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.
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!
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.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
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 $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!
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.”
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.
On November 13, 2018, Munn brought up the review of the Stabilization Center project that had been completed by County Comptroller Robin Lois. She had revealed that the county had used two phases of bond money, plus another $800,000 from an old bond to complete just one phase of the project.
Deputy County Executive Bill O’Neil shared a long list of mistakes and missteps during that project’s lifespan and tried to explain why the administration never told the county legislature about the cost overruns.
The Stabilization Center was a worthy project but these kinds of planning errors cost taxpayers time and money.
On September 18, Dutchess County announced Municipal Innovation Grants including $108,000 to assist Tivoli’s water system transfer to the Dutchess County Waste Water Authority and $50,000 for bathroom accessibility improvements at the Red Hook Recreational Park.
“I was pleased to support and cosponsor the resolution to fund these grants,” said Dutchess County Legislator Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “Given the lower share of sales tax revenue that the county has been sending our towns and villages, it is vital we continue to advocate for these important funds.”
In addition to the $158,000 for local municipalities, the grants include $256,850 for crisis intervention training that will provide officers with the tools necessary to identify, intervene, de-escalate and divert individuals from inpatient hospitalization and the criminal justice system to community organizations that can address their needs. Research suggests an estimated savings of $100,000 annually.
Also included is $825,090 for the Dutchess County Drug Task Force. This funding will provide the team with a consistent task force, alleviating the financial burden from the four departments who provide an officer currently, allowing the task force the ability to enhance operations, increase investigations and arrests, and increase property seizures. The task force saves an estimated $3.5 million in other costs, annually.
“With the ongoing epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction, it is important to provide consistent funding for both treatment and diversion and law enforcement,” said Munn. “I hope we can further expand our treatment funding during the upcoming budget process.”
UPDATED: For those concerned about the abuse of property seizures reported in some jurisdictions, be aware that I (or another legislator) always confirm that any seized property being spent is not from pre-conviction defendants. All spending must come before the legislature – neither the sheriff nor the DA can spend proceeds from seized property without our approval. -KM
At the July 9, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, members unanimously passed a Democratic resolution co-sponsored by Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook) to improve outreach for citizen participation in volunteer boards and committees, overcoming Republican resistance at the June sessions.
The final amended form of the resolution, entitled “Resolution to strengthen outreach and participation in Dutchess County volunteer boards and committees,” requires the county to list the many volunteer boards and committees on the county website in a consistent manner and explain their purpose. It would list the members of the committees, provide details on when and where they meet and how to volunteer to join one. It also requires that candidates put forward for appointment or reappointment include an updated or current resume.
Previously, the membership of many boards was unavailable and the very existence of some committees were hard to confirm, even by legislators.
“This legislation helps residents connect more easily with volunteer committees that are helping the county work on a particular issue–whether it’s Lyme disease, environmental hazards, traffic safety, or veterans’ welfare,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie). “The more we work together the more good we can do.”
Originally introduced as a transparency resolution covering all of county government and requiring the publication of agendas and minutes, the resolution was amended by Republicans in July to remove those requirements and to exempt the County Executive’s meetings and boards. Republicans had voted against considering the original resolution on June 7 on a party line vote.
The Democratic caucus is a proponent of transparency and will continue to support and push for more resolutions such as this to insure better government.
“Although this is a watered down version of the original transparency resolution that Legislator Edwards worked tirelessly on, I am happy that we were able to finally get a resolution on the record that will prove to offer the public a real opportunity to get involved in their local government along with staying up-to-date on the issues we are working to resolve,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).
“This is a good first step and something that should have happened years ago,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “Minutes and agendas should also be publicly available and there is no reason volunteer boards overseen by the county executive should be exempt but we’ll take what we can get for now.”
“An inclusive government makes our community stronger. Especially when progress comes with a $0 price tag, perpetuating barriers to participation is indefensible,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).
At the July 9 meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, the annual budget for Dutchess Community College (DCC) was approved 16-7.
The budget increases the the county’s contribution by $1.75 million over the previous year, primarily due to reduced enrollment. College attendance is counter-cyclical. When the economy is going well, many would-be students opt to join the workforce rather than attend college. DCC receives state funding on a per-student basis so when attendance wanes, state funding drops as well as tuition – fewer students means less tuition collected overall.
The increase has no immediate impact on county taxes and will be factored into the annual budgeting process this fall.
Eventually, when the economy slows down and jobs are tougher to find, enrollment will increase, state funding will rise and the county will be asked for less. The typical split for community colleges has the county, the state and the student each splitting a third of the costs. With this budget, Dutchess County will still be contributing just 26%.
“Dutchess Community College draws students from throughout the Hudson Valley, not just Dutchess,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “While enrollment is down in this expanding economy, as it is at most similar institutions, it is crucial for us to support our local college and keep it in good shape for any tough times to come.”
Several residents and alumnae from the county came out to speak in favor of supporting the requested funding for Dutchess Community College. Key points made by many residents included the need for ongoing access to quality education and giving students of all ages better opportunities in life.
The resolution passing the budget also calls on Robin Lois, the Dutchess County Comptroller, to do a full assessment of the college’s books, something that was already on her schedule.
Legislator Randy Johnson (D-City of Poughkeepsie) said, “This is not the time to turn our backs on students and kill their dreams. The prize of Dutchess County is not the jail, it’s not DPW, it’s not the airport, but it is our community college. We live in a world where we see tax breaks given to the wealthy all of time, so I think it’s time to invest in the present and the future, by giving breaks to the general public by funding public education for Dutchess Community College.”
Minority Leader, Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park), said, “For many years prior to recent years, the County has notoriously underfunded its own community college compared to other counties throughout the Hudson Valley. I attribute my broader sense of giving back to our community and values to attending Dutchess Community College as many here in Dutchess County do. Without hesitation, DCC has answered the need for expanding services into the community through programs such as Dutchess Thinks Ahead and the new educational site at the Family Partnership Center. I am always proud to vote to support DCC.”
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Hi! As your county legislator, I believe it is important to communicate with Red Hook and Tivoli about what is happening and give you the opportunity to weigh in with any thoughts or concerns you might have.