POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, for a second straight year, proposed cutting the property tax levy without reducing services or programs.
Molinaro detailed his tentative 2016 county budget of $456 million on Wednesday during a speech at Marist College, while noting county government has its smallest workforce in 32 years.
Next year's budget plan reduces the county property tax levy by more than $1 million and seeks to reduce the property tax rate for the first time in eight years -- by 1.6 percent.
If adopted by the Republican-controlled Dutchess County Legislature, Molinaro said residents would receive tax rebate checks. For details on who qualifies for property tax relief, go here.
“While providing tax relief, we are enhancing the services we provide, in the areas of mental health, child abuse, domestic violence and special needs just to name a few,'' Molinaro said to about 200 county employees and community leaders.
The spending plan totals about $14.5 million more than the 2015 adopted budget. Expenses would be offset, in part, by spending more "rainy day" fund reserves.
Molinaro wants to merge the county Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene into a single Department of Behavioral and Community Health, reporting to one commissioner. He also proposed building a Crisis Stabilization Center late next year.
The county will add $1.5 million in family support services for at-risk families to help prevent child abuse and neglect and reduce the need for foster care placement. The county also would provide more money for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention services, including paying for a victims' advocate in the District Attorney's Office.
The county executive also called for expansion of Dutchess' "Think Differently" initiatives -- and hiring a deputy commissioner for special needs. "It is time as a society we combat that and seek to overcome it,'' Molinaro said of the perception that those with handicaps are somehow "lesser than others."
"This county has to enhance every citizen,'' Molinaro said, noting that every resident should have access to public parks and playgrounds.
For example, Molinaro said a parent thanked him for sponsoring a movie for special needs children at Hyde Park and that the experience gave the family courage to bring their son to a traditional movie theatre. "They got the courage to do it because we thought differently,'' Molinaro said.
The budget plan focuses on economic development with a $250,000 investment to attract businesses. Visitor spending increased an estimated $28 million to $509 million last year. The 2016 budget provides $100,000 in more tourism funding to continue this strong momentum, Molinaro said.
Finally, the 2016 budget includes $10.8 million for road and bridge repairs.
Molinaro, a Republican, cited the bipartisan cooperation of the Dutchess County Legislature throughout his first term. He faces Democratic challenger Diane Jablonski in Tuesday's election.