Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro released his 2018 budget proposal Tuesday. The $480 million plan includes a property tax cut and maintains all existing services and programs.
The proposal calls for funding across a wide range of areas, from mental health services to senior citizens programs to veterans services to the arts. Molinaro unveiled his proposed budget in front of county and community leaders and county legislators in the county legislature chambers in Poughkeepsie. He says the budget accomplishes many goals, including the following.
“It helps to protect taxpayers, four consecutive years of tax levy reductions,” Molinaro said. “And let me say that again. That is not a lie or misinformation. We have cut the property tax levy four years in a row, incrementally, over time.”
He says there’s a property tax cut that, if approved, would translate into a decrease on property tax bills from $3.58 to $3.54 per $1,000 of assessments. This cut would be for the third consecutive year. Molinaro also wants to enhance the county’s focus on addressing the opioid epidemic with additional addiction and mental health initiatives. These resources come under a new “Breaking Through” initiative, to address the stigma attached to such issues.
“Today, someone is going to die in Dutchess County because of a drug overdose,” Molinaro says. “Some loved one is going to lose their life because of a problem with addiction, and that needs to be confronted as the crisis that it is.”
Part of this effort includes adding social workers, and creating another position.
“But in order to ensure that we have a single point of contact to improve our coordinated response to this overall epidemic, and to more effectively track information to collect data and to train, we’re creating this addiction prevention coordinator to help us collaborate and bring it all together, which we think will be critically important.”
Beacon Mayor Randy Casale agrees.
“Having a coordinator for that, I think, is an important position and hopefully down the road we can expand on it and have liaisons in all our communities to help work with that problem because every day somebody’s dying because of the disease,” Casale says.
Democratic county legislator Kari Rieser calls the proposed budget stable and kind.
“I think there’s more to do with mental health and addiction recovery, and I know we’re taking steps toward that. And I hope we can strengthen that even more in the coming year,” says Rieser. “I feel really good about this budget. It seems that it hits all the things that it needs to hit for the people in Dutchess County. It keeps our taxes stable and going down, and it provides a lot of services for people who need it the most.”
The budget also provides enhancements to parks, tourism and economic development, as well as for Molinaro’s Think Differently program, which strives to make the county more inclusive for people of all abilities.
The proposed budget includes $1.4 million in anticipated state match funds for the county’s shared services plan. The plan is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to reduce property taxes by requiring counties to work with local governments to find savings by coordinating and eliminating overlapping services. Molinaro says the $1.4 million is against $25 million identified in the shared services savings plan. Republican Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Dale Borchert says he’s a fan of the budget proposal but has a concern regarding the state match for shared services.
“The way the budget is structured, we’re counting on that money, we’re counting on that as income,” Borchert says. “If it doesn’t materialize, then we’ve got a $1.4 million hole to fill in our budget, so I’m a little concerned about that.”
A state budget spokesman says counties are eligible to receive state matching funds for net savings achieved in the first year, so for approved plans that have been implemented in 2018, counties would receive those funds in 2019.