Molinaro Releases 2021 County Budget Proposal

2021 Plan Reduces Spending with No Layoffs and No Tax Increase
while Maintaining Critical Services and Programs

Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro released his 2021 Executive Budget proposal online today at with a video message and a new interactive Budget-in-Brief webpage in light of ongoing COVID-19 precautions. Despite continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including uncertain revenues, the County Executive’s $502 million budget proposal reduces county spending by more than $18 million or 3.6%, with no layoffs and no increase to property taxes. The budget maintains County services and programs, with new initiatives addressing homelessness and housing, youth services, and police reform, as well as continued funding for senior services, mental health, infrastructure improvements, County parks and other critical services.

“We couldn’t have entered this crisis any stronger financially. 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. We are all working hard to be creative, innovative to meet the needs and demands of county residents and we are doing all this without passing the burden to taxpayers and holding the line on spending,” said County Executive Molinaro. “The 2021 Budget is a plan is a commitment to confronting challenges we face and working to solve those problems… together.”

Executive Budget 2021

The proposed budget plan reduces the county property tax levy, albeit modestly, for the seventh consecutive year and cuts the property tax rate for homeowners and businesses for the sixth straight year. The 2021 property tax levy (amount collected countywide from property taxes) proposed in the Executive Budget is $105,331,099, slightly less than the 2020 levy. The tax rate, which is calculated by dividing the property tax levy by full value assessments, will drop by 2.5% from $3.26 to $3.18 per $1,000 of true value assessments as a result of holding the line on the tax levy, as well as the continued growth in true value assessments (tax base). The County’s tax base has increased over the last six years to $33.2 billion in 2021 with continued focus on economic development and job growth.

Total 2021 appropriations equal $501,832,097, down $18.6 million, or 3.6%, from 2020 modified budget. The largest change in spending comes from personnel, as salaries and benefits account for nearly 40% of total expenses. Following the County’s voluntary retirement/separation incentive program offered this summer, more than 150 employees were approved for the incentive and will separate from County employment by the end of 2020. Positions will be eliminated, held vacant or offset with other position savings in the 2021 budget, for total 2021 savings of nearly $11 million. Positions were carefully evaluated and County department heads worked diligently to evaluate each position and make necessary adjustments; restructuring and realigning staffing to ensure services and programs continue with minimal impact. Certain key positions were not approved for the incentive, including positions related to opioid and substance use prevention. There were also a few new positions added to the budget, primarily funded with state or federal grants, including temporary positions in the Department of Behavioral & Community Health for COVD-19 case investigation and contact tracing coordination. The net result is a total of 32.5 positions permanently eliminated and 106 positions temporarily eliminated (held vacant) in 2021.

Over the past nine years, ensuring the County established and maintained a healthy fund balance to face unexpected economic changes has been a priority for County Executive Molinaro’s administration. That healthy fund balance, combined with cost-saving measures, has enabled the County to withstand sales tax revenue loss and state funding delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 budget plan allocates $9.9 million of unassigned general fund balance, less than appropriated in the last five years. Just over $1 million is allocated from other fund balances, including the D, E and S funds and $1.5 million is allocated from a restricted reserve fund for debt repayment, which will offset debt service. This fund balance appropriation keeps the total projected available general fund balance in line with the County’s fund balance goal of maintaining one to two months of general fund operating expenditures in unrestricted general fund balance to ensure continued financial stability.

Among the programs and initiatives highlighted in the 2021 Executive Budget:

Homelessness & Housing

To address homelessness and housing needs in the community, the 2021 budget includes multiple initiatives, detailed previously HERE, including new eviction prevention resources, rental support programming, safe and central homeless services including a one stop contact center in coordination with community partners. Additionally, a new Deputy Commissioner for Housing will coordinate these initiatives, as well as focus on developing greater supply of affordable housing including coordinating a housing needs assessment. Watch the Video

Youth Services/Path to Promise

The 2021 Executive Budget continues critical investment in children and families, with a 40% increase in Path to Promise investment, as announced HERE. Initiatives include a new Youth Advocated Program, pre-school readiness support for parents, training for high-
quality day care providers through the Day One initiative and commitment to future development of a Youth Opportunity Center in the City of Poughkeepsie. Watch the Video

Police Reform & Mental Health

In 2021, the collaboration among the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, local police agencies and the local community continues as part of Dutchess County’s Police Reform Initiative. As previously announced HERE, the 2021 Executive Budget includes funding for procedural justice, implicit bias, and crisis intervention training. Other initiatives include mandatory body cameras for Dutchess County Sheriff Deputies and changes to the police exam qualifications to develop a more diverse candidate pool for police agency hiring. Additionally, the budget continues investment in on-demand community mental health services, medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders and our 24/7 mental health HELPLINE. Watch the Video

Economic Development/Tourism/Arts/Agriculture

• Nearly $350,000 allocated for the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business to support business retention, expansion and attraction.
• $1.4 million investment in Dutchess Tourism, Inc. for regional tourism and arts promotion.
• $270,556 funding, level with 2020, for Arts Mid-Hudson, which supports 19 arts organizations, including the iconic Bardavon 1869 Opera House, as well as the Hudson Valley Film Commission.
• Investment in agriculture with more than $700,000 for Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as continued support for the Agricultural Navigator and the Ag & Farmland Protection Board. The Partnership for Manageable Growth program will also support several conservation projects in 2021.

Other Budget Highlights:

• $1 million continued investment in the Agency Partner Grant program to support community non-profit organizations, addressing identified community needs including senior transportation, at-risk children, workforce development and more.
• Road and bridge investment totaling more then $24 million in the Capital Plan and operating budget.
• Continuation of the expanded senior home-delivered meal program. Demand for the program grew tremendously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 200 additional hot meals being delivered to seniors per week.
• Investment in County Parks continues as plans get underway to provide access to the recently acquired Lake Walton Preserve in East Fishkill and improvements will be made to Quiet Cove Riverfront Park. Development concepts for the new urban rail trail network in the City of Poughkeepsie will also begin in 2021.

The 2021 Executive Budget documents are available online at Residents are encouraged to review the budget documents, particularly the interactive Budget in Brief webpage. The webpage guides citizens through key areas of the county budget and features charts and graphics providing various data such as tax levy history, assessed value and more that users can hover over or click through to see data points, definitions and other key information points.

Residents are also encouraged to participate in a special live countywide tele-town hall forum tonight, October 28th from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. The tele-town hall call-in number is (845) 765-7121. The conversation will also be broadcast on the County’s Facebook page. Residents can learn about key components of the 2021 budget, ask questions, and share feedback. There will be additional virtual town hall forums about the 2021 budget in November:

• Tuesday, November 10th at 12pm on Facebook Live
• Thursday, November 12th at 8am (Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce Virtual Breakfast Event) Event is open to all – must register online at the DCRCOC website
• Thursday, November 19th at 6pm on Facebook Live