enforcement. Partnerships among DSS, the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff and other law enforcement agencies have changed drastically and it is through this change in thinking and collaboration that services are enhanced and the best outcomes can be accomplished.
Great strides have been made in the reconfiguration of the intake unit at DSS, the reception area, and most notably the training of workers to provide a career path and leadership opportunity, which ultimately positively effects staff retention. In addition to the leadership training program there is an active employee group called Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) which focuses on service delivery issues and problems. They work to solve the issues and ultimately improve delivery. These changes did not come easily but through careful leadership, planning and employee support. We continue to look for ways to improve service delivery by maintaining a highly trained staff who are encouraged to foster change by providing leadership.
Public Health in Our Communities
Over the past decade, our Health Department has been changing and evolving from the role of provider of direct services to better align themselves to fulfill the three core functions of public health: assessment, policy development and assurance.
The Health Department’s Collaborative Outbreak Response (CORe) team was activated several times in 2010 to investigate public health incidents. Impressive results include:
In June 2010, Health Department staff conducted a community event for local school nurses and college health services clinical staff to provide clarification regarding personal protective equipment and respiratory protection policies in a pandemic. Sixty school nurses representing most school districts attended the program and feedback was overwhelming positive.
We continued to provide timely and accurate information about influenza and the 2009/10 H1N1 Influenza A strain, disease mitigation and vaccination. In an effort to educate children and teens regarding the prevention of spreading of germs, the department initiated a hand washing campaign using fun, attractive posters with the message Germ Farm and Scrub’em. 1,200 posters were distributed to schools and camps throughout the county.
As board member for the National Association of Counties (NACo), I had an opportunity in 2005 to have Dutchess become one of the first counties in the nation to partner with NACo for a pilot Prescription Drug Discount Program. Since the inception of the program, more than 51,000 Dutchess County residents have saved nearly $2 million on over 103,000 prescription drug purchases. In 2011, we will again be partnering with NACo to pilot a Dental Discount savings program to offer our residents savings on dental care.
The Medical Examiner’s Office continued its collaboration with neighboring counties and with the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office to create a Regional Mass Fatality Management Plan that would facilitate the sharing of resources, expertise and personnel in case of a catastrophic event to the area.
As we talk about the Medical Examiner’s Office, let me say once again how important it is that the County deals with the need for a Medical Examiners Office in 2011. Our MEO has had a “temporary” home at Vassar Brothers Medical Center since 2003, and we are extremely grateful to Vassar for providing the county this space. However, we have always known the space is inadequate for the Medical Examiner’s needs. The number and nature of cases in this small space creates increasing hazardous conditions which could result in evidence contamination, conflicts of interest and potential legal issues.
Additionally, we are totally unprepared to respond to a multiple fatality event. We have identified an excellent location and it is absolutely essential an alternate site for the MEO is approved now. We look forward to the Legislature’s support of this critical facility.
This year the Health Department will transition from a Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA) to a Licensed Home Care Services Agency (LHCSA) to provide quality of care for all home visiting programs. This will allow us to continue our Maternal Child Home Visiting program and nursing services in the home for patients enrolled in public health programs such as Tuberculosis Control and Lead Poisoning Prevention. With the goal of making services more convenient for residents along with utilizing staff and resources more efficiently, the department will launch its new Adult Immunization and Screening Clinic at our Poughkeepsie location.
In our ongoing efforts to be prepared in the event of any and all hazards, natural or manmade, the Health Department along with other departments and volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) conducted two Point of Dispensing (POD) drills in November and December.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) of Dutchess County is yet another place where we have made change that counts. When Dutchess County assumed sponsorship of the MRC in 2006, we were among the first counties in the nation. We became the 16th MRC unit in what today has grown to 900 throughout the United States. We are recognized as one of the top units in the nation and our MRC coordinator was selected to participate in a national group collaboration effort between the National Association of County Health officials (NACCHO) and the Office of Civilian Medical Reserve Corps (ORVMRC).
Currently we have over 310 registered volunteers (66% medical). This highly functional team has provided their services to the County in a variety of ways. In 2009-2010, the MRC provided over 1100 hours of expertise and service to our H1N1 pandemic response of mass vaccination and high priority group vaccination clinics, saving Dutchess County over $40,000.
The MRC also provided essential and crucial personnel to assist our community partners in establishing and staffing two of the largest emergency shelters throughout our county in early 2010 during the “twin peaks” snow storms that hit the southern portion of our county. In total, there were 20 deployments in 2010 and 174 volunteers participated.
We have worked hard to motivate and to retain our volunteers. In 2010, we held 17 training sessions with 217 MRC volunteers in attendance. In recognition of our successful efforts, we have been awarded a $5,000 Capacity Building Award every year since the inception in 2006.
