Molinaro Releases 2020 County Budget Proposal
with Largest Tax Cut in 20 Years
Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro presented his 2020 Executive Budget proposal today to county officials and community leaders in the Dutchess County Legislature’s Chambers in Poughkeepsie. The proposed 2020 budget plan features the largest property tax levy reduction in 20 years and cuts the county property tax rate for the fifth consecutive year for homeowners and businesses, while enhancing and expanding programs and services for all residents.
County Executive Molinaro said, “My 2020 Executive Budget provides historic tax cuts for our residents, continues to provide high-quality services and programs that benefit so many and funds new initiatives that will continue moving Dutchess County forward. This budget is the result of months of diligent deliberation, aligning with our commitment to sound fiscal planning and responsible spending. I look forward to the Dutchess County Legislature’s thoughtful review, culminating in adoption of the budget that enhances the lives of all our residents.”
The 2020 property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) proposed in the Executive Budget is $105,347,280, down more than $1 million from 2019, the largest levy cut in two decades. This is the sixth consecutive year County Executive Molinaro has cut the property tax levy. If the budget proposal is approved by the County Legislature, property taxpayers will also see a 5 percent reduction in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the fifth straight year, with the tax rate cut from $3.45 to $3.27 per $1,000 of true value assessments. Total 2020 appropriations equal $512,931,209, a 1.4 percent increase over 2019.
Dutchess County’s local economy has been strengthened by a multitude of economic development and tourism efforts with impressive results:
24 consecutive months of private sector job growth
Low unemployment rate at just 3.5 percent for September 2019
Average weekly wages of $1,032, the second highest in region behind only Westchester
Projects totaling $4.7 billion currently in design or underway
More than 4.75 million annual visitors to Dutchess County
9th consecutive year of tourism spending growth, now totaling over $642 million
$28.5 million annual economic impact directly attributable to the arts.
Continued investment in economic development, tourism, and the arts is critical to maintaining this positive economic momentum. As previously announced, the 2020 Executive Budget continues to support economic drivers with $2.4 million (including DCIDA funding) directed to Dutchess Tourism, Inc. for tourism and arts promotion; this funding also provides a 44 percent increase for Arts Mid-Hudson. Additionally, the 2020 Executive Budget includes continued funding of just over $450,000 for the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business.
Dutchess County’s investment in economic development pays dividends for taxpayers. With multiple development projects recently completed and underway, Dutchess County has seen continued growth in total assessed value, totaling over $32 billion for 2020. Growing assessed value is an important factor in driving down the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses.
Strong sales tax revenue also helps lower the County’s dependence on property tax revenue to provide programs and services to residents. Total sales tax revenue is expected to grow by 5 percent in 2020, thanks to the strong local economy. Local municipalities will benefit from the growth in sales tax, as more than $33 million is projected to be shared with local municipalities, an increase of $1.9 million over 2019.
While sales tax is projected to grow in 2020, it remains an economically sensitive revenue and can fluctuate, making the maintenance of solid fund balance very important. The County Executive’s 2020 budget plan allocates $12.6 million of unassigned general fund balance. $1.1 million is allocated from other fund balances including the D, E and S funds. Additionally, $4.5 million of the restricted reserve fund is being used for debt repayment. The 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 also an important factor in Dutchess County’s enviable AA+ credit rating by Standard & Poor’s (S&P). Dutchess ranks in the top tier of financially well-managed county governments, with the highest S&P bond rating in New York State.
The solid fund balance is also critical as mandated spending from state and federal levels continues to dominate Dutchess County Government’s budget, with nearly 70 percent of county costs consumed by state and federally mandated expenses. Mandated expenses will increase by more than $1.2 million in 2020, primarily in pre-school special education and safety net programs. Medicaid remains the County’s single largest mandated expense, totaling $40.6 million for 2020.
Gregg Pulver, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature said, “The County Executive’s budget proposal is an impressive balance of expanded programs and services while delivering tax relief for homeowners and businesses. I believe residents will be very pleased with all this budget delivers and I look forward to hearing their feedback as we begin the Legislature’s review of the 2020 budget proposal.”
Breaking Through – Addiction and Mental Health Services
As previously announced, Dutchess County Government continues the intensive focus on #BreakingThrough the stigma of mental health and substance use issues, particularly the opioid epidemic that grips the nation. The 2020 budget broadens public outreach and messaging, expands access to help with a mobile unit to better reach residents in eastern Dutchess as well as recovery coaches to work in the urban centers of the City of Poughkeepsie. The budget also increases availability of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the Dutchess County Jail and, in conjunction with state and community partners, at local emergency departments. MAT is the gold standard for addiction treatment and care and Dutchess County has seen effective outcomes, with 85 percent of MAT patients discontinuing illegal opioid use. Funding also continues for the County’s 24/7 Stabilization Center, which has served over 3,800 residents dealing with crisis, addiction and mental health issues; as well as HELPLINE, the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, and Narcan training.
