KINGSTON – Ulster County’s 2019 budget, with some changes, cleared the county legislature, after a lot of debate on possible amendments.
One was the topic of interest among a handful of speakers during public comment at Wednesday night’s special legislature meeting.
Callie Jayne, of Rises Up Kingston, was a strong advocate for what has been on the table for some time – more funding for the Restorative Justice Center which reaches out to at-risk youth.
“Teachers and school administrators are upholding policies that force students out of schools and into the criminal justice system,” Jayne said. “These policies impact black and brown students disproportionately. The funding for the Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center is necessary to slow down the school to prison pipeline and create brighter futures for the young people of our community.”
A first vote on that amendment failed in an 11-11 deadlock, with one legislator not present at that point in the meeting. That legislator later appeared, said she supported that and several other amendments. The Restorative Justice amendment passed, with a few other legislators changing their votes to “yes.”
Among amendments discussed at length but ultimately failing was one to put on hold all management raises greater than two percent pending a detailed assessment, a move Lynn Archer supported.
“I can’t see us making budget decisions without understanding the implications within the context of this management non-management group where there’s a lot more subjectivity because they are not subject to a contract.” Archer said this gives legislators some time to make a more informed decision.
Another failed amendment would have created a deputy director of audit in the comptroller’s office and one increasing regular pay of two assistant DA positions in the District Attorney’s office
Joe Maloney noted that 23 probation officers and two paralegals in social services are making more than the two ADAs.
David Donaldson was more adamant.
“And this is absurd what they are being paid,” Donaldson said. I can’t even fathom it. Teachers that are paid above that after 10 years, without a problem and I agree with it; they should be. But a DA, it seems like each year we do the same thing to them.”
A few other amendments passed including increasing the appropriations for Ulster County Community Action.
The amended and now adopted budget goes back to County Executive Michael Hein, whose original proposal of just under $329 million would lower taxes for a seventh consecutive year. If he vetoes any changes, it would go back to the legislature which could attempt overrides.