For More Information Contact:
Michael A. Ellison (845) 486-2103
On Monday the County Executive sent his 2011 proposed budget to the Dutchess County Legislature, the policy-making branch of government, for their review and amendments, according to Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee Chairman Dale Borchert. Upon initial review there are many questions by legislative leadership as well as rank-and-file legislators regarding the County Executive’s “bold action and restructuring” of County government.
“The national and state economy, even after five years, remains in a recession with astronomical unemployment and little to no relief from high taxes and far too many unfunded mandates. The fiscal picture is indeed bleak and the challenges confronting Dutchess County are many,” said Borchert. “As we move forward and review the recommendations from the County Executive we must ask ourselves what are the essential services County government should be offering and can afford to provide?”
“The budget is a chance for county government to set its course, choose its priorities, and allocate the funds to achieve its desired mission. Due to current economic conditions sacrifices will have to be made, such as choosing between public safety over recreation or new construction projects. These tough decisions must ultimately be made so that the line is held on taxes and efficient services that are essential to the goals of government continue to be provided,” said Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Rob Rolison.
That being said several legislators question whether or not the County Executive’s budget is even structurally balanced since it fails to fully fund essential, mandatory functions such as waste disposal and public safety. Borchert points to several “bold” actions in the Executive budget that should and will be called into question:
• The creation of a new Public Defender Family Court Unit to handle approximately 60 percent of all County Family Court proceedings is commendable but its legality, cost savings estimates, and feasibility must be substantiated.
• Consolidation of Youth, Aging, and Veteran services into one department under a new Commissioner, as with other departmental consolidation measures, should be scrutinized to ensure mandated services will be provided at a cost-savings to our taxpayers.
• The closure and elimination of the County Clerk/DMV offices in the City of Beacon and the Town of Pawling will have to be justified since those locations do produce County revenue some or most of which might be from out of County residents.
• Sixty-three employees may lose their jobs despite efforts by this County Legislature to implement the state early retirement incentive in August. Are there alternatives to laying off these employees?
• Despite the County Executive’s feelings toward the Sheriff’s Office, public safety is paramount to the core mission of County Government. When a person calls 911, they expect assistance and, in fact, their life may depend on it. Funding the Sheriff’s road patrols is a must, but the question will be what, if any, reductions can be made?
• Housing out of inmates, a policy endorsed by the County Executive over the years, must come to an end. It is an expensive practice of paying for our inmates in other county jails that make them richer and us poorer. Careful yet real consideration of an expanded jail facility for our inmates and criminal justice needs must be addressed during this budget process.
• The County has an obligation to pay for the Net Service Fee (NSF) to make the Dutchess County Resource Recovery Agency (RRA) solvent. An independent review of the RRA is in progress and their analysis will determine what should be done with waste disposal in Dutchess County in the years to come with the possibility of privatization. When the County Executive proposed an $8 million annual user fee to fund the NSF and a solid waste department in 2010 it was rejected by the Legislature since the current method of paying the NSF out of the tax levy is cheaper at no more than $6 million per year. Since the County Executive failed to fund the NSF obligation, the Legislature will have to restore it and be forced to take from someplace else or increase taxes.
“Over the coming days, this Legislature will work hard to address these concerns and questions as well as all the new ones that develop. It is our hope that we can work with the County Executive and his finance staff to get the information we need to create a 2011 County fiscal blueprint that will guide us through yet another year of economic hardship,” concluded Borchert.
The County Legislature will host a public hearing today, November 3, at 7 PM in the Dutchess Community College auditorium, Dutchess Hall Theater, on the County Executive’s budget. Following this public hearing, the Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee will begin its extensive review process with departmental meetings November 8-10 and 15-18 from 4 until 9 PM. Every week will feature a Friday recap meeting at 2 PM to discuss recommendations for amendments. The Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee will adopt and/or amend the County Executive’s proposed budget on November 23 at 4 PM.