Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2018 Executive Budget proposal to county officials and community leaders in the Dutchess County Legislature’s Chambers in Poughkeepsie on October 31. The County Executive’s budget plan reduces the county property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) for the fourth consecutive year and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the third consecutive year.
The budget maintains all existing services and programs, with some key services expanded including addiction and mental health services, ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiatives, youth services, community partnerships and shared services to name a few.
County Executive Molinaro said, “This 2018 Executive Budget continues our commitment to provide tax relief, improves our shared quality of life, while expanding support to the most vulnerable in our community. While cutting the tax levy for the fourth consecutive year and decreasing the tax rate for a third straight year, we maintain the high quality of services our residents expect and deserve. This budget continues Dutchess County’s commitment to economic development, improving our infrastructure, supporting our veterans, and those living with special needs, mental illness and addiction. I thank the members of the County Legislature and my colleagues in county and local government for their shared commitment to bringing economic stability to Dutchess County, and I look forward to engaging with them and our residents in the coming weeks as we move toward adoption of the 2018 budget.”
The 2018 property tax levy proposed in the Executive Budget is $106,378,663, down more than $92,000 from 2017, representing the fourth consecutive property tax levy decrease. If the budget proposal is approved by the County Legislature, property taxpayers will see a decrease in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the third straight year, with the rate decreasing from $3.58 to $3.54 per $1,000 of true value assessments.
The County Executive’s 2018 budget plan allocates $8.5 million of general fund balance and $4 million from the Taxpayer Protection Fund established by County Executive Molinaro and the County Legislature last year. The budget proposal keeps the total projected available general fund balance in line with the County’s fund balance goal to maintain one to two months of general fund operating expenditures in unrestricted general fund balance to ensure financial stability. Maintaining a healthy fund balance is an important factor in Dutchess County’s enviable AA+ credit rating by Standard & Poor’s. Dutchess ranks in the top tier of financially well-managed county governments, with only one county statewide having a higher S&P bond rating. This solid fund balance reserve is also critical as mandated spending from state and federal levels continues to dominate Dutchess County Government’s budget, with 70% of county costs consumed by state and federally mandated expenses.
The commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2018 with $1 million budgeted for the Municipal Innovation Grant program. Additionally, there will be a $100,000 increase to the Agency Partner Grant (APG) program bringing the total APG funding to $1 million for community agencies to address specific needs in the community through a competitive application process. This represents the third consecutive year of funding increases to the APG program. The 2018 budget builds on the proposals developed as part of the County-wide Shared Services Tax Saving Plan submitted to New York State earlier this fall, including the expansion of the Conflict Defender swap with Ulster County to now include family court services. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised matching funds for shared service projects if eligible and therefore the budget includes a conservative $1.4 million in anticipated state match of project savings (to be submitted when New York State makes application available).
The budget plan continues a strong focus on strengthening the local economy with more than $2.3 million in total investment in economic development, agriculture, tourism and arts promotion. The 2018 budget includes:
Continued funding of just over $450,000 for the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business.
$50,000 for a Downtown Building Catalyst matching grant program for the preservation and redevelopment of identified buildings in urban areas to be a catalyst for revitalization of neighborhoods.
Agriculture is a $50 million industry in Dutchess County, and the 2018 Budget ensures this success continues with over $360,000 for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County to continue agri-business development, farming sustainability, as well as the Agricultural Navigator.
The 2018 Capital Improvement Program also includes $1 million for the Partnership for Manageable Growth program, ensuring vital farmland is maintained to continue to grow this important industry.
More than $1.5 million will be directed to Dutchess Tourism for tourism and arts promotion, a $230,000 increase over last year, including a 20% increase in arts funding. Dutchess Tourism will continue its successful marketing efforts with innovative new marketing technologies, such as virtual reality videos for tour operators and geo-fencing marketing to attract NYC metro area and international visitors. The County’s investment in arts and tourism has paid dividends with more than 4.75 million visitors to Dutchess County generating $568 million in annual visitor spending, resulting in increased sales tax and hotel tax receipts.
President & CEO of Dutchess Tourism, Inc., Mary Kay Vrba, said, “Millions of people visit Dutchess County annually, generating $40 million in local tax revenue for our communities. We are grateful to County Executive Molinaro for his continued investment in tourism. This additional funding will provide us with the necessary resources to expand and enhance our award-winning efforts to promote the Distinctly Dutchess brand both nationally and internationally.”
The 2018 budget continues Dutchess County Government’s commitment to youth development and empowerment. The 2018 budget proposal includes new grant-funded positions, a Peer Outreach Coordinator and an Adoption Recruiter, to improve success for children in foster care. County Executive Molinaro also continues the County’s successful partnership with the Boys & Girls Club at the New Hope Community Center in the City of Poughkeepsie with programs that include after-school programs, summer camps and a teen drop-in center. In 2018, Dutchess County will implement recommendations from industry expert Public Consulting Group, with which the County has recently been engaged, to begin County Executive Molinaro’s “Path to Promise” initiative, a comprehensive analysis of existing youth services and development of a youth empowerment action plan.
County Executive Molinaro will enhance Dutchess County’s focus on addressing the opioid epidemic with additional addiction and mental health initiatives in 2018.
Over $3 million will be committed to continued domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response, including staffing to maintain the tracking of Domestic Violence Incidence Report through a coordinated database for police agencies that allows for enhanced tracking and prosecution, as well as providing critical information for the development of target strategies to prevent future domestic violence. The 2018 budget also includes increased funding for partner agencies, including Family Services, Grace Smith House, and House of Hope.
County Executive Molinaro will expand Dutchess County’s model “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2018, supporting efforts to make Dutchess County more inclusive for individuals of all abilities.
Other initiatives and continuing services included in County Executive Molinaro’s budget plan:
2018 as the Year of the Veteran with funding for a World War I commemorative event as well as a special recognition event for Gold Star families.
Enhancements to the County Parks System, with no additional fees;
Full year, five-day-a-week home delivered meal service for more than 500 home bound seniors, which had been expanded from four-day-a-week service in 2017, as well as training, counseling, support and respite for more than 750 caregivers in 2018.
$45,000 in additional funding for Human Rights programs and administrative support to expand the Transformative Dialogue Project, host Human Rights Day event and launch a Workforce Diversity Taskforce to further diversify county and municipal workforces.
The 2018 Executive Budget documents are available online at DutchessNY.gov. Residents are encouraged to review these documents, particularly the Budget in Brief.
There will be public town hall forums to discuss the budget at the end of November:
Fishkill Town Hall, Fishkill, on Nov. 30 at 6:00 p.m.