POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro this week released a proposed 2017 spending plan he says will cut taxes but not programs or services.
Unveiled Thursday, Molinaro’s budget calls for a reduction in the tax rate to $3.58 from $3.60 per $1,000 of true value assessments.
According to Molinaro’s spokespeople, this reduction is reflected in an approximately $170,000 difference between the 2016 modified tax levy of $105,644,908 and the proposed levy for 2017 of $105,470,935.
This is the third consecutive year that the county has been able to reduce the levy, Molinaro said.
The proposed budget “advances initiatives to make Dutchess County stronger, safer, healthier and kinder, enhancing our shared quality of life we enjoy, while providing tax relief for our citizens,” he said.
While lowering taxes, keeping spending flat and growing jobs, the plan also has room for initiatives such as ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY,’ which Molinaro introduced in his 2015 State of the County address.
The program assists residents with special needs, and provides a vehicle for the county to partner with individuals and organizations to make each community “more inclusive.”
County spending itself is held level at $467 million, only a two tenths of one percent increase over the 2016 modified budget.
Molinaro attributed this to “cost-control and consolidation efforts.”
The county’s efforts at strengthening the local economy, he added, “is showing early promise with assessed valuation tax base growth and rising sales tax and hotel tax receipts.”
While the 2017 plan allocates $8.75 million of general fund balance and $3.5 million from the Taxpayer Protection Fund established by Molinaro earlier this year, it keeps the total projected available general fund balance at 10 percent of revenue -- the recommended range by financial institutions, Molinaro said.
The fund balance is, he added, an “important factor” in the county’s “enviable” AA plus credit rating by Standard & Poor’s.
According to the county executive, Dutchess ranks in the “top tier of financially well-managed county governments.” There is only one other county in the state that has a higher S&P bond rating, he said. He did not say what that county was in his press release.
A solid fund balance reserve is critical because of state and federal spending mandates, which Molinaro said, account for 70 percent of of the county’s costs.
Dutchess lawmakers earlier this year called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into law a measure that would require Albany to reimburse counties for state-mandated public defense costs. It could not be learned Friday if he had.
Other highlights of the budget include:
- $1.7 million investment in economic development, tourism, arts and agriculture to continue to strengthen the local economy.
- $15.25 million infrastructure investment for road and bridge repairs and improvements
- Expansion of Public Transit services including Sunday service, new route option and service expansion into City of Poughkeepsie if city bus services cease.
- Renaming and rebranding of airport as Hudson Valley Regional Airport
- Dutchess County’s model of restorative justice, focused on prevention, intervention, diversion and transition.
- Nationally awarded microgreen nutrition program.
- Opening of the Stabilization Center.
- Continued efforts to combat opiate and heroin drug addiction and abuse.
- Expansion of ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiatives, including Project Safe Return.
Molinaro encouraged residents and businesses to review the budget documents and then participate in a special live countywide tele-town hall forum set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
The tele-town hall call-in number is (877) 228-2184. (Enter event ID 113489# at the prompt.)
The live conversation will address key components of the plan.
Participants will be able to ask questions and share feedback.
There will be also be several town hall forums to discuss the budget over the next month.
Their dates, times and locations are:
- Wednesday, Nov. 9 , 6 p.m. at American Legion Post 1949, 1797 Route 22, Wingdale.
- Wednesday, Nov. 1 6, 7 p.m. East Fishkill Town Hall, 330 Route 376, Hopewell Junction.
- Thursday, Nov. 1 7, 11 a.m., Town Crier Café, 379 Main St., Beacon.
- Tuesday, Nov. 29, 6 p.m., Milan Town Hall, 20 Wilcox Circle, Red Hook.