Proposal would cut Dutchess taxes by 10 percent
A year ago, with COVID-19 vaccines still undergoing testing and a second wave of the pandemic underway, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro proposed a budget balanced using savings from employee buyouts and $10 million of reserve funds.
A year later, with vaccinations widespread, resurgent sales-tax collections and federal relief funding, the Republican executive on Wednesday (Oct. 27) released a $528 million budget proposal that would cut property taxes by the largest amount in decades, restore many of the positions eliminated or left vacant and fund several initiatives.
In his proposal, spending falls by 1.3 percent and the tax levy by $5.5 million, the largest reduction in county history, said Molinaro. The reduction translates into a 10.3 percent tax cut, to $2.85 per $1,000 of assessed value from $3.18, said the executive, speaking from Dutchess Community College’s newly opened Aviation Education Center at the Hudson Valley Regional Airport in Wappingers Falls. It is the largest rate cut in 70 years, according to the county.
Molinaro, a Republican, who announced last month his campaign to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, is also supporting the elimination of sales taxes on clothing and shoes costing less than $110, a proposal he said would save buyers $14 million annually. Revenue from sales taxes is projected to be $28 million higher in 2022.
“This budget provides historic tax relief because we can,” said Molinaro. “We don’t need the money and we will give it back to the taxpayers who pay our bills.”
With an assist from the federal American Rescue Plan, enacted in March, the budget refills some of the positions temporarily eliminated or left vacant when 152 employees took early retirement or severance, which saved the county about $11 million.
Of the 96 positions, 18 were restored using some of the $57 million in funding Dutchess is receiving from the American Rescue Plan. Dutchess will use $1.8 million of the ARP Funding to fill 21 positions over the next three years. An additional 38 of the eliminated positions would also be refilled in 2022, according to budget documents.
Among the new positions are three crisis counselors for the county’s help line, an assistant district attorney, a senior assistant public defender, two alternatives-to-incarceration workers in the Public Defenders’ Office, two sheriff’s deputies and three parks maintenance workers.
Other initiatives include $1 million for the county Drug Task Force; the purchase of a community health mobile unit whose services will include screenings and assessments, counseling, infectious disease services and referrals to community organizations; $1.8 million for arts and tourism; and a van for VetZero, a free transportation program for veterans.
The county Legislature will hold public hearings on the proposed budget on Nov. 4, and a forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 9 at East Fishkill Town Hall, 330 Route 376, in Hopewell Junction. The Legislature is expected to vote on the budget on Dec. 2. The full proposal is posted at bit.ly/dutchess-budget-2022.
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