In the coming year, MRC will be expanding its mission profile to Community Based Care Sites (CBCS) and community health education in coordination with the Health Department.
As we move forward we will continue to grow, continue to train and continue to adapt to the changes we face in our community. Volunteers are in high demand in all areas of emergency services and we have a highly educated, professional, energetic and dedicated group of individuals who will be available for needs as they arise.
Our Department of Emergency Response is a prime example of where change has been necessary in order to adapt to the needs of our community regarding fire, police and emergency medical service response. Communication plays a critical role in emergency response efforts and we have been extremely responsive to incorporating the technological changes and the functional tools to create an effective operating environment.
When I took office in 1992, there was no centralized communication point, no centralized answering service for emergencies. There was little to no coordination across jurisdictional lines. The limited communication infrastructure had no standards for telephone answering or communications. Just think about that for a minute!
Let’s fast forward 20 years later…..today we have one central answering point for 911 calls and we have a real time back-up facility that uses identical software and communications hardware so that in addition to being a “hot” back-up site, rollover calls during peak volumes can be handled as needed.
Our Simulcast Radio Dispatch System installation in 2009 now provides robust radio communications with all agencies in every location in the county. This ensures that a single dispatch is now received by all agencies needing details, allowing for a quicker and more coordinated response.
We have looked into the future and anticipated needs to make appropriate changes. In 2010, the Dutchess County Mutual Aid Plan which organizes, supervises and coordinates the reciprocal assistance of personnel, equipment and physical facilities among fire and other emergency agencies throughout the County of Dutchess and adjacent areas was revised. The newly revised plan incorporates prior changes and streamlines those changes into a more user friendly format.
Our Emergency Response campus hosted more than 3,000 career and volunteer emergency responders for various training last year to ensure they are up to date on latest procedures and requirements – that benefits everyone across the county. How is that for an excellent example of shared and consolidated services?
An internal phone system has been installed allowing us to incorporate Next Generation (NG911) standards currently being developed. This is another example of how Dutchess County is ready to adapt to rapidly changing environments. This phone system will allow us to incorporate multiple phone types, text and video once the standards are established in the future and will greatly enhance the dispatcher’s ability to interact with a caller.
To further enhance our dispatching capability, we have upgraded Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) over the last several years allowing us to interact with multiple departments, both inside county government as well as outside agencies. Combining CAD with our GIS capabilities affords Dutchess County coverage and interoperability that ranks Dutchess County with the best 911 facilities. In 2011 we will begin the upgrade of our dispatcher consoles which connects them to all of the radio frequencies and brings capability with NG911. Likewise, our recording equipment is also being upgraded with similar compatibility. Recording of video images will allow us to retransmit pictures to other law enforcement entities that will mean significant public safety benefits.
This is a rapidly changing industry that requires us to anticipate change before it’s needed to keep our emergency response system responsive to the public safety and emergency health needs of our residents.
Technology Enhancements for Productivity Gains
Technological innovation has certainly not been limited to Emergency Response. When I reflect on my 35 plus years in Dutchess County government, the changes in technology use have been staggering. As Dutchess County Clerk in the 1980’s, I oversaw our initial changeover to computer technology to better serve our clients.
We now see the need for technology in almost every aspect of what we do. The administration has a strong history of commitment to modernizing operations with Information Technology (IT) investments including the Financial Management System, as well as the Criminal Justice and Safety Computer System which have improved operational efficiencies within county government for organizations like the Sheriff, District Attorney and others.
A field reporting application provided to Sheriff Anderson’s office for Deputy Sheriffs’ mobile computers allows deputies to write reports and access the County’s integrated Public Safety System from their vehicles so deputies are able to spend more time on patrol rather than in the office.
The Department of Health launched implementation of an electronic medical records and billing system in 2010. This electronic system is now used by our public health nurses to record information collected on all patient visits and it has enabled the department to improve tracking for patient outcomes, collect more accurate program statistics, and improve accuracy and timeliness of insurance claiming for an improved cash flow and revenue stream.
These technological changes help us serve our residents better, allow our employees to work more effectively and save county property taxpayers millions of dollars annually.
We have assured the infrastructure foundation we have built our technological advances on has remained strong, enabling us to continue to adapt. In 2002, we implemented the first generation of our fiber optic network. Since then, we have added to and enhanced our capabilities ensuring sufficient bandwidth to provide good response for our users and sufficient availability for application growth. In 2011, we will add a new IP (Internet Protocol) based county-wide phone system highlighting our proactive planning and diligent attention to our communications infrastructure. This implementation will result in taxpayer savings in excess of $2 million over the next 10 years.
