Poughkeepsie, NY … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today released his 2023 Executive Budget, with continued focus on tax relief for residents and businesses while improving the services on which county residents depend. The 2023 budget proposal features a 12% property tax rate decrease for 2023 and the lowest property tax levy in 14 years. As proposed, since 2015, the County property tax rate has been cut 32% and the property tax levy reduced by more than $8.1 million with the Molinaro administration’s unwavering commitment to conservative fiscal management.
“At a time when costs are going up all around us, Dutchess County Government remains committed to cutting costs for county residents and businesses, with our eighth consecutive property tax rate decrease and our ninth straight county levy decrease,” said County Executive Molinaro. “I have always been committed to returning tax dollars to taxpayers whenever possible and we do this once again with this 2023 budget proposal while expanding our commitment to provide compassionate care for our most vulnerable residents – our older adults, veterans, those of all abilities and those living with mental health and substance use issues – and continue to plan a brighter future for our young people.”
The 2023 property tax levy, the amount the County collects in property taxes, proposed in the Executive Budget is $99.45 million, a reduction of nearly $369,000 from the 2022 levy and is the ninth straight county levy decrease. The tax rate, which is calculated by dividing the property tax levy by full value assessments, will decrease from $2.85 to $2.50 per $1,000 of true value assessments as a result the tax levy reduction, as well as the continued growth in true value assessments (tax base). The County’s tax base has grown to nearly $40 billion thanks to continued focus on economic development and job growth, evidenced by the County’s commercial vacancy rate in Dutchess County remaining the lowest in the region as Dutchess attracts new investment from companies from Amazon and Pepsi Frito Lay among others.
Clothing and footwear items less than $110 per item will continue to be sales tax free in the 2023 budget, providing savings for families. Sales tax revenue, which represents 45% of total County revenue, is forecasted at $250.5 million for 2023, a 1% increase over 2022 projected sales tax receipts. The conservative sales tax growth projections are based on inflation rates forecasted between 1.6% and 3.5% in 2023 and minimum consumer spending growth. $43 million in sales revenue is budgeted for distribution to local municipalities based on the sales tax agreement announced earlier this year.
Total 2023 appropriations equal $560,369,932 compared to 2022 modified budget (actual spending) of $601 million. In 2022, county spending was notably higher as the County seized the opportunity to pay down debt and avoid future indebtedness by utilizing fund balance. Paying off debt created $1.6 million in interest savings and by paying for several capital projects up front instead of bonding for them, the County avoided approximately $10 million in future interest payments based on expected rates.
Building and maintaining a healthy fund balance has been an ongoing priority for the Molinaro administration. The 2023 budget plan allocates $3.5 million of unassigned general fund balance, $1.5 million is allocated from the D & E fund and $2 million allocated from the ET Public Transit fund. $3 million is allocated from a restricted reserve fund for debt repayment, which will offset debt service. The fund balance appropriation in 2022 as well as the amount appropriated in the 2023 budget keeps the total projected available general fund balance in line with the County’s fund balance goal of maintaining one to two months of general fund operating expenditures in unrestricted general fund balance to ensure continued financial stability. Maintaining a strong fund balance is critical for being able to address economic downturns or unexpected events.
The 2023 Executive Budget focuses on several key areas:
Creating A Safer Community
The 2023 Executive Budget prioritizes public safety with commitment to ongoing police reform and modernization as well as mental health and opioid use response.
The budget proposal includes two new Deputy Sheriffs serving as additional School Resource Officers, expansion of the Drug Task Force with new participation from the Town of Fishkill, and a full year of the new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, an evidence-based program of street outreach in partnership with People USA where case managers work “without walls” to connect with individuals who have unmet behavioral health needs.
Funding for body worn cameras is also included in the 2023 budget proposal as a continuation of Police Reform and Modernization initiatives. The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office as well as nine other municipal law enforcement agencies and the New York State Police, will be equipped with body worn cameras that are on the same interoperable system. With this investment, all police agencies in Dutchess County will now have a body worn camera program. Body worn cameras, along with other best practices, are important tools for increasing public trust and protecting officers.
