Dutchess comptroller questions public spending
An audit by the Dutchess comptroller of the operations of Dutchess Stadium prompted a strong reaction from the county executive.
The comptroller, Robin Lois, noted that the county subsidy for the stadium, which is located on Route 9D in Wappingers Falls and now known as Heritage Financial Park, has increased from $134,000 in 2020 to $423,000 in 2023.
“Although the stadium is budgeted as a county park, residents do not have free access as with a normal public park as it is a paid venue operated by a for-profit entity,” the Hudson Valley Renegades minor league baseball team, Lois wrote in a section of the audit report labeled as her “observation and opinion.” “The stadium should be held to a different and higher standard for its tolerance of taxpayer subsidy.”
Lois, a Democrat, urged the administration to continue negotiations of the lease with the team to “lessen the long-term burden on the taxpayers.” She added that a “last-minute” $25 million amendment to the county’s 2023 operating budget by the Legislature for capital improvements at the stadium was “ill advised.”
Although Robert Balkind, the commissioner of the Department of Public Works, said he found the audit “appears to be complete and accurate,” County Executive William F.X. O’Neil, a Republican, wrote to Lois on Oct. 20 with a different take.
He said the audit “ignores many facts,” such as that “revenues need to equal or surpass expenses. There is no requirement for the stadium to show a profit, or even break even.
“It is very shortsighted not to recognize the value of having a long-term lease with a minor league baseball team — a New York Yankees affiliate — to play in our stadium and provide low-cost entertainment for families,” he added. He expressed concern about the “political nature of the audit” and questioned the timing of its release a few weeks before the election.
Yvette Valdés Smith, a Democratic legislator whose district includes Ward 4 in Beacon, said in a statement that spending on the stadium “has been a major difference between Republicans and Democrats” and that the audit “confirms what we suspected all along — this is a grab of taxpayer funds that does not and will not translate into long-term financial gains for the county or its residents.”
Smith pointed to recent claims by Gregg Pulver, a Republican who is chair of the Legislature, that the county uses the rent paid by the Renegades to fund its other parks. She said that “directly contradicts” the audit findings and O’Neil’s statements.