To fully appreciate the extent of our technological advancements, you only have to think back to the real property tax system that used punch cards in the 1960s and 1970s yet today has transformed into the impressive geographic information system (GIS) we now have. Tax parcels can be viewed online and information concerning properties in Dutchess County can be retrieved with the click of a mouse. Our in-house developed Arc Studio and ParcelAccess GIS suites leverage more than 150 different data layers ranging from aerial photography (spanning 1936 thru 2010), streets, parcels, boundaries, water bodies, soil, terrain, and zoning. These state of the art map-based tools are used extensively by hundreds of officials, assessors, planners, zoning administrators, and more. Usage is high with an incredible 11 million pages served over the past year for just these two GIS application suites.
Here is what one of our users has to say about our GIS tools:
“The county's excellent GIS tools have revolutionized our ability to access pertinent planning information easily and efficiently, saving us thousands of dollars in printing and storage space, reduced staff time and labor, and virtually eliminated our trips to the County Planning offices in Poughkeepsie. Dutchess County is light years ahead of other surrounding counties, and we so appreciate your fine work, every single day.”
Vicki Doyle, Amenia Town Councilwoman
Our national award winning county website, https://www.dutchessny.gov/, shows how we have made changes to make county government more interactive and accessible to the public. We introduced our website in 1996 as an innovative way to help people understand what county government does. Today, our website has more than 12 million web pages served per year, allowing residents to interact with county government, whether it’s making park reservations, accessing County Clerk records, making an appointment for one of our flu clinics, or so much more all from the comforts of home or office. This impressive innovation has helped Dutchess County Government be recognized as one of the most digitally-advanced county governments in the United States for seven straight years!
New website applications for 2011 will continue to allow us to better serve our residents. A new map-based LOOP bus schedule will be available on our county website this year. This new application will map all the routes and bus stops, employing Google mapping. An interactive process will allow a user to enter an address or destination and see the bus route that travels near that location. Clicking on “stop” marks identifies location information and all of the times the bus will stop there. A street view is also available for 360 degree panoramic photos of the surrounding area.
We can all agree technology advancements are so exciting and seem to have no limits! As the exploration continues, we have anticipated change and improved our technology infrastructure to maximize our uses in the future.
Dutchess Continues “Greening”
Our technology has also allowed us to change to be more efficient and ‘greener’. These innovations have been a big part of the success of our “Dutchess Goes Green” initiative that I launched in 2007, building on my long standing commitment to environmental protection and preservation. Our goal was to broaden the areas in which we “think and behave green.” I am pleased to report we have made tremendous progress in just four years.
New on-line applications at https://www.dutchessny.gov/ allow job applicants to apply online for open examinations and recruitment as well as the payment of examination fees. For the Deputy Sheriff/Police Officer exam held in the fall, more than 70% of the applications were submitted online, significantly reducing paperwork and avoiding gas consuming trips to the County Office Building. Likewise, all exam and recruitment announcements are distributed electronically saving the cost of printing and mailing.
Changes and enhancements for 2011 will include applications for County Clerk Kendall to improve services and provide cost savings to the public and local businesses. There will be the added ability to view document images on https://www.dutchessny.gov/. Currently, many people come to the County Clerk’s office for information on properties or transaction data, often needing a copy of a document. They will now be able to view images and documents online or download them to their home computer. These online services will be a great environmental benefit resulting in saved time, gas and the cost of parking while also improving efficiency for office personnel.
We adopted a purchasing policy in 2008 requiring daily cleaning products to be green or “environmentally preferred.” These products minimize adverse impacts to human health and the environment, yet still clean effectively. The goal is to provide a healthier environment for the public and employees through cleaner facilities and reduce exposure to cleaners, solvents, and other hazardous materials.
Our cartridge recycling program has been enhanced to include more items, reducing waste by reusing. Helping to provide a better environment, to date more than 6,000 cartridge items have been recycled. Additionally, recycling bins are available throughout county facilities, including our park facilities. Last year, in Bowdoin Park alone, approximately 12,000 plastic bottles were recycled.
To help protect our groundwater, the entire fleet of snow and ice control vehicles has been fitted with automated calibrated salt spreader controllers. The first ones were installed in 2007 and we have seen a tremendous reduction in our use of road salt while still maintaining safe, passable roadways during winter storms. Road salts can be harmful to the environment when applied excessively. As snow and ice melts, deicing salts are carried into the soils along roadsides and eventually into surface and groundwater. The Health Department has been monitoring the presence of chlorides in our public water supplies as part of their annual monitoring of nearly 700 public water supplies throughout the county and Health staff addressed this issue during a forum on the effects of road salt at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies because steps must be taken to reduce the levels of these chlorides. We are pleased to see other local municipalities also “thinking green”, and following the county’s lead installing these automated controllers on their own equipment. Combined, these efforts all add up to a positive change for our environment.
Our vehicle fleet has changed to be greener. We have continued to expand our alternative fuel fleet which now includes 2 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, 6 hybrid vehicles, 46 Flex Fuel vehicles, and even 6 electric vehicles in use in our Parks and Airport. Mass Transit’s LOOP Bus System now feature hybrid vehicles including two heavy duty hybrid buses which are currently in passenger service and we are anticipating the arrival of two medium duty buses for Dial-A-Ride, ADA Paratransit Service and other Flex Service options. We are proud to say Dutchess County will be one of the first New York State municipal transit agencies to have the medium-duty low-floor hybrid buses in service.
The Department of Planning & Development worked in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County, Dutchess County Environmental Management Council, Vassar College, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and local scientists and teachers to update the Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) for Dutchess County. The Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) is a document that catalogues the physical and biological characteristics of an area, collects the data in a usable format, and interprets the findings. This description of the natural resources of Dutchess County, New York is an important tool to be used in making informed, land use decisions, guidance in the development of policies, and identification of areas for natural resource conservation and management so that “green” choices can be made to protect and preserve our environment. The full document can be found on our county website https://www.dutchessny.gov/.
Limiting Energy Consumption and Cost
Reducing energy consumption is one of the most promising ways to act greener. Since NYS instituted energy deregulation for electricity more than a decade ago, Dutchess County has embarked on a dual strategy of analyzing energy prices to determine the most cost effective source for our energy needs while at the same time looking for ways to be more energy efficient. We have changed from being a passive energy consumer to an active participant in the energy marketplace.
As part of our “Dutchess Goes Green” initiative, we have used in-house personnel to do lighting retrofits at 60 Market Street and the Farm and Home Center resulting in $23,000 in annual projected savings and received nearly $18,500 in incentives back from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Following the successful Dutchess Community College implementation of the geothermal system at Bowne Hall, which saves over $11,000 annually, we have installed geothermal heating and cooling systems in three county facilities over the past three years. The Eastern Dutchess Government Center (EDGC) in Millbrook, the Emergency Operation Center in Hyde Park and our Highway Engineering Facility in Poughkeepsie no longer rely on fossil fuels for climate control. We have received, and county taxpayers have saved nearly $100,000 through NYSERDA incentives for these geo-thermal systems and ongoing heating and cooling savings for the three buildings are projected at more than $140,000 of taxpayer costs annually.
In 2009, Dutchess County’s energy strategy helped us to be the first county in NYS to be awarded an ARRA Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant totaling more than $2.3 million through the Department of Energy (DOE). Currently, we are in the midst of the three part application of this award:
In addition, the County has the option of using over $3 million in Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (lower interest rate bonds for energy projects) to implement the energy savings measures detailed in the Energy Efficiency Building Audits. The information provided will allow the County to evaluate these projects and the advantages of using these bonds to realize potential savings.
This list of energy efficient projects will continue to provide the county with areas of potential taxpayer savings. As a matter of fact, the county is partnering with Central Hudson and Alliance Energy to do major lighting retrofits in our facilities through a program initiated in November. Central Hudson and Alliance are scheduled to make over $600,000 worth of improvements to lighting in county facilities, which is projected to save the county operating budget $217,000 annually, at no cost to the county.
The changing energy market can be intimidating but our ability to change, and more importantly the strategic changes we have made to proactively address this vibrant market, has positioned Dutchess to continue our successful monitoring and decision making in this dynamic arena.
An important change we have prospered by is a result of our work with a local energy professional with extensive experience in the utility marketplace. We have been able to monitor the market dynamics and enhance our analysis of competing offers from energy suppliers. This has allowed us to make the best energy purchase decisions for our county with significant cost savings.
The administration had been lobbied heavily for years to join MEGA, a cooperative buying firm used by other municipalities. In 2009 we received and reviewed a bid from them. Thanks to our extensive and continuous energy analysis, we found remaining with our local energy supplier, Central Hudson, ultimately saved more money for county property taxpayers. And we have the facts to prove it. From April 2009 to May 2010 the actual documented savings the county accrued by not accepting MEGA’s 2009 bid totaled almost $129,000.
We will continue to evaluate our energy supplies and respond accordingly. As we have in the past, we will continue to offer school districts and municipalities in the County the option of piggybacking on our efforts.
Taking advantage of cooperative energy bidding is just one of the many ways local municipalities can partner with Dutchess County government to save money for residents. We partner with local towns, villages and cities in a wide variety of ways to share services and save our residents money, including cooperative snowplowing agreements, planning support, joint bidding of expendables; purchase of paper; copier and telephone leases; and print shop services.
