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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2017 Executive County 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 third consecutive year and provides another property tax rate reduction for homeowners and businesses, with no reduction to services or programs. Cost control and consolidation efforts continue to keep spending level, and work to strengthen the local economy is showing early promise with assessed valuation tax base growth and rising sales tax and hotel tax receipts.
“The 2017 Executive Budget advances initiatives to make Dutchess County stronger, safer, healthier and kinder, enhancing the quality of life we enjoy in this unique community, while continuing to ensure tax relief for our citizens,” County Executive Molinaro said. “This proposal once more lowers taxes and keeps spending flat in 2017, all while growing our local economy, attracting industry and jobs, expanding innovative programs that benefit our residents, and continuing to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about our neighbors of all abilities. I appreciate our collaboration with the County Legislature, and look forward to the dialogue with the public as we begin the budget adoption process.”
The property tax levy has been once again reduced, for the third consecutive year, down more than $170,000 from 2016. Property taxpayers will again see a decrease in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the second straight year, with the rate decreasing from $3.60 to $3.58 per $1,000 of true value assessments. County spending is held level at $467 million, only a 0.2% change over the 2016 modified budget.
While the 2017 budget allocates $8.75 million of general fund balance and $3.5 million from the Taxpayer Protection Fund established by County Executive Molinaro earlier this year, the spending plan keeps the total projected available general fund balance at 10% of revenue - the recommended range by financial institutions and 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 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. Earlier this year, the County passed a resolution calling for the Governor to sign the “Public Defense Mandate Relief Act” requiring the State to reimburse counties for state-mandated public defense costs. Additional resolutions are included with the County Executive’s budget submission calling for the repeal of the MTA payroll tax and a larger share of locally collected DMV revenue.
The commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2017 with $1 million budgeted in the newly named Municipal Innovation Grant program (previously known as the Municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Grant Program). Funding awards will be focused on three key areas – criminal justice, land use and innovation. Additionally, for the third consecutive year, there will be an 10% increase to $900,000 total for the Agency Partner Grant Program, directing dollars to community agencies to address specific needs in the community.
Angela Flesland, Dutchess County Legislator and Chairman of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee said, “County Executive Molinaro’s 2017 Executive County Budget delivers continued fiscal stability for Dutchess County and relief for taxpayers with another reduction in the property tax levy as well as the property tax rate. The Legislature has worked closely with the Administration over the last several years to keep spending in check and make wise investments in our services as well as our local economy. Our diligence has ensured a solid fiscal foundation and excellent credit rating. As Chair of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee, I will work closely with my colleagues to review the budget with the public throughout the month of November and engage in a productive dialogue among department heads, countywide elected officials and legislators.”
The budget plan continues a strong focus on strengthening the local economy with $1.7 million in total investment in economic development and tourism promotion. The 2017 budget includes $1.3 million for Dutchess Tourism and the Arts, a $225,000 increase over last year, including a 10% increase in arts funding. The County’s investment in arts and tourism has paid dividends with more than $530 million in annual visitor spending, resulting in increased sales tax and hotel tax receipts.
Public Transit services expand in the 2017 budget, with the addition of Sunday service on the most popular routes and a new route to and from Main & Market Street in Poughkeepsie connecting the Poughkeepsie train station, Boardman Road, the Dutchess County Airport and the Poughkeepsie Galleria via Hooker Avenue and Vassar Road. Additionally, Public Transit services will expand into the City of Poughkeepsie if the City proceeds with plans to cease bus service operations in 2017. The expansion will include evening service that is not currently available for City bus users. The enhancements come at no additional cost to taxpayers and will be paid through increased ridership revenue and federal transportation funding for public transportation improvements.
Investments at the Dutchess County Airport will continue to enhance operations and economic development potential, with grant-funded improvements to the terminal building, fire safety improvements and the new water line connection that is underway. The privatization of the airport’s Fixed Base Operations Services through Flight Level has led to a 77% reduction in the taxpayer subsidy since 2011. Additionally, with the approval of the County Legislature, the County will partner with Dutchess Community College for the creation of a new Aviation Maintenance and Education Center, creating hands-on learning and job opportunities. Finally, the airport will be renamed as the Hudson Valley Regional Airport to rebrand this resource and spotlight the regional impact it has.
The County continues to enhance its model of restorative justice with focus on prevention, intervention, diversion and transition. In 2017, in partnership with Project MORE, the successful RESTART program, a cognitive behavioral therapy program that already graduated nearly 300 from the jail, will be expanded through a $1.8 million grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service to enhance both RESTART graduates and other probationers’ employment preparation and connection to services necessary to help combat criminal behavior and substance abuse after they return to the community.
The 2017 budget also includes additions in both the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office to improve the court system and new tools for Probation and Community Corrections to improve community safety. Two new prosecutors will be focused on combatting human trafficking and child abuse, as well as accelerating the sentencing process, which in turn reduces the length of stay in the jail. In the Public Defender’s Office, a new public defender will be focusing on parole hearings, again reducing jail stay length and decreasing assigned counsel expenses. Probation and Community Corrections will be utilizing GPS monitoring for DWI offenders and sex offenders in a new pilot program.
Additionally, the County will petition the New York State Office of Court Administration to establish a Veterans Treatment Court in Beacon to assist veterans involved in the criminal justice system. By focusing on the unique challenges of veterans who have returned from service, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and substance abuse issues, the court project seeks to connect veterans with the programs and services that can get them the help they need, as well as with other veterans through the Peer-to-Peer Support program.
Nearly $2 million will be committed to continued domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response, including enhanced services for victims and new funding for non-medical model forensic examinations to support victims and enhance prosecution.
Other enhancements to law enforcement and emergency response coordination include the addition of two Deputy Sheriffs; efforts to centralize and exchange data among police agencies; grant-funded 911 center and communications upgrades; emergency responder training improvements including capital investments for the Fire Training Center and training room enhancements; continued Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for law enforcement to help officers recognize individuals in crisis and connect them with services, rather than the criminal justice system; and continued Citizen Preparedness Training for residents to be ready for emergencies.
To achieve the bold goal of making Dutchess County the healthiest county in New York State, the 2017 budget includes a significant focus on mental health services and prevention strategies to combat drug abuse and addiction through the continuation of successful programs such as Narcan training, which has already been provided to nearly 1,600 individuals. Public outreach and education will continue through forums, Second Step elementary and middle school programs, as well as Mental Health First Aid training which over 1,500 community partners and residents have already participated in to date.
Additionally, set to open in early 2017, is the County’s Stabilization Center, where individuals in crisis can get help and services rather than having to go to the Emergency Room or potentially into the criminal justice system. The County will commit $1 million to ensure that services and programs are available to those who need them in this 23-hour resource center, in a collaborative effort with eight local community partners.
Dutchess County was named a “Healthy 50” national grant award recipient for the innovative microgreen nutrition program, where the County’s Department of Behavioral & Community Health will partner with the Office for the Aging, Poughkeepsie City School District and Hudson Valley Community Center to enrich the diets of vulnerable populations – young children and senior citizens. The program has broader reach in helping the community with a component to train and employ ex-offenders to grow the microgreens and repurpose vacant properties into new indoor garden locations.
New youth programming will be launched to reverse the growing trend of youth requiring care and/or placement in detention. Targeted youth prevention programs through the Department of Community and Family Services will include: “Strengthening Families” is an evidence-based family skill training program proven to improve parenting skills, improve social competencies and school performance, and reduce problem behaviors including delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse. “Community Schooling” is a partnership with Poughkeepsie City School District to provide services directly in schools to address the needs of at-risk youth. “Better for Families” is a State reform program to enhance the Family Court system by getting families involved earlier and working with a team of partners for the safety, permanency and well-being of children. Additionally, $100,000 is earmarked to find a community partner to provide a positive alternative for youth at risk for juvenile justice involvement, through social activities and connections with adult mentors in a youth center setting.
In 2017, County Executive Molinaro will continue to expand the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative to continue efforts to make Dutchess County more inclusive for individuals of all abilities and encourage communities across the state to adopt resolutions to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY.” The newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs will include these communities as part of a network to advocate for state and federal policy changes. In 2017, there will be “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” roundtable for local service providers to come together to integrate and better coordinate services for those with special needs. Funding has been included for vocational opportunities for those with special needs to participate in a document scanning and digitalization initiative in the County Clerk’s Office and Department of Human Resources for more than 500,000 pages of records, which will reduce the need for physical records storage. New training efforts will be conducted for County staff, starting with the Department of Community and Family Services, to address disability etiquette. Other training will be focused on families with special needs, including the Special Needs Parenting Program, providing education for parents with mental and/or developmental disabilities as well as child care center training to make day care options more accessible for special needs children. Businesses and tourism destinations will be able to take advantage of the County’s continued partnership with Anderson Center for Autism to learn how they can be more welcoming and improve accessibility for customers and potential employees through the Autism Supportive Environment training program.
Dutchess County Clerk Brad Kendall said, “The County Clerk’s Office is pleased to embrace the County’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative with the new vocational program, providing those with disabilities job opportunities scanning and archiving hundreds of thousands of documents and providing meaningful employment training to a non-traditional workforce while addressing a longstanding need for digitization of permanent records. This will allow us to maximize efficiency with record storage and provide better services for all residents with easier access to documents.”
County Executive Molinaro has committed $50,000 for “Project Safe Return”, a program to provide personal tracking and communication devices for families who have loved ones who may wander, including special needs individuals with Autism or senior citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These devices will help individuals connect with help and/or be located when lost, helping them to return home safely. Project Safe Return may also be a potential resource for domestic violence victims.
Dale Borchert, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “The Legislature has worked alongside County Executive Molinaro to make steady progress in Dutchess County’s march back toward financial stability, enacting conservative spending plans that keep our neighbors throughout the county in mind. County Executive Molinaro’s proposed 2017 budget promotes similar progress, maintaining and expanding the vital services and programs our residents need while still cutting the tax levy and tax rate – all while dealing with the constraints placed on us by Albany. I applaud County Executive Molinaro and the Budget Office for their diligent work to craft a thoughtful document. My colleagues and I look forward to the opportunity to review and discuss the proposal before us, concluding with a pact that will best serve the people of Dutchess County.”
The 2017 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 Tuesday, November 1st 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 2017 county budget, learn about key components, and ask questions and share feedback. There will be also be several town hall forums to discuss the budget over the next month:
2017 Budget Highlights include: