Also, budget approved, BOCES proposal passes
By Jeff Simms
The Dutchess County Legislature on Dec. 6 voted to ban disposable plastic shopping bags but did not add a surcharge for using plastic or restrict the use of paper shopping bags, both elements of the original proposal.
The law passed by a vote of 23 to 1, with Legislator Frits Zernike, who represents Beacon, the only opponent. Stripping down the bill, he said, allows the county to “lurch toward some progress” but misses an opportunity to “start to shift our entire attitude away from disposability toward a more sustainable outlook.”
The original proposal would have added a 10-cent per bag surcharge to disposable paper or plastic bags, with the revenue going to retailers. Much like a measure approved in Ulster County earlier this year, the fees would have been waived for seniors or customers paying through federal food assistance programs.
The amended law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Legislators also approved a $503 million budget for 2019 by a 19 to 5 vote. Both Zernike and Legislator Nick Page, who also represents Beacon, voted against the budget.
The budget reduces the property tax levy for the fifth consecutive year and lowers the tax rate for a fourth year to $3.45 from $3.54 per $1,000 of assessed value.
It includes an amendment introduced by Page to spend $9,400 to study the feasibility of a weekend ferry service between Dutchess and Orange counties but did not include a proposed request to fund a full-time Climate Smart Coordinator. The Beacon City Council is considering adding a similar position to its municipal staff.
The budget was sent to County Executive Marc Molinaro, who signed it on Friday (Dec. 14). Besides the ferry service proposal, other amendments will provide $85,000 for a Domestic Abuse Response Team; $20,000 to expand marketing for the county help line and stabilization center; $112,000 for an assistant district attorney; $105,000 for a Child Protective Services case manager; $97,500 for an Adult Protective Services case manager; and $5,000 to conduct e-cigarette enforcement checks to ensure vendors are not selling to minors.
Dutchess County voters on Dec. 11 overwhelmingly approved a proposal by the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to spend $37 million to renovate and relocate its facilities.
Nearly 85 percent of the 4,444 county residents who voted endorsed the measure (3,746 to 698), awarding the agency its first major capital undertaking in more than 50 years. The funding package will upgrade the BOCES Career and Technical Institute (CTI) in Poughkeepsie for high school students and the adjacent Salt Point Center for elementary and middle school students receiving special education services. It will also move the Alternative High School from a Poughkeepsie industrial park to the CTI site.
While Dutchess homeowners will see a modest increase in their annual property taxes, BOCES officials touted the measure as one that would be largely “cost-neutral” because of expected savings on rent, maintenance, transportation and utilities.