Dutchess County Acting Sheriff Kirk Imperati said, “In Dutchess County, we are never satisfied with the status quo and we are always working collaboratively to improve and enhance how we protect and serve our community. We are doing groundbreaking work here in Dutchess and it is a team effort among law enforcement, county departments, community agencies and many others. I appreciate County Executive Molinaro’s ongoing support of our law enforcement officers and our collaborative efforts to ensure public safety and get help for those in need.”
The 2023 Executive Budget also supports local fire and police agencies with $500,000 funding for the Municipal Investment Grant Program (MIG) to award grants for building agency capacity and capability. Additionally, the budget proposal includes the purchase of a fire simulator vehicle to provide a safe training tool for vehicle fires and auto accidents for use by agencies across Dutchess County.
The multi-year Public-Safety Radio Network System project continues with funding in the County’s Capital Plan to establish a common radio network to provide interoperability and countywide coverage for all public safety radio users. The initial $10 million funding was approved by the Dutchess County Legislature in February 2022, and the Capital Plan includes a $20 million commitment over the next five years. That commitment, however, is expected to be offset by grants totaling up to almost $7 million.
Dutchess County’s HELPLINE became the regional hub for the national 9-8-8 mental health and suicide prevention hotline which launched in July. The County’s professional team of mental health crisis counselors have answered hundreds of calls per month and actively saved at least 10 lives, getting help to individuals while on the phone with them. The 2023 budget includes two new positions for the HELPLINE team as well as upgrades for the phone system to be consistent with existing 9-1-1 technology.
Dutchess County remains a statewide leader in mental health initiatives and response to the opioid epidemic. As announced last week, the Dutchess County Stabilization Center is the model for the New York State’s new effort to open crisis stabilization centers across the state. In 2023, service provision at the Stabilization Center will be further enhanced with a new Registered Nurse position and net to county costs will be lower by $950,000 as the County continues its partnership with People USA for the operation of the center. The Stabilization Center is poised to be self-sufficient in the next five years.
The County is also a state leader in its use of Medication of Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD). The Dutchess County Jail provides a full range of MOUD services including Sublocade, a long-lasting version of suboxone which can be given in monthly versus daily dosing and has proven to be fourteen times more effective in creating long-term success for patients. Sublocade administration began as a pilot program in 2022 and has been funded for the full year in the 2023 budget.
Dutchess County will utilize Opioid Settlement funds to support St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center. $1.5 million in capital funds were committed in 2022 for St. Joe’s to open a 25-bed long term treatment center at the former Catharine Street Center in 2023 and an additional $330,000 in the 2023 budget to guarantee at least 75% of beds serve Dutchess County residents. A new outpatient clinic to be opened at the site in 2023 will work in conjunction with the County’s new Emergency Housing Facility to ensure guests at the facility get the help they need.
The County continues its commitment to addressing housing and homelessness issues. Design of the County’s new Emergency Housing Facility, to be located at 26 Oakley Street in the City of Poughkeepsie, is underway. The facility is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2023. The 2023 budget proposal includes an additional $500,000 for new programming in support of the Emergency Housing Facility. Additionally, there is $100,000 in funding for the United Way’s 211 Information Line, providing eviction prevention coordination. The County’s new Housing Trust Fund, with over $12 million previously allocated, will be utilized to create and/or preserve new affordable housing stock in follow up to the Housing Needs Assessment that was released earlier this year.
Serving Our Families – Youth, Veterans and Seniors
Dutchess County continues its unwavering commitment to its older adults, veterans and young people, and the 2023 Executive Budget bolsters that pledge with enhanced services and new programs to serve each group.
County Executive Molinaro’s budget includes funding for several new programs through the Office for the Aging (OFA) to protect older adults throughout Dutchess County, including a partnership with local financial institutions to raise awareness of elder financial exploitation, which continues to rise nationwide. A new “Friendly Calls” service will alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation some seniors feel, connecting them with volunteers who will call them weekly, speaking with the older adults for 20-30 minutes and providing all-important social interaction. A new Hoarding Task Force will be developed to tackle the mounting issue of amassing clutter and the physical and mental impact such behavior has a on a senior; and the OFA will offer an evidence- and web-based caregiver education and support platform, at no cost, to any unpaid caregiver in the County to help families build skills to manage care at home for loved ones of any age.
The County’s Division of Veterans’ Services continues to ensure Dutchess County’s heroes receive the benefits, services, and programs they’ve earned through their service to their country; and the 2023 Executive Budget again supports events for County veterans – including, among others, appreciation gatherings and movie days, as well as annual commemorations on Memorial Day and Veterans Day – and funding for ongoing programs. The budget appropriates $350,000 for a full year of Mental Health of America of Dutchess County’s (MHA) Housing, Employment, Re-integration, and Outreach (H.E.R.O.) program, which provide services to homeless veterans or veterans in danger of becoming homeless by finding permanent housing. An additional $230,000 will fund MHA’s Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans’ Peer Services Project, Vet2Vet, which offers support groups, social activities, assistance in finding housing and/or employment for homeless veterans and advocacy for benefits. The Tommy Zurhellen Fund, which increases veterans’ access to opportunity and self-sustainability, receives an additional $20,000 in the 2023 Executive Budget; and $150,000 will be directed to fund another year of the popular Veterans Microgrants Program.
Dutchess County continues to invest in its future generations, and the 2023 Executive Budget expands programming and opportunities for young people, including funding for the County’s innovative “Path to Promise” (P2P) initiative and the forthcoming Youth Opportunity Union (YOU), a countywide facility to be built in the City of Poughkeepsie. In addition to $240,000 in scholarships to provide a summer camp experience for hundreds of county children at Camp Nooteeming. The Count is also providing $76,000 for P2P mini-grants for local youth organizations and $20,000 for community engagement as part of the YOU project. Already successful for students in the Poughkeepsie City School District, the Youth & Police Initiative (YPI) will expand to other interested school districts in the coming year, and the Executive Budget continues support for the Department of Community and Family Services’ successful prevention services – including the Youth Advocate Program, kinship placement, Families First court initiative and City Connects – which, in combination with a host of other initiatives, have saved the County more than $11 million in child institution and placement costs since 2018.
The 2023 Executive Budget expands the scope of the County’s successful ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative of inclusiveness for residents and visitors of all abilities with $160,000 in funding for several short-term objectives of the forthcoming All Abilities Action Plan, which County Executive Molinaro will release in its entirety in early 2023.
This budget invests $50,000 to support expansion of Taconic Resources for Independence’s (TRI) Special Education Advocates program, including parent workshops to equip families with the tools needed to advocate for their loved ones in the education system. This funding will more than double the staffing resources devoted to TRI’s advocacy program, while also creating the opportunity to renew educational workshops for parents and families.
Through a $50,000 investment in the 2023 budget, the County will support municipal recreation programs, such as local Challenger athletics leagues and life-changing all abilities groups, such as the Red Hook Public Library’s All Abilities Group.
The 2023 budget also invests $40,000 to create a ThinkDIFFERENTLY community building certification program with documented best practices for inclusion and accessibility – communities and businesses that adopt these principles will earn this distinction – and to host trainings related to these standards.
With a $20,000 investment in the 2023 budget, the County will contract with the Anderson Center for Autism to host supportive workplace trainings to teach employers about the many benefits of hiring those with disabilities, break down barriers and misconceptions, while increasing awareness about simple accommodations and supports including job coaches – all a continuation of the County’s efforts to educate businesses and employers, building on Think Jobs framework.
Continued ThinkDIFFERENTLY events, including the popular movie days and Fitness and Field day, as well trainings like Autism Supportive Environment Training, a partnership with the Anderson Center for Autism, and autism awareness training for first responders are again funded in the 2023 Executive Budget.
Other Budget Highlights:
Gregg Pulver, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “Having worked closely with County Executive Molinaro for years, I know his dedication to Dutchess County residents, and this Executive Budget carries on his record of putting taxpayers first, again delivering tax relief. Together, we have been committed to prudent economic planning and conservative financing and this has served us well to be strongly positioned Dutchess County to face the historic inflation we are currently seeing. As we begin our scrutiny of this budget proposal, our goal continues to be serving the best interests of the residents we serve.”
The 2023 Executive Budget documents are available online for review at dutchessny.gov/2023budget. Residents are invited participate in a live, countywide telephone town hall forum, hosted by County Executive Marc Molinaro tomorrow evening, Wednesday, November 2nd beginning at 6:30 p.m.; residents can call (845) 765-7121 to listen to the discussion and ask questions about the budget.
Additionally, the County Executive will hold two in-person town hall forums about the 2023 Executive Budget proposal: