Molinaro used a backdrop of the Walkway Marathon, passing
through the Marist campus, to emphasize a “moving forward” theme
POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro presented a 2016 county budget proposal that contains a 1.6 percent reduction in the tax rate and no cuts in services or programs.
“Our commitment is to smaller, smarter and more efficient government,” Molinaro said, to a large audience at Marist College on Wednesday.
Molinaro, a Republican seeking a second term next week, emphasized the budget continues a mission that has been the foundation of his fiscal approach during his first term as county executive.
“And will not allow any major challenge facing the people we represent to go unaddressed,” the county exec proclaimed. “And, over the course of the last four years, what we have accomplished together is a smaller county government, a more effective county government, a more efficient county government, and yes, last year and this year, a county government that cost taxpayers less money.”
The financial plan, which must be approved by the county legislature, includes property tax freeze credit rebates through shared service and consolidation while remaining under the tax cap; no new taxes and no sales tax on residential energy; focus on prevention, intervention and diversion including the merger of the departments of Health and Mental Health; expansion of Think Differently initiatives; continued investment in economic development with a targeted business attraction program, increased tourism promotion and agricultural support; rebranding of the county airport to emphasize a regional role and $10.8 million in infrastructure investment.
“The 2016 executive budget continues Dutchess County’s progress Marc Molinaro and I made during his first term in office as we stabilized county finances, increased the county’s credit rating, and worked to make county government smaller, smarter, and more efficient,” said legislature Chairman Robert Rolison, who will not be around when the new budget kicks in on January 1.
Dale Borchert, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee of the county legislature, said the tentative fiscal plan “delivers solid financial savings for Dutchess County and its taxpayers.”
Republican Majority Leader Angela Flesland agreed.
“I think the county executive is working very diligently to effectively reduce the cost of government without reducing the services that we’re providing county residents and that’s important,” Flesland said.
Democratic Minority Leader Barbara Jeter-Jackson said the tentative budget “appears to find a way to reduce costs without reducing needed services.” She said she is pleased that the spending plan includes “an increased focus on family supportive services, the Domestic Abuse Response team and Sexual Assault Response Team, and expanded services for our special needs and special populations communities.”
Another Democrat, Joel Tyner, liked the plan to pay more attention to health and mental health issues, including diverting challenge individuals who get in trouble from going to jail, or not getting the help they need when they get there. Beyond that, Tyner had a long list of missing items.
“I didn’t hear a commitment to bring back the County Youth Bureau Project to Term program, or to bring back the county funding for Big Brothers / Big Sisters, or to bring back the county Human Rights Commission, or to bring back the county Office of Consumer affairs. I didn’t hear a commitment for cost-saving solar for all the county properties. That could more than pay for everything I’m talking about.”
The full legislature, together and meeting in committees, will spend the next month or so working the budget. Any changes they make will be sent back to Molinaro who can veto specific changes, or he can sign it.