The proposed Dutchess County 2019 budget was released, as first reported by the Beacon Free Press in their October 31, 2018, issue. It consists of a reduction of the county property tax levy for a fifth consecutive year, and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the fourth straight year, while maintaining county services and programs, according to the 2019 Dutchess County Budget Proposal news release. New initiatives have been introduced, addressing addiction and mental health, services for youth in foster care, as well as continued funding for ThinkDIFFERENTLY events and programs, senior services, infrastructure improvements, and shared services.
According to the news release: “The 2019 property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) proposed in the Executive Budget is $106,350,769, down nearly $28,000 from 2018, representing the fifth consecutive property tax levy decrease. If the budget proposal is approved by the County Legislature, property taxpayers will see a 2.6% reduction in the tax rate on their property tax bill, for the fourth straight year, with the rate decreasing from $3.54 to $3.45 per $1,000 of true value assessments. Total 2019 appropriations equal $502,154,287, a 2.96% increase over 2018.”
Dutchess County has a 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,” according to the news release, which gives further breakdown.
County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “A reflection of several years of conservative spending practices, this 2019 Executive Budget again seeks to serve our residents’ best interests, providing continued tax relief while maintaining the level of high-quality services on which our neighbors rely.”
Economic Development Coming Largely From Arts and Tourism Investment
“Dutchess County’s local economy has been strengthened by a multitude of economic development and tourism efforts,” according to the news release. Poughkeepsie and Beacon send their sales tax directly to Dutchess County in a 10-year agreement which began in 2014. Beacon’s agreement will be up for renewal in 2024. The agreement has helped improve public transportation in Beacon, most recently by making it free to ride the G Loop Bus, which picks up people from the Beacon Train Station and takes them almost anywhere they want to go in downtown Beacon. The bus route has been rebranded as the Beacon Free Loop in a partnership with the City of Beacon and BeaconArts. The Beacon Free Loop is free to riders, and runs Monday to Saturday from 6 pm to 9 pm.
Financial situations credited with helping Dutchess County, as cited in the news release, include:
12 consecutive months of private-sector job growth
Lowest unemployment rate in the region
Projects totaling $2.9 billion currently in design
Projects totaling $3.9 billion currently under construction
More than 4.75 million annual visitors to Dutchess County
Eighth consecutive year of tourism spending growth, now totaling over $601 million
$19 million in annual direct spending is attributable to the arts
Funding For Tourism and The Arts Continues
The budget states the following continued investments into tourism and the arts:
Continued funding of just over $450,000 for the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business.
Over $1.635 million investment in Dutchess Tourism, Inc. for tourism and arts promotion, an 8% increase. (Dutchess County Industrial Development Agency [DCIDA] funding: $1.062 million; county funding: $574,000 for total of $1,635,660 tourism funding investment)
Increased funding for Arts Mid-Hudson, totaling over $300,000, through the DCIDA, that will support 19 arts organizations including the iconic Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie.
Continued $15,000 funding, through the DCIDA, for the Hudson Valley Film Commission, which reported over $8.5 million in direct regional film spending for 2016, more than 50% of which was spent in Dutchess County.
More Investments Into Opioid Addiction, Mental Health, Youth In Foster Care Services
Dutchess County continues their focus on addressing the opioid crisis, and will use a federal Department of Justice grant to give more tools to understand and track the opioid crisis in Dutchess County. Additionally, the 2019 budget proposes to make two critical positions permanent – an Opioid Educator and a Recovery Coach. The Recovery Coach has experienced recovery themselves, and currently has a nearly 80% success rate of helping addicts reach the next stage of recovery, according to the news release. Dutchess County continues to invest in foster care programs “to improve well-being outcomes for children in foster care,” according to the news release.
Look For Access To These Services
According to the news release, money has been allocated for the following:
Money for Shared Services: Commitment to shared services and consolidation continues in 2019 with $1 million budgeted for the Municipal Innovation Grant program.
Money for Community Agencies: The Agency Partner Grant (APG) program will have $1 million allocated for community agencies to address specific needs in the community through a competitive application process, funding 20 agencies expected to serve 25,000 people.
Infrastructure: $25 million in infrastructure investment, including replacement or repair of 13 bridges, 20 miles of paving and 9,000 miles of snow plowing.
Domestic Violence Prevention: Over $3 million for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response.
Seniors’ Activities: Office for the Aging will transition to its new facility in Poughkeepsie. The new space will serve as the City of Poughkeepsie Senior Friendship Center, and allow for expanded senior activities and programs, as well as a new kitchen that will increase efficiency of the home-delivered meal program that serves nearly 2,000 seniors.
Veterans Services: Expansion of the “Wheels to Work” program will include additional vehicles for veterans to help ensure access to health care, employment and education services.
Public School Resource Officer: Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer program has been expanded to include seven school districts, with 10 officers and one supervisor.
Dutchess Community College: Continued support of Dutchess Community College, with an additional $1.75 million in funding support in 2019.
Town Hall Meetings Scheduled To Discuss Budget
The following Town Hall meetings are/were scheduled to discuss the county budget:
Pawling Village Hall, 9 Memorial Ave., Pawling, on Monday, November 19, at 1 pm
Rhinebeck Starr Library, 68 West Market St., Rhinebeck, on Tuesday, November 20 at 6 pm
Stanford Town Hall, 26 Route 82, Stanfordville, on Monday, November 26 at 6 pm
Town of Poughkeepsie Senior Center, 14 Abes Way, Poughkeepsie, on Wednesday, December 5 at 6 pm