Dutchess County’s award winning Hudson Valley Municipal Purchasing Group (HVMPG), which we created in 2002, is a group of 43 municipal agencies throughout the Hudson Valley Region that cooperatively bid on products they need. The HVMPG is a wonderful tool for local businesses, providing a transparent bid process and features a Regional Bid Notification System to notify businesses of bid and contract opportunities. Central Services has begun partnering with the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) to promote this important tool to business owners to help expand and grow their business. A link is offered on their website to facilitate this tool.
Economic and Community Development
In my 1993 State of the County address I said, “Government and its challenges are changing…” One of my central themes was a renewed and improved economic development agenda for Dutchess County, and the necessity for the County Executive and other public leadership to play a more active role in the shared public/private responsibility of our community’s economic future.
Early reports of an IBM downsizing were in the wind. One of the key economic development initiatives of the 14 major ones I laid out in 1993 was an economic development forum, or summit as it was called. I knew there needed to be a changed, broadened approach to economic development and jobs creation.
During the early and summer months of 1993 on Main Street Dutchess County, IBM continued to announce its major downsizing that had the potential to change this community for decades into the future. The news was devastating, but we quickly adapted to our changing local economy and shaped our summit around the needs to diversify our jobs base, to be multi-dimensional, and to develop programs and the necessary tools not just to recruit new businesses but to retain the businesses and jobs already here.
The summit achieved my best hopes. It was a huge success and brought together the best and brightest business minds from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors to create the county’s changed economic development blueprint. While adjustments have been made over the years to adapt again, and again, to changing business models, changing priorities in job sectors/categories, and changing national and global economies, this government and community leadership successfully positioned Dutchess County to prosper by that change and achieve the necessary goals of diversification in our industry base and our jobs base. Dutchess has continued to live by that change, ultimately enabling us to be positioned to absorb better than many the long, painful national recession that is finally showing some signs of surrender.
We continue to have a lower unemployment rate than NY State and the Nation but we know that even one family without employment is hurtful. We actually added thousands of jobs over the decade in numerous job sectors like healthcare and education while watching shrinkage in other categories like construction. Dutchess enjoyed meaningful growth in manufacturing jobs over the decade until the national recession caused job losses there – especially in the past two years.
With little to no business or job growth across the country, or the state, in the past three to four years, businesses and families throughout Dutchess have shared in this pain. Conversely, because of the strong infrastructure of economic development organizations and professionals we have built as a result of change that counts, Dutchess has also experienced some rays of light with business attraction, retention, and expansion.
In 2010, Life Medical Technologies (LMT), Municipal Emergency Services (MES), and Illinois Tool Works – all manufacturers - have located in Dutchess. LMT produces a breast cancer detection device, Breast Care DTS, and plans to grow to more than 250 employees over the next three years. Illinois Tool Works has brought 25 new skilled jobs to Millerton in the northeast corner of Dutchess where similar jobs are scarce and much needed. MES, a small company in Poughkeepsie that manufactures safety equipment has begun operations with eight new jobs. We are grateful for every new manufacturing job that is created for our neighbors and families.
Unfortunately SpectraWatt, one of our rays of light, very unexpectedly is presently behind some dark clouds. This much heralded, and desired, “green” manufacturing business we worked so hard to recruit, not only opened its doors in 2010 but also has announced its likely closure later this year in 2011. This could be a cruel one-two punch for some families who found work at this business after being laid off from others. There is an intense local, regional and state effort being made to help SpectraWatt keep its doors open and keep employees working, and those efforts will continue. However, the solar industry is clearly a fragile, fledgling industry that is suffering from world competition with an economic edge over U.S. based manufacturing witnessed by the 800 lost jobs in a Massachusetts community losing its solar manufacturing company.
Major capital and facilities investments, along with the resulting jobs retention and growth, have occurred in Dutchess over the years through the important work of our Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency. The DCIDA provided a funding mechanism for local businesses and non-for-profit investment. However, the New York State Legislature allowed legislation to sunset, and IDAs authority to lend to not-for-profits expired in 2008. As a direct result of Albany politics and dysfunction, local economic development and expansion plans suffered.
So what did we do? We changed!! Our Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation, DCIDA, the Executive office and the County Legislature together created the change necessary and made a new business model. We again adapted to a change over which we had no control by progressing a change of our own. Joining efforts with my administration to create a local law that established a Local Development Corporation (LDC) for the public purpose of issuing tax exempt bonds for not-for-profit 501(c) (3) organizations, the County is back in business to serve not-for-profits by making potential projects more financially competitive and viable. This strengthens our job development efforts and helps our overall economy move in a positive direction. An important note: the LDC utilizes private financing to support local investment, no tax dollars are used.
