For More Information Contact:
Colleen Pillus, Communications Director 845-486-2000
Colleen Pillus, Communications Director
Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro released his 2021 Executive Budget proposal online today at www.dutchessny.gov/2021Budget with a video message and a new interactive Budget-in-Brief webpage in light of ongoing COVID-19 precautions. Despite continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including uncertain revenues, the County Executive’s $502 million budget proposal reduces county spending by more than $18 million or 3.6%, with no layoffs and no increase to property taxes. The budget maintains County services and programs, with new initiatives addressing homelessness and housing, youth services, and police reform, as well as continued funding for senior services, mental health, infrastructure improvements, County parks and other critical services.
“We couldn’t have entered this crisis any stronger financially. However, the fiscal challenges have never been greater...significant loss in revenue, no federal aid in sight, cuts from Albany ... but we are not shrinking from our responsibilities to build a government that is smaller, smarter and more efficient. We are all working hard to be creative, innovative to meet the needs and demands of county residents and we are doing all this without passing the burden to taxpayers and holding the line on spending,” said County Executive Molinaro. “The 2021 Budget is a plan is a commitment to confronting challenges we face and working to solve those problems… together.”
The proposed budget plan reduces the county property tax levy, albeit modestly, for the seventh consecutive year and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the sixth straight year. The 2021 property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) proposed in the Executive Budget is $105,331,099, slightly less than the 2020 levy. The tax rate, which is calculated by dividing the property tax levy by full value assessments, will drop by 2.5% from $3.26 to $3.18 per $1,000 of true value assessments as a result of holding the line on the tax levy, as well as the continued growth in true value assessments (tax base). The County’s tax base has increased over the last six years to $33.2 billion in 2021 with continued focus on economic development and job growth.
Total 2021 appropriations equal $501,832,097, down $18.6 million, or 3.6%, from 2020 modified budget. The largest change in spending comes from personnel, as salaries and benefits account for nearly 40% of total expenses. Following the County’s voluntary retirement/separation incentive program offered this summer, more than 150 employees were approved for the incentive and will separate from County employment by the end of 2020. Positions will be eliminated, held vacant or offset with other position savings in the 2021 budget, for total 2021 savings of nearly $11 million. Positions were carefully evaluated and County department heads worked diligently to evaluate each position and make necessary adjustments; restructuring and realigning staffing to ensure services and programs continue with minimal impact. Certain key positions were not approved for the incentive, including positions related to opioid and substance use prevention. There were also a few new positions added to the budget, primarily funded with state or federal grants, including temporary positions in the Department of Behavioral & Community Health for COVD-19 case investigation and contact tracing coordination. The net result is a total of 32.5 positions permanently eliminated and 106 positions temporarily eliminated (held vacant) in 2021.
Over the past nine years, ensuring the County established and maintained a healthy fund balance to face unexpected economic changes has been a priority for County Executive Molinaro’s administration. That healthy fund balance, combined with cost-saving measures, has enabled the County to withstand sales tax revenue loss and state funding delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 budget plan allocates $9.9 million of unassigned general fund balance, less than appropriated in the last five years. Just over $1 million is allocated from other fund balances, including the D, E and S funds and $1.5 million is allocated from a restricted reserve fund for debt repayment, which will offset debt service. This fund balance appropriation 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.
Among the programs and initiatives highlighted in the 2021 Executive Budget:
Homelessness & Housing
To address homelessness and housing needs in the community, the 2021 budget includes multiple initiatives, detailed previously, including new eviction prevention resources, rental support programming, safe and central homeless services including a one stop contact center in coordination with community partners. Additionally, a new Deputy Commissioner for Housing will coordinate these initiatives, as well as focus on developing greater supply of affordable housing including coordinating a housing needs assessment. Watch the video.
Youth Services/Path to Promise
The 2021 Executive Budget continues critical investment in children and families, with a 40% increase in Path to Promise investment, as announced previously. Initiatives include a new Youth Advocated Program, pre-school readiness support for parents, training for high-quality day care providers through the Day One initiative and commitment to future development of a Youth Opportunity Center in the City of Poughkeepsie. Watch the Video.
Police Reform & Mental Health
In 2021, the collaboration among the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, local police agencies and the local community continues as part of Dutchess County’s Police Reform Initiative. As previously announced, the 2021 Executive Budget includes funding for procedural justice, implicit bias, and crisis intervention training. Other initiatives include mandatory body cameras for Dutchess County Sheriff Deputies and changes to the police exam qualifications to develop a more diverse candidate pool for police agency hiring. Additionally, the budget continues investment in on-demand community mental health services, medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders and our 24/7 mental health HELPLINE. Watch the Video.
Other Budget Highlights:
The 2021 Executive Budget documents are available online at dutchessny.gov/2021budget. Residents are encouraged to review the budget documents, particularly the interactive Budget in Brief webpage. The webpage guides citizens through key areas of the County budget and features charts and graphics providing various data such as tax levy history, assessed value and more that users can hover over or click through to see data points, definitions and other key information points.
Residents are also encouraged to participate in a special live countywide telephone town hall forum October 28th from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. The telephone town hall call-in number is (845) 765-7121. The conversation will also be broadcast on the County's Facebook page. Residents can learn about key components of the 2021 budget, ask questions, and share feedback. There will be additional virtual town hall forums about the 2021 budget in November: