Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro presented his 2022 State of the County Address Wednesday evening at the Stissing Center in Pine Plains, as residents, business and nonprofit leaders, as well as local and state officials, attended to hear the County Executive’s vision for the coming year.
“The state of Dutchess County remains strong, as our County has overcome unforeseen obstacles and come through the other side more united and robust than ever,” County Executive Molinaro told the guests in attendance. “Today we are poised for more growth and prosperity because of our decade-long commitment to smart, fiscally conservative and compassionate government. To continue along this path, we must redouble our efforts to keep Dutchess County safe and affordable, creating opportunities and optimism for every County resident.”
During his address, the County Executive highlighted priorities for Dutchess County in 2022:
Since taking office in January 2012, County Executive Molinaro has employed sound, conservative fiscal leadership to not only close the $40 million budget gap Dutchess County Government faced when he began his tenure, but bring the County’s fund balance to $60 million entering 2022.
In light of recent inflation, the highest the nation and county have experienced in four decades, Dutchess County remains committed to fiscal responsibility that cuts costs and delivers relief, whenever possible. County Executive Molinaro has provided local residents unprecedented tax relief in 2022, including the eighth straight property tax reduction, cutting the tax levy by $5.5 million – the largest tax cut in County history – and the seventh consecutive property tax rate decrease for homeowners and businesses, cutting the rate by 10 percent, all without reducing services to residents.
This year, the County Executive led the way with additional tax relief for residents and businesses, including:
Dutchess County spends 28 percent less per capita than the statewide county average; has a tax levy that is 27 percent lower per capita than the statewide county average; and has outstanding debt that is 50 percent lower per capita than the statewide county average. Additionally, Standard & Poor’s has again reaffirmed Dutchess County’s AA+ bond rating, the highest among any county in New York.
During these unprecedented times, County Executive Molinaro has supported the safety of Dutchess County residents, including urging State leaders to change the bail system and discovery rules, which have led to an increase in crime.
To further safeguard County residents, County Executive Molinaro has renewed his commitment to protect by dedicating resources and funding to programs and initiatives that provide for public safety, including:
- Partnering with Westchester Medical Center Health Network to develop a state-of-the-art behavioral health Center for Excellence bringing 60 mental health professionals and in-patient beds to create one of the largest behavioral health systems in New York State;
- Investing opioid settlement funds to develop the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a community-based diversion approach which focuses on a harm-reduction/housing-first framework which allows officers to re-direct low-level offenders engaged in drug or other risky activity to community-based services, instead of jail and prosecution;
- Expanding the successful Intensive Treatment Alternatives Program (ITAP), an alternative to incarceration for those in the grip of substance use disorder;
- Supporting the overall health of the community with a mobile vehicle, planned for deployment later this year, which will bring operations to every region of the County, offering immunizations, case work, sexually transmitted disease testing and education, veterans counseling, group sessions, referrals to community providers and more;
- Investing $10 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for the design and development of a new, consolidated two-way radio system for first responders, which will replace outdated and uncoordinated two-way radio systems utilized by various emergency services throughout the County, providing all agency interoperability and a reduction in costs for most emergency services;
- Allocating $4 million for this year’s MIG program, which prioritizes fire and rescue agencies, including municipal, non-profit and established fire districts, to enhance their capacity and ability to respond to emergencies;
- Investing more than $2 million to purchase three vehicles critical to the Department of Emergency Response’s mission of preparing and responding to emergencies in the community, including a new state-of-the-art Mobile Communication Command Post vehicle;
- Increasing the diversity of the applicant pool for local law-enforcement agencies, which resulted in a record number of applicants for a recent police officer examination, as well as diversity in the latest graduating class from the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Academy; and
- Building on the successful Re-Entry Stabilization Transition and Reintegration Track (RESTART) program at the Dutchess County Jail to establish the Re-Entry Community Housing and Resource Guided Empowerment (RECHARGE) program, which provides individuals housed in the jail who are at high risk for re-offending with safe and secure housing, case management and employment assistance.
Earlier this month, the County released its 2022 Housing Needs Assessment (HNA), an extensive report detailing countywide demographic and housing data, an evaluation of housing trends over recent years and projections for affordable housing needs over the next 20 years. To address the housing gaps identified in the HNA and help eliminate them, Dutchess County is dedicating $20 million in ARP funds to invest in several interventions, including, among others:
- The creation of a housing trust fund, with a recommended initial funding of at least $2 million per year, which will be a valuable source of flexible funding to aid the implementation of a variety of affordable housing efforts;
- Offset the costs of new or upgraded infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to ensure the viability of mixed-income housing developments; and
- Identifying sites that would be suitable locations for multi-family developments and ensure those locations are properly zoned for such development; such sites include those with access to household services, alternative forms of transportation and other necessary infrastructure, such as water and sewer.
County Executive Molinaro also elaborated on the County’s plan to use ARP funds to build a countywide emergency housing facility, which will provide both temporary housing and wrap-around services for those experiencing homelessness all under one roof, transforming the County’s emergency housing response system. Based on a nationally acclaimed model in Bergen County, N.J., Dutchess County’s facility will be based on a core philosophy of moving individuals to permanent housing by offering evidence-based programs and intensive case-management services – including, among others, addiction and substance use counseling, mental health and domestic violence counseling, Behavioral Evaluation & Assessment Team (BEAT) and community policing, financial and job assistance and faith-based connections – to help them secure and maintain stable accommodations. The County Legislature will vote on this solution approach at its May board meeting.
Among other efforts to create opportunities for local residents, Dutchess County has undertaken:
- Dedicating $25 million, including $10 million in ARP funds, to the construction and development of a countywide Youth Opportunity Union, the YOU, located in the City of Poughkeepsie;
- Investing $4.1 million in the successful Learn, Play, Create: Supporting Our Kids grant program, which provides one-time grants awards to local non-profit organizations that serve children and families and were negatively impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including $3 million which funded 147 projects in 2021;
- Engaging in accurately mapping internet access throughout Dutchess County and completing a strategic plan for high-speed internet access across the County;
- Investing $1.2 million in ARP funding to establish and equip the Mechatronics Lab at DCC Fishkill, which will provide local students a comprehensive classroom, laboratory, and on-the-job learning program to train them to install, alter, troubleshoot, repair, and maintain electronic, mechanical, computer, control systems and components;
- Continuation of the successful Think Ahead college program, which will graduate its fourth cohort of Dutchess Community College (DCC) students with intellectual and developmental disabilities at DCC’s graduation in May; and
- Investing $180,000 to fund various summer youth programming, including summer youth employment, through the County’s Agency Partner Grant program.
The video of County Executive Molinaro’s 2022 State of the County Address is available on Dutchess County’s website. The County Executive invites residents to participate in conversations about the 2022 State of the County at town hall forums to be held over the next several weeks, including:
- Office for the Aging Tri-Town Senior Friendship Center, First Presbyterian Church of Pleasant Valley, 1576 Main Street, Pleasant Valley on Tuesday, May 3rd at 12:30 p.m.
- Red Hook Community Center, 59 Fisk Street on Tuesday, May 10th at 5:30 p.m.
- American Legion Post 427, 7 Spring Street, Wappingers Falls on Tuesday, May 17th at 5:30 p.m.