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The County Account

Tax collection needs review

Taxation is a necessary evil that takes property from private individuals for a public purpose. Those of us in government who set the tax levy owe it to the populace to continually assess the amount of taxation, as well as the collection process. We owe it to our residents to assure that the collection process is uniform and least burdensome. An initiative I am spearheading in the county seeks to do just that.

County budget forecast: mixed weather

Budgeting resembles meteorology. It requires sifting through known and measurable data to predict future trends and patterns for outcomes that may never be realized. But what happens when the forecast is wrong? A bride and groom who plan an outside wedding on a weatherman’s forecast of a sun-filled sky have every right to be outraged when it downpours.

Bringing inmates home

Dutchess County arrests more people than we have jail space to house. Our county jail located in Poughkeepsie houses 257 inmates. An additional 200 inmates are transported to jails in other counties whereby Dutchess County pays rent and transportation costs to shuttle the inmates back and forth for trial. This costs an annual $8 million per year.

Infirmary demolition involves high costs

Legislators will gather in May to vote on whether we can afford the demolition of numerous historic buildings long since deteriorated. We’ll also consider whether the age and significance of two of them might make them worth keeping for a while longer despite insufficient funds to renovate.

Dutchess County’s energy tax repeal will save us money

The Dutchess County Legislature will soon repeal the unpopular energy tax that drew the ire and anger of residents county wide. It cannot come soon enough. Since the county budget’s adoption in December — which included a 3.75 percent tax on home energy use effective March 1, 2014 — people all over the county have been calling, writing, emailing and filling up the editorial pages of our newspapers almost daily to tell us elected officials how outraged they are that government would consider taxing such a necessity as home heating fuel and electricity.

County embraces prevention planning

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Social workers and those in the mental health field have understood this for some time where early detection, diagnosis and intervention have been the stratagems for keeping at-risk persons — and society as a result — healthy and stable.

Keep county borrowing to a minimum in 2014

In 2014 the cost to run Dutchess County government, as adopted by the county budget, is $439.3 million. In addition to these annual operating costs the county borrows money for capital projects and large purchases by issuing government bonds. The value of the bonds is determined by the county’s financial health, which is determined by our spending plan and particularly how much money we keep in reserve. In recent years the county fund balance has been operating at stark levels — so low that the county bond rating or borrowing power was downgraded in November from Aa1 to Aa2.

More mental health beds

Five years ago next month, amid challenging economic times, Saint Francis Hospital reduced its adult mental health unit by six inpatient beds. At the same time it closed its inpatient psychiatric unit for children. Since then every child and teenager in need of hospitalization for emotional or mental distress (28 during December 2013) has been sent to Westchester County for treatment. Due to lack of mental health beds, mentally ill adults have also routinely been shipped out-of-county for hospitalization (41 in December 2013).

End the community college subsidy

On March 1, 2014, Dutchess County residents will begin paying a tax on energy use including home heating fuel as a means to close a $7.8 million gap in the Dutchess County budget. This energy tax can be repealed at any time if the county cuts an equivalent amount of spending. Ending the county sponsorship of Dutchess Community College (DCC) could create such cost savings.

End the community college subsidy

On March 1, 2014, Dutchess County residents will begin paying a tax on energy use including home heating fuel as a means to close a $7.8 million gap in the Dutchess County budget. This energy tax can be repealed at any time if the county cuts an equivalent amount of spending. Ending the county sponsorship of Dutchess Community College (DCC) could create such cost savings.

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