Saturday, September 30, 2017

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Proposed 2018 Orange County budget stabilizes county finances, says Neuhaus

Neuhaus: County tax rate down second year in a row

GOSHEN – After coming off of a few years of financial crises and speaking of “righting the fiscal ship,” Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus sees the county now in an excellent position. He presented his proposed 2018 county budget on Friday at the newly rebuilt county government center in Goshen.

The presented $752 million budget, up from $735 million last year, shows a decrease in the county tax rate, lowering it to approximately 3.83 percent, the second consecutive year it declined, increases in sales tax revenue, contractual obligations met, 5,500 less welfare cases and a decrease in unemployment to 4.6 percent, among other things.

Although it was not so long ago that the county was having its bond rating decreased, trying to figure out what was best for the Valley View nursing home and navigating where money could, or should, be spent, Neuhaus said that’s in the past and this budget marks a stabilization for the county’s finances.

“Two or three years ago we had all sorts of crises going – cuts in federal and state funding, high unemployment, welfare through the roof; now, we’ve had all these things stabilize, or going down. It’s a lot more manageable,” said Neuhaus. “I feel like I’m in my comfort zone as county executive now. I think the county is in a better place and I’m excited where we are,” he said.

Approximately 36 percent of the county revenue is coming from sales tax and with more business rapidly coming to the county, as well as Norwegian Airlines at Stewart bringing international traffic, Orange County will be focusing more on tourism. However, a large portion of the 2017 budget has been distributed towards social services. Neuhaus said this is where the largest portion of the budget will go and that the county is intent on combating the opioid epidemic by evolving services.

County Legislative Democratic Minority Leader Matthew Turnbull commended the Republican Neuhaus on his skill presenting the budget and while he is happy to see the increased sales tax revenue; however, Turnbull thinks when moving forward with budgeting for addiction services, there needs to be a more concrete, progressive game plan.

“It was a great presentation. I think he hit a lot of high points,” said Turnbull. “I think there was a little bit of bluster with the opiate problem. We really need some meat and potatoes with that issue. It’s serious and like people have said, that when it comes to the serious issues, we’ve got to put down the campaigning process and work together with solutions,” he said.

Turnbull said he and Neuhaus have convened on the future for combating opioid addiction within the county.

Republican Legislature Chairman Stephen Brescia said Neuhaus “continues to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of government while expanding services.”

The budget will be reviewed by county lawmakers in the next several weeks before a final spending plan is adopted.



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