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Michael A. Ellison
“The Dutchess County Legislature today adopted a budget that holds the line on taxes and does not add any additional spending to the property tax levy proposed by County Executive William Steinhaus,” said Legislature Chairman Robert Rolison (R-Poughkeepsie). “I am proud the Legislature made the tough decisions to balance the budget and fund County fiscal commitments not included in the tentative budget. In the end the Legislature listened to the people’s pleas for no new taxes while funding essential services provided to them via County government.”
After five weeks of intense deliberations the County Legislature adopted a budget that maintained the property tax levy at $101 million so there will be no tax increase above the Executive’s proposed budget for 2011. To accomplish this feat the Legislature reduced spending equal to any spending increases they proposed. “A concept,” said Legislature Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee Chairman Dale Borchert (R-Lagrange), “that is like balancing your checkbook. You can’t spend money you simply don’t have.”
On November 23rd the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee balanced the budget by cutting back on office supplies, postage, and equipment in lieu of more layoffs or taxes to fund essential positions and programs like public safety personnel and infrastructure maintenance. That Committee restored 15 of 63 laid off positions including five Sheriff Deputies and five state mandated Corrections Officers as well as kept open the Beacon and Pawling Department of Motor Vehicle offices. To deal with the ongoing challenges at the Resource Recovery Agency (RRA) that Committee decided to fund the Charter position of Commissioner of Solid Waste to provide greater oversight of County waste management and approve or deny hauler license applications. Further, to balance the budget the Committee allocated $3.2 million from fund reserve to pay for mandated RRA net service fee payments in 2011.
“The Executive made a conscious decision not to fund the RRA despite the County being legally obligated to do so. We cannot skirt our fiscal responsibility to the RRA and these payments will have to be made in 2011,” said Legislator Gerry Hutchings (R-Beekman) who is also Chairman of the Legislature’s Public Works and Capital Projects Committee as well as serves on the Resource Recovery Reform Committee. “With greater oversight from the new Commissioner of Solid Waste and the County Comptroller, taxpayers should be reassured that the RRA’s finances are being carefully scrutinized as long-term policy decisions regarding the future of solid waste operations in this County continue to be investigated by this legislative body."
In addition to the amendments adopted by the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee the full Legislature adopted amendments today to restore funding for four more positions, Hudson Valley Mental Health clinics, Hudson River Housing’s homeless prevention program, Dutchess County BOCES’s Wheels to Work program, various domestic violence services, among other valuable services. Further, the Legislature did not approve the creation of a new Public Defender Unit opting instead to hold Family Court administrators accountable to reign in assigned counsel costs.
To offset any spending increases the Dutchess County Legislature took the following actions:
The County Legislature will meet again on December 16th to consider any vetoes the Executive has to offer. The Legislature will need 17 votes out of 25 to override a veto.