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Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2016 Tentative County Budget this afternoon to county officials and community leaders at Marist College’s Fusco Recital Hall in Poughkeepsie. For the second consecutive year, County Executive Molinaro’s budget cuts the property tax levy with no reduction to services or programs. The County Executive’s budget plan reduces the county property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) by more than $1 million and reduces the property tax rate for the first time in eight years by 1.6%. Reduced spending and continued commitment to shared services and consolidation ensure eligible homeowners will receive a second property tax rebate check from New York State in 2016.
“Our commitment to smaller, smarter and more effective government is delivering proven results for our taxpayers with lower taxes and enhanced services,” said County Executive Molinaro. “While providing tax relief, we are enhancing the services we provide, in the areas of mental health, child abuse, domestic violence and special needs just to name a few. Targeted investments in economic development will continue growing our local economy and provide greater opportunities for our residents. We are able to accomplish all this thanks to our dedicated County workforce and our partnership with the Dutchess County Legislature and local municipalities. Together we are all working to reduce the total cost of government for our residents and continue to make Dutchess County the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
The property tax levy has been reduced by over one million dollars, the largest reduction to the county’s property tax levy in sixteen years. For the first time in eight years, the property tax rate is also being reduced, from $3.68 to $3.62 per $1,000 of true value assessments. Remaining under the property tax cap and the recently approved Government Efficiency Plan, which outlines over $80 million in countywide shared service savings over three years, ensures STAR eligible county property taxpayers will again receive a rebate check next fall through the New York State Property Tax Freeze Credit program. The commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2016 with $1 million budgeted for the Municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Grant Program.
The budget plan keeps the total projected available general fund balance at nearly 7% of budget - well within the recommended range of 5-10%. Dutchess County’s improved fund balance has been a significant factor in Dutchess County’s credit rating upgrade to AA+ by Standard & Poor’s. The AA+ rating places Dutchess in the top tier of financially well managed county governments, with only one county statewide with a higher S&P bond rating.
Dale Borchert, Dutchess County Legislator and Chairman of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee said, “The 2016 Tentative County Budget delivers solid financial savings for Dutchess County and its taxpayers by reducing the property tax levy by over $1 million, providing the largest tax levy reduction in 16 years, and paving the way for property tax rebate checks to homeowners. All of these achievements contribute to the County’s excellent credit rating and will continue to improve our overall economic health. I commend County Executive Molinaro for delivering a strong, conservative and well conceived budget. Along with my colleagues on the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee, I look forward to reviewing the budget thoroughly over the next few weeks.”
The budget plan continues a strong focus on economic development with $250,000 for continued investment in the targeted business attraction effort to attract businesses, new jobs,and investment in vacant commercial space. Dutchess County has seen a tremendous return on its investment for tourism promotion with visitor spending increasing by $28 million to $509 million in 2014. The 2016 budget plan provides an additional $100,000 in tourism funding to continue this strong momentum.
Dutchess County Legislature Majority Leader Angela Flesland said, “County Executive Molinaro has once again presented a budget that will directly benefit Dutchess County homeowners by cutting property taxes and guaranteeing tax rebate checks for the second consecutive year. Additionally, Dutchess County’s investment in tourism is paying off in a big way—visitor spending in Dutchess has risen almost 6% from last year, generating over $35 million in local tax dollars and providing more than 8,000 tourism industry jobs. I appreciate the County Executive’s focus on reducing the costs of County Government through departmental consolidations and efficiency improvements, and I look forward to reviewing the 2016 Budget with the Legislature over the next several weeks.”
Dutchess County will continue to invest in critical infrastructure with a $10.8 million for road and bridge repair in 2016. Additionally, the budget plan includes funding for an Agricultural Navigator position, as recommended in the recently adopted Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, to advance agricultural economic development in this growing industry segment that contributes approximately $50 million in sales to Dutchess County’s economy.
Town of North East Supervisor John Merwin said, “County Executive Molinaro’s 2016 Tentative County Budget manages to reduce costs to taxpayers while also addressing the needs of northern Dutchess communities, particularly with regards to the agricultural industry. I am pleased to see the County Executive has proposed to fund an Agricultural Navigator which will help to further promote agricultural economic development in our area. We look forward to working with this new advocate for agriculture in Dutchess County.”
The 2016 Executive Budget completes the merger of the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene into a single integrated department - the Department of Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) – under one commissioner. The merged department will provide a more holistic health and behavioral health care system focused on prevention, intervention and diversion. Taxpayers will further benefit with a net county cost reduction of over $400,000 and enhanced service offerings for the public. Initiatives include the creation of the new Crisis Stabilization Center to help stabilize individuals in crisis due to mental health or substance abuse issues diverting them from incarceration.
The budget plan also includes $1.5 million in funding to increase supportive services provided to at risk families to help prevent child abuse and neglect and reduce the need for foster care placement or return children home from foster care more rapidly.
For the second consecutive year, the 2016 Tentative Budget plan also includes a modest increase in funding for the Agency Partner Grant Program, which directs dollars to community agencies to address specific needs in the community. The County will also increase funding for the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) to fund the Victim’s Advocate as well as the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in collaboration with Family Services, strengthening Dutchess County’s efforts to prevent domestic violence as well as sexual assault on local college campuses and in the community.
Dutchess County Legislature Minority Leader Barbara Jeter-Jackson said, “The County Executive’s 2016 Tentative County Budget appears to find a way to reduce costs without reducing needed services. I am pleased to see that his budget includes an increased focus on family supportive services, the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), and expanded services for our special needs and special populations communities. I look forward to reviewing the budget which has the potential to deliver additional savings for our taxpayers and enhanced services for Dutchess County residents, and I will advocate to see efforts made to include the Human Rights Commission.”
In 2016, County Executive Molinaro will expand the “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative to continue efforts to make the community more inclusive for individuals of all abilities. The budget plan includes the creation of a Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs to serve as an advocate for families to get the services they need. Dutchess County’s partnership with Anderson Center for Autism to expand the Autism Supportive Environment training also continues with nearly double the current year funding in the 2016 Executive Budget. Additionally, events for special needs families will be expanded in 2016 and there will be a focus on how Dutchess County’s parks can be more welcoming for those with disabilities, sensory issues and/or special needs through the development of a new Parks Master Plan.
Executive Director of the Anderson Center for Autism Neil Pollack said, “Anderson Center for Autism is grateful to County Executive Marc Molinaro for his steadfast commitment to advance the ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ initiative in our community, as outlined in his 2016 Tentative County Budget. We look forward to our continued partnership with Dutchess County to help increase awareness of the needs of those living with autism and their families through our Autism Supportive Environment training.”
The 2016 Tentative 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 this evening from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. 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 2016 county budget, learn about key components, and be able to ask questions and share feedback.
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2016 Budget Highlights include: