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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2018 Executive Budget proposal today to county officials and community leaders in the Dutchess County Legislature’s Chambers in Poughkeepsie. The County Executive’s budget plan reduces the county property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) for the fourth consecutive year and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the third consecutive year. The budget maintains all existing services and programs, with some key services expanded including addiction and mental health services, ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiatives, youth services, community partnerships and shared services to name a few.
County Executive Molinaro said, “This 2018 Executive Budget continues our commitment to provide tax relief, improves our shared quality of life, while expanding support to the most vulnerable in our community. While cutting the tax levy for the fourth consecutive year and decreasing the tax rate for a third straight year, we maintain the high quality of services our residents expect and deserve. This budget continues Dutchess County’s commitment to economic development, improving our infrastructure, supporting our veterans, and those living with special needs, mental illness and addiction. I thank the members of the County Legislature and my colleagues in county and local government for their shared commitment to bringing economic stability to Dutchess County, and I look forward to engaging with them and our residents in the coming weeks as we move toward adoption of the 2018 budget.”
The 2018 property tax levy proposed in the Executive Budget is $106,378,663, down more than $92,000 from 2017, representing the fourth consecutive property tax levy decrease. If the budget proposal is approved by the County Legislature, property taxpayers will see a decrease in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the third straight year, with the rate decreasing from $3.58 to $3.54 per $1,000 of true value assessments.
The County Executive’s 2018 budget plan allocates $8.5 million of general fund balance and $4 million from the Taxpayer Protection Fund established by County Executive Molinaro and the County Legislature last year. The budget proposal keeps the total projected available general fund balance in line with the County’s fund balance goal to maintain one to two months of general fund operating expenditures in unrestricted general fund balance to ensure financial stability. Maintaining a healthy fund balance is an important factor in Dutchess County’s enviable AA+ credit rating by Standard & Poor’s. Dutchess ranks in the top tier of financially well-managed county governments, with only one county statewide having a higher S&P bond rating. This solid fund balance reserve is also critical as mandated spending from state and federal levels continues to dominate Dutchess County Government’s budget, with 70% of county costs consumed by state and federally mandated expenses.
The commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2018 with $1 million budgeted for the Municipal Innovation Grant program. Additionally, there will be a $100,000 increase to the Agency Partner Grant (APG) program bringing the total APG funding to $1 million for community agencies to address specific needs in the community through a competitive application process. This represents the third consecutive year of funding increases to the APG program. The 2018 budget builds on the proposals developed as part of the County-Wide Shared Services Tax Saving Plan submitted to New York State earlier this fall, including the expansion of the Conflict Defender swap with Ulster County to now include family court services. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised matching funds for shared service projects if eligible and therefore the budget includes a conservative $1.4 million in anticipated state match of project savings (to be submitted when New York State makes application available).
Town of Wappinger Supervisor Lori Jiava noted, “Dutchess County has led the way in shared services and cost efficiency efforts. The Town of Wappinger has been proud to partner with the County, as well as many of our neighboring municipalities, to deliver enhanced services as well as cost savings for our residents. We look forward to continued collaboration on the projects included in the County-Wide Shared Services Tax Savings Plan.”
The budget plan continues a strong focus on strengthening the local economy with more than $2.3 million in total investment in economic development, agriculture, tourism and arts promotion. The 2018 budget includes:
More than $1.5 million will be directed to Dutchess Tourism for tourism and arts promotion, a $230,000 increase over last year, including a 20% increase in arts funding. Dutchess Tourism will continue its successful marketing efforts with innovative new marketing technologies, such as virtual reality videos for tour operators and geo-fencing marketing to attract NYC metro area and international visitors. The County’s investment in arts and tourism has paid dividends with more than 4.75 million visitors to Dutchess County generating $568 million in annual visitor spending, resulting in increased sales tax and hotel tax receipts.
President & CEO of Dutchess Tourism, Inc., Mary Kay Vrba, said, “Millions of people visit Dutchess County annually, generating $40 million in local tax revenue for our communities. We are grateful to County Executive Molinaro for his continued investment in tourism. This additional funding will provide us with the necessary resources to expand and enhance our award-winning efforts to promote the Distinctly Dutchess brand both nationally and internationally.”
As previously announced, the 2018 budget continues Dutchess County Government’s commitment to youth development and empowerment. The 2018 budget proposal includes new grant-funded positions, a Peer Outreach Coordinator and an Adoption Recruiter, to improve success for children in foster care. County Executive Molinaro also continues the County’s successful partnership with the Boys & Girls Club at the New Hope Community Center in the City of Poughkeepsie with programs that include after-school programs, summer camps and a teen drop-in center. In 2018, Dutchess County will implement recommendations from industry expert Public Consulting Group, with which the County has recently been engaged, to begin County Executive Molinaro’s “Path to Promise” initiative, a comprehensive analysis of existing youth services and development of a youth empowerment action plan.
County Executive Molinaro will enhance Dutchess County’s focus on addressing the opioid epidemic with additional addiction and mental health initiatives in 2018. These resources will be highlighted in Dutchess County’s new “Breaking Through” initiative, previously announced, an effort to address the stigma that is too often attached to mental health and addiction issues, serving as one of the barriers to an individual getting the help they need. The effort will include a special public outreach effort with Spark Media Project. In 2018, Dutchess County will be adding to its 24/7 intervention resources, as well as enhancing other mental health and addiction supports including:
Over $3 million will be committed to continued domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response, including staffing to maintain the tracking of Domestic Violence Incidence Report through a coordinated database for police agencies that allows for enhanced tracking and prosecution, as well as providing critical information for the development of target strategies to prevent future domestic violence. The 2018 budget also includes increased funding for partner agencies, including Family Services, Grace Smith House, and House of Hope.
County Executive Molinaro will expand Dutchess County’s model “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2018, supporting efforts to make Dutchess County more inclusive for individuals of all abilities. The budget proposal includes:
Other initiatives and continuing services included in County Executive Molinaro’s budget plan:
o New position to improve park maintenance,
o Improved accessibility with ADA improvements at Bowdoin Park and Dutchess Stadium,
o Beach/water accessibility at Wilcox Park,
o Accessible kayak launch at Quiet Cove Riverfront Park; and
o Summer concerts at Bowdoin Park.
Dale Borchert, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “Over the last six years, this Legislature has collaborated with County Executive Molinaro to enact budgets that reinforce conservative spending principles while bringing about economic strength to Dutchess County. The 2018 budget County Executive Molinaro has proposed continues that trend, again decreasing taxes while keeping our neighbors in mind. I laud County Executive Molinaro and the Budget Office for their dedication to the people of Dutchess County, repeatedly constructing budgets that continue to foster economic prosperity while dealing with the pressure the state places on us. I’m confident my colleagues and I will embark on a thoughtful review of this plan, eventually adopting a budget that will best provide for all County residents.”
The 2018 Executive Budget documents are available online at dutchessny.gov. Residents are encouraged to review the budget documents, particularly the Budget in Brief, and participate in a special live countywide tele-town hall forum on Thursday, November 2nd from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. The tele-town hall call-in number is (877) 228-2184, then enter event ID 113489# at the prompt. Residents will have the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2018 county budget, learn about key components, ask questions, and share feedback. There will also be several town hall forums to discuss the budget over the next month:
2018 Budget Highlights include: