County Executive drafts financially sustainable budget that supports
Ulster County’s taxpayers, towns and the City of Kingston
Rosendale, NY – This afternoon, County Executive Hein delivered the Executive Budget for 2013. The County Executive’s budget protects Ulster County’s residents, streamlines County operations and ensures essential services. This budget solves a series of long- standing problems with straightforward answers. It strengthens the County’s financial foundation through recurring savings, reforms and consolidations and makes Ulster County more sustainable, all of which is ultimately designed to protect property taxpayers.
This budget includes a plan that delivers:
- Approximately $11 million in budget relief to the towns and the City of Kingston during a 3-year transitioned takeover of the Safety Net program;
- A solution to the unavoidable $23 million debt and volume problems at the Resource Recovery Agency;
- A commitment to public safety and the Sheriff’s road patrol;
- A merger of STOP DWI into the Probation Department;
- A bold vision to grow our tourism economy with the development of a world class rail trail network;
- A comprehensive plan to completely restructure and streamline the County’s economic development efforts;
- A new revenue source dedicated to maintaining the County’s infrastructure needs;
- A redesign of the way Ulster County delivers mental health services; and most importantly
- A $3.6 million reduction in spending, resulting in the first property tax decrease in over a decade.
“I can assure you, by working together and taking bold steps, we will better position Ulster County to compete in an ever changing global economy,” said County Executive Hein. “Our community has a proven track record for reform and a willingness to embrace change. With this budget, we will deliver solutions to the long standing issues of Safety Net and the RRA and will implement reforms that will improve the quality of life for the people of Ulster County, both now and long into the future.”
“As part of this reform-based budget, I am committed to restructuring Ulster County’s economic development efforts because spurring job growth and strengthening local businesses is of utmost importance,” said County Executive Hein. According to Steve Turk, Owner of the Rocking Horse Ranch, “The County Executive’s impact on tourism has been exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.”
County Executive Hein continued, “It is critical that governments change and this requires bold choices and hard decisions. By making these difficult decisions, my administration was able to deliver an innovative budget that protects taxpayers, streamlines County operations and continues to ensure that essential services are delivered.”
Safety Net: The Executive Budget includes a 3-year County takeover of Safety Net, resulting in immediate budgetary relief to the City of Kingston and Ulster County’s towns. With this plan, the City and towns will realize a total savings of more than $11 million over the next three years.
Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (RRA): The Ulster County government is responsible for $23 million of RRA debt as well as any operating losses incurred by the RRA, known as the “net service fee.” This liability has long been a problem for the County and it is frequently raised as a concern by bond rating agencies. The Executive Budget includes a plan for modified flow control that expands local competition, better protects our environment and provides a responsible solution to the $23 million debt previously incurred by the RRA, as well as eliminates the $2.5 million net service fee for 2013.
Public Safety: The County Executive believes that one of the most important functions of any government is to provide for the safety of its citizens. Under the 2013 Executive Budget, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department will gain one new position and an additional Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will be added to the District Attorney’s Office to specifically prosecute DWI crimes. The 2013 Executive Budget also continues to fund two part-time investigators who focus their attention on those who may take advantage of the social welfare system at the taxpayers’ expense.
STOP DWI/Probation Department: In 2013, STOP DWI, a traffic safety program funded entirely by the fines paid by people convicted of DWI and DWI related offenses, will be merged into the Probation Department, allowing the County to redirect substantially more of these revenues toward direct efforts to prevent drunk driving.
World Class Rail Trail System: Ulster County owns a portion of the Ulster and Delaware Line, also known as the Catskill Mountain Branch, which includes over 32 miles of rail running from the City of Kingston west to the County line. Much of this abuts the Ashokan Reservoir and has breathtaking views. With the 2013 Executive Budget, the County Executive expresses his vision of turning this rail line into a premier rail trail, leaving intact the existing tourism railroad attraction operated by the Catskill Mountain Railroad. This new project supports the County Executive’s goal of creating the healthiest county in New York State, will create a tourism magnet, and will compliment the Walkway over the Hudson. It will also allow the County to sell existing steel on the line, the value of which is estimated at approximately $650,000.
Economic Development/New Business Service Unit: Spurring job growth and strengthening local businesses is of utmost importance. The current UCDC/IDA model is broken and leads to fragmented and duplicative efforts. The County Executive’s plan creates a new Business Service Unit as a division of the County’s Planning Department, which will function as a single point of access for economic development. By working with the Legislature and stakeholders, Ulster County’s streamlined economic development efforts will work at the “speed of business.”
Vehicle Registration Fee – Additional traffic and more frequent and severe storms are damaging Ulster County’s roadways and infrastructure at an alarming rate. To pay for maintenance, the Executive Budget includes a Vehicle Registration Fee of $5 for passenger cars and $10 for commercial vehicles, which will create $915,000 in new revenue.
Mental Health: New York State’s behavioral health system is undergoing rapid changes, including dramatically reduced aid levels and additional demands on how services are to be provided. For these reasons, the 2013 Executive Budget restructures the delivery of mental health services in Ulster County, preserving critical services to our residents and better positioning the County financially for the future. Creating these greater operational efficiencies will save the County taxpayers $1.5 million dollars in 2013.
Staffing: Between 2009 and 2012, Ulster County reduced its workforce by 213 positions. In 2013, Ulster County will further reduce staffing by 90 additional positions: 18 employees participated in the separation program and these positions are being abolished; 44 vacant positions are being removed from the budget; and the workforce will be reduced by an additional 28 full time employees.
Since taking office in 2009, the County Executive has reduced his Office’s staffing level by 22%. Additionally, the Executive Office has decreased total appropriations by $194,000 since 2009.
General Fund Appropriations: With the 2013 Executive Budget, total appropriations will be reduced by $3.6 million.
Tax Levy: The 2013 Executive Budget does not raise real property taxes. In this Budget, the County’s tax levy will be $78,730,408, a decrease of $129,981 or 0.16%. This is the first tax decrease in Ulster County since 2000 and the second time in his four years in office that County Executive Hein has delivered a County property tax increase at or below 0%.
Retirement: Ulster County is mandated by New York State to fund employee pension benefits. As in previous years, Ulster County is again being hit with a massive increase to the County’s local retirement contribution. The 2013 allocation toward retirement must be increased by $2.8 million from last year to $19.5 million. This represents a 4,300% increase since 2002.
Fund Balance: It is estimated that the Unreserved General Fund Balance at the end of 2012 will be $ 24,766,588. This Executive Budget appropriates $10,000,000 from the General Fund balance for 2013. The fund balance will be maintained at a prudent 5%.
Contract Agencies: The 2013 Executive Budget maintains funding at the 2012 level for Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dutchess County Arts Council, the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC), the libraries and the Soil & Water Conservation District.
Further details can be found on Ulster County’s Budget webpage.