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Northwest Dutchess Daily Voice serves Clinton, Hyde Park, Milan, Pleasant Valley, Red Hook & Rhinebeck

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Politics

2021 Dutchess Budget Proposal Reduces Spending With No Layoffs Or Tax Increase

Video Credit: Dutchess County

Dutchess County's proposed 2021 budget reduced spending by 3.6 percent, or $18.6 million, with no employee layoffs or tax increases, according to County Executive Marc Molinaro. 

The $501,832,097 budget, said the release, maintains county services and programs, includes new initiatives to address homelessness and housing, and includes funding for senior services, infrastructure improvements, county parks, mental health services and even police reform measures. 

The government's savings were reportedly achieved by reducing the county property tax levy for the seventh consecutive year. The budget cut residents' and businesses' property tax rates for the sixth year in a row, this time by 2.5 percent.

This cut was made possible, said the press release, by an increase in businesses and residents in the area over the last six years, growing the county's tax base to $33.2 billion.

While no layoffs were included in the budget, 150 employees were encouraged to retire from their positions via an incentive program offered this summer and will separate from county government before the end of 2020. 

Many of these positions will be eliminated or held vacant, reaping a reported $11 million in savings; 32.5 positions were eliminated entirely, and 106 positions have been eliminated temporarily. 

The budget will also pull $9.9 million from the county's fund balance, less than what has been appropriated in the past five years, and an additional $1 million has been allocated from other fund balances. Another $1.5 million was pulled from a reserve fund for debt repayment.

“We couldn’t have entered this crisis any stronger financially," said Molinaro of the budget. "However, the fiscal challenges have never been greater...significant loss in revenue, no federal aid in sight, cuts from Albany ... but we are not shrinking from our responsibilities to build a government that is smaller, smarter and more efficient."

New positions have been added to the county's budget this year, but were funded using grant monies, including temporary positions in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health for COVID-19, which conducts contact tracing. 

A new Deputy Commissioner for Housing has been appointed and will coordinate initiatives to provide eviction prevention resources, rental support programming and homelessness services. 

Bolstered financially by 40 percent in the budget is the county's Path to Promise initiative, which funds a youth program, a pre-school readiness and support program for parents, training for daycare providers throughout the county and the future development of a youth center in Poughkeepsie. 

Toward infrastructure, $24 million was allocated in the 2021 budget.

Body cameras will be purchased for each Sheriff's deputy in 2021, and their usage will be mandated.

Officers will also be required to choose one of eight eight-hour procedural justice classes offered by the Dutchess County Law Enforcement Center between October and December.

According to a press release issued by the Dutchess County Government, "procedural Justice training is an evidence-based training program designed to ensure citizens are treated with fairness and respect," while "implicit bias training teaches awareness of and addresses the automatic assumptions made between groups and stereotypes about those groups."

The department's HELPLINE, which offers mental health and addiction treatment, will be physically moved into the same building as their 911 call center to allow for cross-training and a multidisciplinary approach to dispatch services.

The Stabilization Center, with help from new employees, brought in from Mental Health America, Astor Services, and PeopleUSA, will be able to take walk-in patients under the new budget. 

Nearly $350,000 was allocated to the Think Dutchess Alliance for Business, which will support business retention, expansion and attraction. Dutchess Tourism was given $1.4 million, and $250,556 was extended to Arts Mid-Hudson, which supports 19 arts organizations like the Bardavon Opera House. 

The Cornell Cooperative Extension was awarded $700,000, and further investment in agriculture was made with the Agricultural Navigator, the Ag & Farmland Protection Board and the Partnership for Manageable Growth Program. 

More detailed budget documents are available here, and include summations, charts and graphics. Residents can participate in a town hall forum on the evening of Oct. 28, conducted via Facebook Live.

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