Independent Redistricting to go before the voters in 2020

I fought all year to get true Independent Redistricting for Dutchess County, to end the corrupt gerrymandering of our legislative districts. With today’s signing, the change will go before the voters in November 2020 for an up-or-down vote. It would have been far better to have it before the voters THIS November but our work was delayed to make sure that didn’t happen. 10 years ago Independent Redistricting was passed and then repealed by the Republicans after the elections were over. We must not let history repeat itself.

Munn votes NO as legislature votes 13-12 to hike elected official salaries

On Monday, June 10, the Dutchess County Legislature voted 13-12 to provide 12.5% raises to county-wide electeds and 6% raises for county legislators, passing a resolution put forward by Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-Pine Plains).

When asked on Thursday how the 3% per year number was arrived at despite inflation being below 2%, Chairman Pulver admitted that “The 3% number came up quite frankly because we’re now giving a county-wide elected official a 3% salary [increase] next year and the year after which would be the comptroller. We voted two years ago to raise the comptroller’s salary… So that’s where the 3% came from.”

“There is no reason cited for the amount of the raises aside from the fact that they gave the comptroller that raise back in 2017 and there haven’t been raises in awhile,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “I would want to see a cross-county comparison on total compensation before considering raises.”

Current compensation packages including medical, insurance, pension contribution, car allowance:

  • County Executive: $191,973.41
  • Sheriff: $182,113.20
  • County Clerk: $149,558.87
  • County Comptroller: $126,526.53

“I only regret we did not have one more vote to oppose this baseless measure,” said Munn.

Like term limits and his local law to weaken disclosure rules, Pulver put forward the salary legislation without any warning or discussion across the aisle.

Salary increases will take effect beginning January 1, 2020.

Munn votes NO in committee on Pulver’s raises for elected officials

On Thursday, June 6, the Budget & Finance committee of the Dutchess County Legislature considered and passed a resolution from Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-Pine Plains) to provide 12.5% raises to county-wide electeds and 6% raises for county legislators. The vote was 8-4.

When asked on the floor how the 3% per year number was arrived at despite inflation being below 2%, Chairman Pulver admitted that “The 3% number came up quite frankly because we’re now giving a county-wide elected official a 3% salary [increase] next year and the year after which would be the comptroller. We voted two years ago to raise the comptroller’s salary… So that’s where the 3% came from.”

“There is no reason cited for the amount of the raises aside from the fact that they gave the comptroller that raise back in 2017 and there haven’t been raises in awhile,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “I would want to see a cross-county comparison on total compensation before considering raises.”

Current compensation packages including medical, insurance, pension contribution, car allowance:

  • County Executive: $191,973.41
  • Sheriff: $182,113.20
  • County Clerk: $149,558.87
  • County Comptroller: $126,526.53

Voting in favor of the measure were legislators Pulver, Will Truitt (R-Hyde Park), Don Sagliano (R-Pleasant Valley), Joe Incoronato (R-Wappingers Falls), Donna Bolner (R-LaGrange), Tom Keith (R-Town of Poughkeepsie), Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-City of Poughkeepsie) and John Metzger (R-East Fishkill).

Opposing the salary hikes in committee were legislators Munn, Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park), Randy Johnson (D-City of Poughkeepsie) and Nick Page (D-Beacon).

Like term limits and his local law to weaken disclosure rules, Pulver put forward the salary legislation without any warning or discussion across the aisle.

The resolution moves to the full 25-person board on Monday, June 10 for final passage.

Munn receives Independence Party nod

Incumbent legislator Kristofer Munn has received the endorsement of the Dutchess County Independence Party as their chosen candidate as he seeks re-election as Red Hook and Tivoli’s representative in the Dutchess County Legislature.

“After 16 months in office and compiling a track record of hard work and results, I am pleased that the Dutchess County Independence Party has chosen me as their candidate,” said Munn.

In 2017, Munn sought and won the nomination of the Independence Party in his first run for office.

Those registered in the Independence Party can cast their vote of support for Kris in the primary on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

Please consider a donation to our campaign.

Munn introduces law to end corrupt practice of politicians drawing their own districts

Every 10 years, the majority party in the Dutchess County Legislature draws district lines to favor their members and disadvantage the opposing party in an attempt to entrench their power and make themselves immune to the will of the voters.

On May 13, 2019, Democratic members of the Dutchess County Legislature put forward a local law to change how the county legislative districts are drawn after each census. Instead of having the politicians in power draw their own districts for maximum political advantage, an Independent Redistricting Commission would be formed with no politicians, no officers of any political party and no county employees. They would take public input thru hearings, create a map and approve a final plan with five votes out of seven. The plan would have the force of law. Once the law is passed, it will go to a public vote this November.

We need your help! Please sign the petition to support passing the law and ask the legislature to pass it as soon as possible so the voters can approve it this November in time for the next census!

Munn strengthens leaky ethics and disclosure proposal

In March 2019, a new local law was proposed revamping the ethics and disclosure rules in Dutchess County. The Republican leadership put it forward without sharing it with most of the legislators for review.

After examination, it turned out this so-called improvement was reducing the disclosure rules for some family members. When asked on the floor, it appeared that neither the sponsors of the law nor the low-level staffers could answer questions about the new holes they were opening in the disclosure rules. Amendments were made the following meeting to fix those gaps.

2018 in Review

My first year as county legislator is in the books and year two has already begun. Thank you again for choosing me as your county legislator in 2017. I truly love this job, working with my colleagues, learning and pushing on your behalf to bring much-needed oversight and common sense to decisions made at the county level.

My favorite part of this job is the opportunity to meet and advocate for our neighbors when it comes to local government and the schools. Among other efforts this past year, I advised a family on resolving a busing issue with the school, kickstarted the process of successfully reducing the speed limit on Budds Corners Road and called on the County Department of Public Works to restore eroded guard rails along West Broadway in Tivoli (hopefully to happen this spring) – all concerns brought to me by constituents.

So if you need help or advice on how to navigate local government, I’m here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime – call or text me at 845-293-2088 or email me at kris@munnforredhook.com. If I can’t help directly, I will find out who can.

Budget and Services

The recent budget we passed reduced the 2019 county property tax rate. County taxes only make up about 10% of your property tax bill but at least that portion will be about the same or slightly less this year. This is thanks primarily to the growth of our Dutchess County economy and the sales tax revenue it generates.

The county’s Senior program moved from Rhinebeck to the
Red Hook Community Center in early 2018. It will soon expand to 5 days a week.

We increased our Senior Friendship Center schedule to support 5 days a week so check in at the Red Hook Community Center for more information.

We’ve expanded the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) to provide help county-wide including Red Hook and Tivoli rather than just in a handful of towns. We also approved funding for the construction of a much-needed emergency services and training center for our first responders.

The Opioid Drug Crisis

The opioid crisis continues to take more lives each year in Dutchess County and we continue working to reduce the overprescription of painkillers, one of the primary sources of addiction in our community. As pills get harder to find, some seek treatment but others turn to more dangerous drugs and that can lead to an overdose.

Fewer opioids on the street can lead people to find treatment… or to turn to alternatives.

To help, I put forward a modest local law to require every pharmacy to provide a prescription drug take-back box – paid for by the drug companies. Our local county effort was blocked but thankfully the state passed a similar law later in 2018. We also increased funding for educational services and outreach about opioid addiction and mental health services.

I will continue to push for expanded services to combat this crisis including offering treatment to those who find themselves in our county jail. At the end of 2018, even if someone has already sought treatment for addiction and is under a doctor’s care, if he or she is arrested they are not able to continue receiving their prescription while awaiting trial. This can lead to relapse and more crime.

Oversight and Wasteful Spending

Starting last year, the county legislature is no longer a rubber stamp for county government. My colleagues and I ask questions and those questions, along with the efforts of our County Comptroller Robin Lois, have forced the county to follow proper procedure and end some of the sloppy practices that have led to mistakes and wasted money.

Kristofer Munn
Legislator Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook / Tivoli) questions the administration on construction cost overruns during a meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature.

Unfortunately, a number of past and ongoing county construction projects were revealed to have significant cost overruns due to mistakes or incorrect assumptions made during the planning and construction process. After some investigation, I was shocked to discover that the county had no written policies or procedures for handling large capital projects. When the public defender’s office renovation nearly quadrupled in cost (from $1.7M to $6.3M), I demanded that new policies and procedures be implemented before we approve any future projects.

Those policies are now in place. And with proper oversight, I hope we won’t see as many problems in the future.

The new Dutchess County Jail construction project will cost more than $180M before interest payments.

The new $180M+ jail project is scheduled to break ground later this year. I continue to believe this 500+ bed facility needs to be reconsidered and right-sized. As I warned during my 2017 campaign, the changes in Albany after the 2018 election will likely give us bail reform similar to what they have done in other states.

Bail reform will likely reduce our jail population by 20% or more by allowing nonviolent offenders to go back to their families and jobs while they await trial. If we build this oversized jail, we will have dozens or perhaps hundreds of empty beds – a serious waste of money. A smart redesign will save us millions in unnecessary construction costs.

After scouring the budget last fall, I discovered our current jail continues to consume millions of dollars in overtime every year, with one dollar of overtime for every 3 dollars of regular time for the last five years ($25M+ in overtime spending). Compare this to Ulster County where they spend one dollar of overtime for every 10 dollars of regular time.

Excessive overtime is dangerous to both the corrections officers and those held in the jail with long work hours leading to expensive injuries and mistakes.

After documenting more than five years of failure to fix this problem, I authored a budget amendment to add staff to try to reduce the overtime problems. It would have cost taxpayers nothing in the short run and saved money in the long run. My amendment was rejected but I will continue to monitor the situation at the jail and speak out if progress is not made.

I am your advocate with local government

Dealing with government can sometimes be confusing and frustrating – trust me I know – but I want to be your advocate. Over the past decade, I have established relationships with people in village, town, county and state government so if I can’t help you I can probably connect you with the person who can. Do not hesitate to contact me – I’m here to help!

Thank you again for all your support.

Legislature passes 2019 budget lowering property tax rate

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%.

Kristofer Munn
Legislator Munn questions a speaker during a meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature.

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.”

Munn offers budget amendment to reduce excessive overtime at county jail

On December 6, 2018, I offered an amendment to add 10 temporary full-time Corrections Officers to help alleviate some of the 100,000 overtime hours worked every year at the county jail. This expensive problem has persisted for years costing taxpayers millions of dollars. These new positions would have at least been a first step at trying to solve the problem instead of continuing to ignore it and would have saved taxpayer dollars in the long run.