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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2019 Executive Budget proposal today to county officials and community leaders in the Dutchess County Legislature’s Chambers in Poughkeepsie. The proposed 2019 budget plan reduces the county property tax levy for the fifth consecutive year and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the fourth year. The budget maintains county services and programs, with new initiatives addressing addiction and mental health, youth services as well as continued funding for ThinkDIFFERENTLY events and programs, senior services, infrastructure improvements, and shared services.
County Executive Molinaro said, “A reflection of several years’ of conservative spending practices, this 2019 Executive Budget again seeks to serve our residents’ best interests, providing continued tax relief while maintaining the level of high-quality services on which our neighbors rely. This proposed budget continues to care for our most vulnerable residents – providing those living with mental health and addiction issues the care they deserve, growing our inclusive community for those with special needs, creating strong and supportive families for children in foster care, as well as more opportunities for our veterans – all while being economically responsible to every resident. I thank my colleagues in County and local government, including the members of the Dutchess County Legislature, for sharing my commitment to responsible spending. In the coming weeks, I look forward to engaging them and our community in further discussion throughout the County, resulting in the adoption of this plan.”
The 2019 property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) proposed in the Executive Budget is $106,350,769, down nearly $28,000 from 2018, representing the fifth consecutive property tax levy decrease. If the budget proposal is approved by the County Legislature, property taxpayers will see a 2.6% reduction in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the fourth straight year, with the rate decreasing from $3.54 to $3.45 per $1,000 of true value assessments. Total 2019 appropriations equal $502,154,287, a 2.96% increase over 2018.
The County Executive’s 2019 budget plan allocates $14.4 million of unassigned general fund balance, including $4.5 million from the Taxpayer Protection Fund established by County Executive Molinaro and the County Legislature. $5 million is allocated from other fund balances including the D & E funds and restricted reserve fund for debt repayment.
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.
The solid fund balance 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. Mandated expenses increased by more than $3.6 million in 2019, primarily in child placement services, pre-school special education and safety net programs. Medicaid remains the County’s single largest mandated expense, totaling $41.3 million for 2019.
Dutchess County’s local economy has been strengthened by a multitude of economic development and tourism efforts with impressive results:
Continued investment in economic development, tourism, and the arts is critical to maintaining this positive economic momentum. Funding for the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business and Dutchess Tourism, Inc. will be through a new funding mechanism this year, with full funding for Think Dutchess Alliance for Business and partial funding for Dutchess Tourism, Inc. coming from the Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency (DCIDA), rather than from the County budget, as a result of a new sales tax agreement recently completed between DCIDA and IBM.
Breaking Through – Addiction and Mental Health Services
As previously announced HERE, Dutchess County Government continues the intensive focus on addressing the opioid epidemic with additional addiction and mental health initiatives. The 2019 budget will include new funding from a Department of Justice grant that will aid the Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) in building on its existing data-sharing program and will allow DBCH to create a Data-Driven Opioid Response Collaborative (DDORC), enhance its overdose surveillance and monitoring, and undertake comprehensive capacity-building initiatives aimed at integrating harm reduction principles into existing service delivery models and identify and address disparities in access to behavioral health services.
Additionally, the 2019 budget will make two critical positions permanent – an Opioid Educator and a Recovery Coach. The Opioid Educator assists with the coordination of the County’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program (distributing Narcan kits and providing training) and provides relevant trainings, education and outreach to all interested parties. The Recovery Coach helps people in maintaining their recovery by providing motivational coaching, mentoring, lifestyle consulting, recovery planning and resource guidance from someone who has lived through recovery themselves. To date, the Recovery Coach has served 167 individuals, helping nearly 80 percent of them reach the next stage of recovery.
The 2019 budget continues funding for the County’s 24/7 Stabilization Center, which has served over 2,500 residents dealing with crisis, addiction and mental health issues; expanded Medication Assisted Treatment, which has been effective for 85% of patients in discontinuing illegal opioid use; as well as other 24/7 diversion efforts, including HELPLINE and the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team.
Dutchess County has been recognized for the strides it is making to improve well-being outcomes for children in foster care, as detailed previously HERE. The 2019 budget builds on that success with two new initiatives focused on strengthening family stability: The Fostering Connections mentorship program will recruit and train volunteers to mentor youth in foster care to provide a healthy support system and caring consistent adult guidance. The Parent Coaching Model of supervised visitation for families in the child welfare system will increase the opportunities for children in foster care to visit with and maintain a connection to their biological parents, to achieve reunification, and/or for parents to participate in planning for a permanent home for their child.
County Executive Molinaro continues Dutchess County’s commitment to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” – promoting an inclusive and collaborative community for individuals of all abilities. In 2019, Dutchess County will continue with its wide range of programs and events including Autism Training for first responders; the “Think Ahead” program, a collaboration with Dutchess Community College which offers qualified students with developmental and intellectual disabilities job readiness and skills development; the “Think Jobs” program, which explores and develops employment opportunities for individuals of all abilities; community events, such as the successful movie days, annual picnic and baseball camp; and the annual “Collaboration of Services and Care Across the Life Span for People with Special Needs” conference, which unites providers and residents, fostering inclusion.
Other Budget Highlights:
Gregg Pulver, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “County Executive Molinaro has again put forward a budget proposal that prioritizes the necessary programs and services to serve our residents while again decreasing the tax burden for homeowners and businesses. It is impressive accomplishment to deliver five consecutive tax cuts while maintaining a strong array of services that are available here in Dutchess County. Over the next few weeks, we will review the proposal, talk to our constituents and ultimately deliver a final budget that best serves our residents.”
The 2019 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 tonight, October 29th 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 2019 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: