County saves $11 million from buyout program
For months, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and other county leaders warned of potential mass layoffs and cuts in services if President Donald Trump and Congress did not agree on a pandemic aid package for local governments.
With no aid in sight, the county instead will use nearly $10 million from a reserve fund and savings from an employee buyout program to deliver a proposed $502 million budget for 2021 that contains no layoffs and no property tax increases, according to Molinaro.
Under the proposal, spending would fall by $18 million and the county tax rate by 2.5 percent, from $3.26 to $3.18 per $1,000 of assessed value.
To offset anticipated losses of $6.1 million in sales tax revenue and $4 million in state aid, the county will rely on about $11 million saved when 152 employees accepted offers to retire or leave their jobs for payouts in 2021, said Molinaro.
The budget is before the county Legislature, which can amend the plan before a final vote.
Molinaro said that, under the budget, some services “may take longer to provide as we serve more people with fewer employees.”
Of the positions approved for buyouts, some will be eliminated and others left vacant, according to the county. The deleted positions include 12 corrections officers (for a savings of $920,000), two probation officers ($125,000), drug counselors and social workers in the Health Department and other positions in the Office of Probation and Community Corrections.
What’s Next for the Budget
Nov. 10: Virtual town hall, noon
Nov. 19: Virtual town hall, 6 p.m.
Nov. 30: Legislative hearing, 7 p.m.
Visit bit.ly/dutchess-budget for information.
Dutchess is also proposing 10 new positions, including a deputy commissioner for housing at an annual salary of $114,005; an executive director for the Human Rights Commission ($102,028); an elections specialist ($84,000); and a communications specialist for the Health Department ($67,486).
Police reform is also reflected in the budget, said Molinaro. Next year, every Dutchess County sheriff’s deputy will begin wearing a body camera and the county will provide procedural justice and implicit bias training to every law enforcement agency in the county. The county said that 200 officers have signed up to attend the eight-hour classes by the end of the year.
The county’s mobile crisis intervention team will expand and “work more closely than ever” with police officers and Mental Health America, an anti-racism organization, said Molinaro. Mental Health America, Astor Services and PeopleUSA will also take over the operation of the Dutchess Stabilization Center in Poughkeepsie, which provides services to people in crisis 24 hours a day.
In an effort to diversify county police forces, the county will amend its college credit requirement for the officer civil service exam, which mandates that applicants have at least 60 college credits. With the change, new officers will have five years to earn the 60 credits.
The draft budget also provides $1.1 million to support home-based services for seniors, including case management, adult day care, personal care and housekeeping and Lifeline units. Next year, with $50,000 in funding from the federal CARES Act, Dutchess will test a new transportation program for seniors.