One county resident speaks out on budget at hearing

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POUGHKEEPSIE – Out of an estimated Dutchess County population of more than 294,000 residents, only one East Fishkill resident spoke at the county legislature’s public hearing on the amended 2022 budget Monday night.

 

The legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee met more than 15 times in November after receiving County Executive Marc Molinaro’s tentative spending plan on November 4.  After reviewing the budget of more than $500 million, seven amendments were approved by the committee.  The amendments comprise $3.6 million of increases including enhanced veterans services, competitive grant programs, and special needs programs.  The additional funding was drawn from the county’s reserve funds and will not impact the tax levy.

 

Barbara Walsh of Hopewell, the night’s only speaker, told lawmakers that the budget is focused on construction of the new county jail and does not adequately fund mental health programs.  Walsh told lawmakers that she has been a recovering alcoholic for 22 years and understands the needs for services for those dealing with alcohol and substance abuse issues.  She went on to talk about her friend who recently lost a child after an overdose.  Implying that the county does not spend enough on programs for addiction, she said, “This budget is a slap in the face to families that have lost people to addiction.”

 

Molinaro’s budget addressed the rising Substance Use Disorder SUD) crisis being experienced nationwide, magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In releasing the budget, Molinaro said in part, “Dutchess County continues to fight back against the crippling grip that SUD has on too many of our friends and neighbors. Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health has expanded our street outreach and programming in addition to a full slate of 24/7 crisis services – the longstanding and successful helpline, Stabilization Center, Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, virtual and on-demand Narcan training and trauma team – to reach those struggling with SUD during these challenging times.”  Funding for the programs was increased over the 2021 budget.  The full Molinaro budget brief can be found HERE.

 

The Republican majority of lawmakers recently criticized the Democrats on the legislature for failing to attend the meeting while criticizing the 2022 budget.  The attendance story can be found HERE.