We asked the Dutchess County Legislature to join us and now the LDC in 2010 has again allowed us to use a tool we had used so successfully in earlier years with jobs projects at Saint Francis Hospital, Marist and Bard Colleges and others to provide tens of millions in new construction and expansion at institutions such as Anderson School, Health Quest, and others. Anderson School’s $15 million project will result in approximately 170 construction jobs for our hard hit construction trade workers plus ten new full-time jobs. The $66 million HealthQuest expansion will feature a 26,000 square foot ambulatory services center, medical offices, food serve center and a multi level parking garage. The expansion will include renovations to the existing hospital and a new clinical building. HealthQuest also plans to expand their corporate offices in the town of LaGrange with an additional 11,000 square feet in 2011, bringing the total square footage to 50,000 square feet. This corporate hub employs 278 employees, with 194 employees who live in Dutchess and 84 employees coming to work each day from as far away as Connecticut and Massachusetts.
At the same time, business projects have moved through the DCIDA financing.
A little recognized community benefit from IDA and LDC activity is the generation of significant fees from projects. The fees are used to help support not-for-profits through grants. Over $340,000 in fees were collected in 2010 to be turned around and returned to benefit the community.
Another of our DCIDA programs is the Trade Show Assistance Program. Based on established criteria, the awards go out to support local businesses in their efforts to market and sell their product at trade shows around the country and the world. In 2010 almost $20,000 was awarded to several local companies:
MPI, Inc, a wax-room equipment manufacturer for the casting industry located in Poughkeepsie, took advantage of the Trade Show Assistance program this past fall participating in a Product/Literature Expo in Dearborn, Michigan. The expo generated 6 new leads for the company’s Fly & Try program as well as 12 additional sales for representatives to follow up on. While these may sound like small numbers, MPI’s wax injectors sell for an average price of $186,000.
Another key change in our approach to economic development at the 1993 summit was our recognition in the power and benefit of the tourism industry which employs nearly 9,000 people. We increased the county’s funding commitment to this economic development and jobs engine by taking advantage of the rapidly changing technology tools and to “brand” Dutchess County as a destination place for tourists.
In the 1990’s we wanted to tell the Dutchess story world wide so we changed again – this time taking Dutchess global with an aggressive web effort and the use of available technology to tell our story. Dutchess County Tourism’s website had almost 400,000 visitors during 2010, averaging an impressive 1,000 plus per day; more than 500 follow DCT on Facebook, and more than 1,000 are Twitter followers…where will technology and social networking take us next? I have no answer to that question, but I do know our outstanding Dutchess County “brand” continues to catch on and grow.
How can one argue with an investment that even in a national recession provides returns many times over? According to Tourism Economics, tourists spent $438.3 million dollars in Dutchess County in 2009, and an estimated $28 million was generated in local sales tax! An estimated $1.9 million in bed tax revenue in 2010, a 5% increase, will help support the many tourism related activities provided by Dutchess County government.
Imagine this: 750,000 visitors to the Walkway Over the Hudson and 64,000 visitors to Dia: Beacon, a world renowned art museum. These are just two examples of the diversified attractions that we have to offer tourists – whether for family activities or destinations for sophisticated singles, we have it all.
Ten new “getaway” packages were posted on GetawayNewYork.com, booking 150 rooms. DCT’s Farm Fresh Program, funded with grant dollars brought 1300 people to Dutchess in late summer and early fall with tours to Barton, Fishkill, McEnroe, Sprout Creek and Terhune Farms; Harney & Sons Tea; Cascade Winery and Clinton Vineyards; and to Millerton, Millbrook, and Beacon. Survey results were overwhelmingly positive for the future – 99% of attendees responding (350) would recommend the trip or attend again!
Dutchess County Tourism (DCT) hosted 49 writers on “Familiarization Tours” in 2010, touting our historical sites, arts and cultural activities, our famous restaurants, and our tourist attractions. These tours provide thousands and thousands of dollars in free publicity when reviews and travel columns reference the writers’ positive experiences in Dutchess; the tourists soon follow to see for themselves!
As tourists visit Dutchess in our magnificent Hudson River Valley, many have fallen in love and decided to make their visits permanent. As we anticipated community and population growth in the 1990’s, we changed before we had to and adapted our planning and community development emphasis to one of Smart Growth and Greenway principles. In 1997, the state’s Greenway Council asked Dutchess County to develop a model program for all Greenway counties. We never shy away from challenge and we developed an inspiring, visionary Greenway Program that has continued to progress with time, exposure and participation. The intent was that economic and environmental issues be considered and resolved side by side in the greenway process.
