After many meetings and numerous amendments to improve the budget, the Dutchess County Legislature approved the 2019 budget which lowers the property tax rate by 2.5%.
Among the added budget initiatives was the restoration of a 5 day week to the county’s Senior Friendship Centers.
“I’m glad we were finally able to restore a full, five-day schedule to our Senior Friendship Centers, especially now that we have one at the Red Hook Community Center,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “It has been a priority for years and I’m glad we could get that done in my first year in office.”
During the budget process, Munn added additional positions for an Assistant District Attorney and an additional caseworker for Dutchess County’s Child Protective Services to help with their high caseloads.
“It was very important to me that the legislature provide enough funding for the important work being done by the county while also keeping in mind the bottom line,” said Munn. “While we could have done better, the budget was better when we were finished with it.”
One of the most contentious issues was the continued understaffing and overtime problems at the county jail. For the fifth year in a row, 25% of the hours worked at the jail will be overtime, a rate much higher than neighboring Ulster County’s 10%.
In addition to more part-time staff, Munn proposed an amendment to create 10 more full-time Corrections Officer (CO) positions which, if filled, would pay for themselves in the first year by reducing overtime costs and save taxpayer money in the long run, reduce workplace accidents and improve the quality of life for county employees.
Properly staffing the jail would also provide the opportunity to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to those suffering from opioid and other addictions.
The amendment was narrowly rejected.
“It is unfortunate that we were unable to make more headway on the jail issues and help reduce the overtime burdens of our Corrections Officers,” said Munn. “I will continue to push to try common-sense solutions that have been put off for far too long, both in the jail and elsewhere.”