Protecting and Preserving the Environment
The 2020 Budget recognizes the immense importance of protecting and conserving the environment. As announced, Dutchess County was recently named a Bronze Level Climate Smart Community — one of only two local municipalities and nine counties to receive such a certification thanks to the County’s many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support renewable energy, and reduce its carbon footprint.
To continue this success and secure Dutchess County’s designation as Clean Energy Community, the 2020 budget allocates $40,000 for an organics diversion study to identify practices and policies to reduce total waste and limit greenhouse gas emissions. The County will also partner with the Hudson Valley Regional Council (HVRC) to apply for a Climate Action Planning Institute Dutchess County (CAPI Dutchess). The CAPI will establish local GHG emissions-reduction targets and identify strategies to achieve their goals as part of a Climate Action Plan development.
Preserving open space and farmland is a critical tool in conserving and protecting the environment. Research shows farmland produces far fewer greenhouse gases than developed land, therefore the 2020 budget includes a historic $2.5 million investment – the largest single-year commitment – for the Partnership for Manageable Growth program to continue preserving open space and farmland throughout Dutchess. Over 5,500 acres have been preserved since the PMG program’s inception.
Senior and Veteran Services
To continue to serve the growing population of older adults, the 2020 Budget increases funding for programs and services, as detailed previously, through the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA), which serves more than 13,000 local residents each year. The 2020 Executive Budget includes funding for the development and pilot of a new, more robust and efficient model for senior transportation, a significant challenge for many senior citizens throughout the county. Other new initiatives include a fund to assist seniors with small repairs and mobility modifications in their homes, as well as additional funding for home care services, as the need for such services continues to grow.
Additionally, the 2020 budget includes $20,000 to improve the health and welfare of local veterans and their families with the establishment of the Tommy Zurhellen Fund, in honor of Marist Professor and Poughkeepsie VFW Post 170 Commander Tommy Zurhellen, who earlier this year who walked from Portland, Ore., to Poughkeepsie to raise awareness and money to combat the plight of veteran homelessness, mental illness, and suicide. The fund will provide wrap-around emergency assistance to veterans in need, helping them to address emergency needs, such as one-time help paying for rent, electric bills, or car repairs, with the goal of keeping veterans from becoming homeless and supporting them as they reintegrate into their local communities.
2019 saw the largest expansion of Dutchess County Parks in over 50 years with the acquisition of the Lake Walton Preserve and discussions for the development of the former CSX corridor in the City of Poughkeepsie as an urban trail network linking to the WRS Dutchess Rail Trail. In 2020, construction of Phase IV of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail will be finished, completing 23 continuous miles of trail. The 2020 budget provides new staff resources to support this growth of the County’s treasured park system.
Additionally, the 2020 budget provides for improved accessibility and new decking for Maple Knoll Lodge at Bowdoin Park, and ongoing water quality improvement efforts at Wilcox Park as well as the continuation of summer concerts.
Earlier this month, Dutchess County was designated as an “Autism Supportive Community” – first of its kind in New York State – by Anderson Center for Autism for the County’s continued commitment to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY,” promoting an inclusive and collaborative community for individuals of all abilities. In 2020, Dutchess County expands its wide range of programs and events with the formation of a “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” 4-H group in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension and working with partners in the medical community, first responders, attorneys and judges to continue to address the systemic challenges faced by those with disabilities.
Other Budget Highlights:
Continued commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2020 with $1 million budgeted for the Municipal Innovation Grant program.
$1 million is allocated for community agencies to address specific needs in the community through the Agency Partner Grant (APG) program competitive application process, funding 20 agencies expected to serve 25,000 people.
$29.5 million in infrastructure investment, including replacement or repair of 13 bridges, 20 miles of paving and 9,000 miles of snow plowing.
Nearly $3.7 million for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response as previously announced.
$150,000 in funding to help ensure quality childcare is available for all children in Dutchess County with partnerships with the Day One initiative and QUALITYstarsNY, as previously announced.
Continued support of Dutchess Community College, with an additional $500,000 in funding support in 2020.
The 2020 Executive Budget documents are available online at dutchessny.gov/2020budget. Residents are encouraged to review the budget documents, particularly the Budget in Brief, and participate in a special live countywide tele-town hall forum tonight, October 30thth from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The tele-town hall call-in number is (877) 228-2184, then enter event ID 113489# at the prompt. Residents will have the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2020 budget, learn about key components, ask questions, and share feedback. There will also be several town hall forums to discuss the budget over the next month:
Roosevelt Fire Station #3, 830 Violet Ave, Hyde Park on November 2nd at 11 a.m.
Millerton Library Annex, 28 Century Blvd, Millerton on November 13th at 6 p.m.
Beekman Town Hall, 4 Main Street, Poughquag on November 20th at 6 p.m.
Molinaro Releases 2020 County Budget Proposal