User friendly guidelines, principles, and policies have been developed with detail. We have provided land use mapping, trail inventory maps, composite zoning maps and landscape pattern maps for local use. Connections was our principal theme in our Greenway initiative and we continue to use that concept to strengthen opportunities between people, places, towns, counties and time. In 2010 we completed and circulated for public comments four new draft Greenway Guides, including the Centers and Greenspaces guide defining smart growth and providing a regional land use vision that considers development, transportation and ecological concerns – true to our early vision, but adapting to our changing community priorities. It will include an interactive web-based planning tool on the County website with mapping layers at the County, Town, and Village scales. The Centers and Greenspaces guide will be an intermunicipal model for Dutchess County communities wanting to identify priority growth centers and priority greenspaces for protection measures.
Importantly, our Greenway program has moved us to change to a better way of managing land use at the local level, and we will continue to refine, improve, and change for the better as we go forward.
In the 1990’s when sprawl was the buzz term of local communities facing growth challenges – we again changed how we did business to respond to the negative impacts of sprawl and authored our visionary and highly successful open space and farmland protection program which has saved 2,425 acres throughout the county. It has even encouraged local communities to develop their own programs. Congratulations to the Town of LaGrange and Supervisor Wagner for its recent purchase of the Pierson Farm development rights, saving 174 acres.
In 2010 the county completed the acquisition of an 82 acre conservation easement on Mead Orchards in Red Hook. Just as my vision had planned, we had partners - including grants from NYS Agriculture and Markets, the Town of Red Hook, Dutchess County, and in-kind services from Dutchess Land Conservancy. This acquisition was a long time in the planning stages, and the closing brought the total acres of farmland protection to almost 2,000.
In 2011, Dutchess expects to close on other conservation easements including Bos Haven (pictured left) and Sunset Ridge Farms, both long time pending projects. Although challenging fiscal times have dampened our ability to consider new open space/farmland protection projects in the near term, we remain committed to the vision and goals, and will reopen the program in the future as soon as our fiscal position allows.
Housing and development activities have slowed in recent years after peaking in 2003 through 2005. But there are a variety of projects that respond to the needs of our residents of all economic strata “in the pipeline” that continue to work through the approval and start-up process, with some actually coming to fruition in the coming months or later in the year.
As market conditions changed, and the cost of real estate skyrocketed over the years, many working families and seniors needed alternative and affordable housing so we changed policy to find solutions. Since 1992, almost 1,600 affordable housing units have been created with about 730 directly assisted with County support, including the soon to be completed Pendell Commons project, 72 units of senior and family rentals in the Town of Poughkeepsie.
In our 2011 HOME program, we have recommended $295,000 to support Poughkeepsie Commons, a proposed 71 unit affordable project for the frail elderly and veterans in the city of Poughkeepsie, who is also a funding partner. The proposal includes partnership with Hudson River Housing, and the County Aging and Veterans Services to provide on-site support services. A funding request to New York State, also a critical funding piece, is pending.
The following is an update on many other noteworthy and exciting projects throughout the County:
Knolls of Dover – During 2010 the SEQR process was completed and the Benjamin Companies initiated demolition of unneeded buildings using employees recruited from the community and trained in various trades. The project site plan and subdivision for the initial phase has been submitted to the Town of Dover for its review.
Castagna Realty (Pawling) – This project is a combination of approximately 400 senior residences (market rate and affordable) and retail and office space. The Town of Pawling is working with developers to seek funding for sewer service to the project and the adjacent Elm Street project.
Silo Ridge – A planned residential community and all season resort, including a world class equestrian facility, on Route 22 in Amenia. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, with the first phase expected to be completed in 2013. This project is expected to bring thousands of construction and permanent jobs to our community over the multiple phases of the project.
Hyatt Place (Hyde Park) – Private developers are planning the construction of a Hyatt Place Hotel on property owned by CIA. The project will have approximately 130 rooms, a 300 seat event/conference center and related amenities.
Cricket Valley Energy (Dover) – This turbine power plant will be an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, with up to 60 permanent jobs upon completion. The project involves the adaptive re-use of an inactive industrial site on Route 22.
City of Poughkeepsie Waterfront Activity – The City has been laying the groundwork for several key projects during the past several years. These activities are consistent with the Poughkeepsie Transportation Strategy prepared by our Dutchess County Transportation Council in 1997.
City of Poughkeepsie Main Street – Hudson River Housing received $500,000 NYS Main Street grant in 2010 for renovation and façade improvements to buildings on Middle Main between Academy Street and Pershing Avenue.
City of Beacon – Beacon continues to see a variety of new development activities.
Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries
Marist College is a terrific asset bringing national prominence to our community with strong academic and athletic reputations as well as economic benefit as a major employer. Ongoing facility improvements and construction activity there add to our community. The Hancock Building at Marist College will be completed and occupied in the spring. The McCann Center addition started late last year to support the men’s and women’s athletic programs and should be complete by fall 2011. There will also be renovations to the basketball arena to provide additional seating. NYSDOT will initiate construction of the Pedestrian Walkway in late spring to connect the east and west sides of the Marist campus. This project was included as part of the Route 9 Land Use and Transportation Study completed by the PDCTC in early 2007.
These are all impressive projects that demonstrate a confidence, a belief in the future of Dutchess County - a future that I very much remain excited about.
Many of you share my passion for the quality of life amenities we are able to enjoy in our beautiful Dutchess County; most particularly our parks and trail systems. These are affordable community assets open to everyone for family time, recreation time, and short respites from the responsibilities of our everyday lives.
Quiet Cove Riverfront Park, our picturesque 27 acre property located on the Hudson River in the Town of Poughkeepsie just north of Marist College, reopened this year after months of renovations and property improvements including the addition of restrooms and new porch on the historic Navy Boathouse Annex. Visitors flocked to this riverfront retreat to enjoy spending time with family and friends. If you haven’t yet, you need to put it on your list.
Did you know we now have approximately 268 miles of trails in Dutchess County, which includes 36 miles of County trails? Choices abound around the county. Our County maintained trails continue to surge in popularity. More and more residents and visitors utilize both the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and the Dutchess Rail Trail for fitness, recreation and quality time in our beautiful outdoors. Our other parks also have popular trails: Bowdoin has six miles of trail; Wilcox has almost six miles of trails; and for those less hearty of you, Quiet Cove has a one mile trail.
The Dutchess Rail Trail continues to grow, with construction on Phase III scheduled for completion this spring. This will add six additional miles of new trail section through the Towns of LaGrange and Wappinger and connect with completed Phase I section all the way to Hopewell Junction at Route 82. As part of the completion of Phase III, we are excited about plans for educational signage along the trail to further enhance the trail users’ experience while out in the park. Trail visitors will be able to learn about the historical aspects of the trail, including its history as the Maybrook Rail Line, the wildlife found along the trail and other points of interest.
Volunteers have been an important part of the success of the Dutchess Rail Trail. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of a couple of railroad enthusiasts, a piece of the trail’s railroad history returned to life with the reactivation of the railroad signal at North Grand Avenue. Community organizations have come forward to help care for the trail, with Abilities First being the first organization to adopt a section of Dutchess Rail Trail. This spring, you will see new benches along the trail, donated by people throughout the community. These are just some of the many ways for residents and organizations to take part in the Dutchess Rail Trail offered through the Dutchess Rail Trail Advisory Council (DRTAC), a group of community volunteers who recognize how much value the Dutchess Rail Trail adds to the quality of life in Dutchess County.
We will continue to make proactive changes to our park facilities because we know the positive changes it can have on the quality of life in our community.
So get your walking shoes ready; Spring is just around the corner!
In a 1994 Budget Message I stated, “Our efforts to realign, reform, restructure, and re-invent county government is a daily process; not once a month or only when times are tight, or in response to uninformed criticism.”
In 2011 another opportunity exists for rightsizing when the Dutchess County Legislature undertakes the reapportionment process in the next few months. As part of this process, it is critical they re-evaluate the current size of the legislative body. By shrinking the legislative body from 25 down to 15 legislators, there is an opportunity to deliver the smaller, more effective streamlined government the public has demanded. I believe this change would better serve our residents, be more adaptive at solving the problems we face, and would save taxpayers approximately $250,000. We have downsized successfully on the executive side of county government, and we are confident it can be accomplished on the legislative side as well.
It’s not possible to capture all the changes we have gone through as a government and a community over 20 years, or even all that we will undergo in 2011, but we have tried to convey a message here of constant evaluation, anticipation and change. While the uncertain changes in our economy have made times challenging for all of us, we assure you Dutchess County government will continue to proactively adapt to be certain our community remains vibrant and ready for whatever comes next.
Finally, I want to speak of a change all organizations go through – the retirement of longtime, dedicated employees. Whether they plan to enjoy “quality” time with the family, “fun” time with the grandkids, adventurous travels, or the quiet interests of gardening and reading, we will have had six department heads retire in 2010 and the early days of 2011. Collectively, our colleagues have spent more than 170 years in the halls of Dutchess County government. They practiced in various areas of expertise, but they all shared the common commitment of public service for the betterment of their community and residents – for all of you.
We have valued their contributions, miss their camaraderie, and would like to thank and recognize the following:
John Beale, Director of the Office for the Aging
Nelson Kranker, Director of Consumer Affairs
David Goodman, Dutchess County Public Defender
John Murphy, Emergency Response Coordinator
Kathleen Myers, Director of Real Property Tax Services
Ron Wozniak, Dutchess County Attorney
We also remember and thank the men and women in our military who are serving overseas in a far more challenging environment than we are fortunate to live. God bless them and keep them safe.
William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
January 26, 2011