POUGHKEEPSIE – The 2020 Dutchess County budget totaling about $512 million was adopted in a 22-2 bipartisan vote by the county legislature Thursday evening.
Legislator Joe Incoronato was absent from the meeting.
The budget was adopted with several amendments to County Executive Marcus Molinaro’s proposed spending plan in one of the most efficient budget meetings in memory. Historically, the budget meeting would last late into the night when former Legislator Joel Tyner would offer up a plethora of amendments, each with a lengthy explanation.
The budget reduces the county property tax levy for the sixth consecutive year, making the largest such reduction in 20 years, and it lowers the property tax rate for a fifth year, from $3.45 to $3.27 per $1,000 of true value assessments.
The budget maintains the county’s fiscal stability and essential programs, including services for seniors, veterans, youth and those with disabilities, and strengthening proven economic engines, such as tourism and the arts.
County Executive Molinaro was pleased with the outcome. “The budget holds the line on spending while providing the largest tax cut in 20 years. At the same time, we deliver on the services and address the needs facing the residents of Dutchess County,” he said after the vote. “And the overwhelming bi-partisan support, suggests to me, that we continue to show what good government looks like.”
County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver said the budget “strikes a balance between programs and services that support a thriving community while controlling spending and yet again providing tax relief to residents and businesses.” He pointed to the additional investments the legislature added “to expand community services, including additional funding in the Agency Partnership Grant program for critical programs such as a new library component for ‘DutchessReads’ aimed at bridging the digital divide.” Pulver called the spending plan “a fiscally responsible budget.”
Legislative amendments to the budget include a $50,000 increase to Division of Veterans’ Services to serve homeless veterans, 575,000 increase to the Department of Planning and Development for competitive grant programs, and $375,000 increase to the Agency Partnership Grant Program, including $75,000 for a library component of Dutchess Reads.
An additional $200,000 was added to the Municipal Innovation Grant program while Cornell Cooperative Extension received a $25,000 allotment for the development of “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” 4-H.
An additional $20,000 was added to the Department of Behavioral and Community Health for additional opioid awareness training and education.
Assistant Minority Leader Kristofer Munn voted against the budget saying that it doesn’t address the opioid crisis as much as it should. “We should be thinking outside the box when it comes to addressing the crisis,” he said after the meeting had adjourned. Nick Page of Beacon was the second Democrat to vote against the budget.
The budget, with amendments, will now be forwarded to Molinaro for review and signature. The final step in the budget process is the override consideration of any amendment vetoes by the county executive and the adoption of the tax levy. That will take place on Monday, December 16 at the county legislature’s board meeting.