Property Taxes Down For The Seventh Year In A Row While Also Investing In A Brighter Future For All
Kingston, N.Y. – Today, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein delivered his 2019 Executive Budget at the future home of the Ulster County Family Court. The 2019 Executive Budget calls for a tax cut while simultaneously delivering expanded services and funding investment in Ulster County’s youth and families, public safety and health, the arts, economic development, infrastructure, transportation, and the environment.
“We are cutting County property taxes once again for the great people of Ulster County, for the seventh year in a row! The 2019 Ulster County budget has total appropriations of $329 million and total revenues of $244 million, creating a net County cost of $85 million. After a fund balance appropriation of $8.7 million, a number that is almost $4 million less than last year, the tax levy or the amount we collect through property taxes, has now been reduced to the lowest level since all the way back in 2009, an entire decade ago! In the process, we continue to earn strong recognition from the NYS Comptroller as well as multiple independent bond rating agencies for the responsible way we manage taxpayer money. This budget is one of the most socially responsible county budgets our State has ever seen.” said County Executive Hein.
The Family Court is scheduled to open six weeks ahead of schedule and is on track to be $500,000 under budget. By locating it next door to the talented children and family specialists at Ulster County Department of Social Services, improved access to professional assistance and services are expected. Additionally, relocating the Family Court to a County-owned property instead of building a new facility saved the County over $10 million. This project exemplifies how County Executive Hein’s administration balances fiscal and social responsibility.
Highlights of the County Executive’s 2019 $329 million proposed budget include:
Continued Infrastructure Investment
The 2019 Executive Budget provides nearly $25 million to repair and replace aging infrastructure through the County Executive’s Building a Better Ulster County initiative, including funding for the County’s growing rail trail network. “We fought hard to save millions, so we could make an unprecedented $70 million multi-year investment in infrastructure. As a direct result, I am proud to say that we now have the best County roads and bridges Ulster County has ever seen,” said County Executive Hein. Since no infrastructure discussion would be complete without including Ulster County’s growing network of rail trails, the 2019 Executive Budget also includes a new Trail Stewardship Matching Fund Program. “In an effort to help support the incredible organizations who care for our emerging network of trails, for the first time ever, I have included $150,000 in matching funds to better ensure responsible long-term rail trail maintenance,” said County Executive Hein.
Ulster County Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center
The 2019 Executive Budget provides funding to provide critical, specialized evidence-based programming for the Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center. These programs are specifically targeted at reducing recidivism through the provision of services such as improving family reintegration, mental health and substance abuse services, increasing educational opportunities and providing employment support and training. This building is scheduled to be completed in late 2018. “The Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center is a place that will help both at-risk and justice-involved youth to avoid what is often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. In addition, it will provide innovative programs to help families and other members of our community with proven solutions designed specifically to break the cycle of generational poverty,” said County Executive Hein.
Brighter Futures Initiative
The Brighter Futures Initiative is County Executive Hein’s vision for community-based solutions that fundamentally disrupt generational poverty throughout the County. To date, the initiative has included several capital construction projects in and around the City of Kingston that improve access to critical resources proven to help disrupt generational poverty: access to low cost higher education with the relocation of SUNY Ulster's satellite campus from the Business Resource Center on Ulster Avenue to its new home adjacent to Kingston High School on Mary's Avenue; and the relocation of the County’s Family Court to County-owned vacant space.
The County also began planning for the construction of the Midtown Linear Park and playground to connect neighborhoods in Midtown with Kingston’s only major supermarket, along with doctors’ offices, the VA clinic, schools and transit stations in Uptown Kingston. Providing easy access to essential needs like low cost food and healthcare. In response to Raise the Age, the County Executive announced a new initiative last year to provide rehabilitative and restorative justice for adolescents through a new Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center at the Department of Probation. The Center will give justice-involved and at-risk youth as well as other community members a second chance and interrupt the "school to prison pipeline.
“My ‘Brighter Futures’ initiative is intended to help more children and families rise above the nightmare of generational poverty and our budget specifically funds important efforts to improve equality and address social injustice,” said County Executive Hein. “I am proud to say that because my administration has a track record of tackling important issues, we were able to secure a remarkable $4 million in supportive funding (that we announced three days ago) to help make our exciting Brighter Futures Initiative an even bigger success! As a result, we will be expanding college readiness programs, tutoring, mentorship and greater access to no-cost higher education, all while removing longstanding impediments like child care, transportation and books. For those who want greater career opportunities immediately, we will be offering enhanced job training and certificate programs to assist at-risk youth and their parents move toward higher paying jobs, as we work to break the cycle of generational poverty together.”
Intermunicipal Economic Growth Funding
The 2019 Executive Budget allocates $200,000 to a new matching fund program for the County’s towns and villages. “To further support local success, I have created a valuable new tool, a matching County program to help our local municipalities, including our Villages, leverage greater assistance in expanding parking, wayfinding signs, master plans and other critical elements that help support smart and sustainable growth,” said County Executive Hein.
Creative Economy Development Fund
The creative economy plays an important role within Ulster County with $23.5 million in economic impact from arts organizations and $161 million in arts and cultural tourism spending. In order to recognize the importance of this vital sector and better align budgetary priorities, the 2019 Executive Budget establishes a new division within the Office of Economic Development and increases funding for the arts by 100%.
The County Executive and the Mayor of the City of Kingston have agreed to a target date of July 1, 2019 for the County’s expansion of service within the City limits. Final agreement on transition particulars must be addressed by the County Legislature and City Common Council, however the County Executive has included within the 2019 Executive Budget funds for an advertising campaign. “In addition to more fuel-efficient buses with free wifi and an easy to use mobile app for scheduling and real time tracking, this budget recognizes the adjustment period that will inevitably accompany any major change, like a UCAT/Citibus expansion, and includes absolutely free bus service for everyone who rides within the City of Kingston throughout the entire bus transition period,” said County Executive Hein.
Free UCAT Fares for Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel
“Though we will never be able to repay the debt we owe Veterans and active duty military personnel, in recognition of their service to our nation, I have proposed free bus service regardless of where they travel in our County. Because if you have fought to protect our freedoms, you have earned the right to all the help we can possibly provide,” said County Executive Hein.
Free UCAT Fares for SUNY Ulster Students
The 2019 Executive Budget proposes that SUNY Ulster Students with a valid student ID will be able to ride UCAT buses anywhere within the County for free.
The 2019 Executive Budget includes approximately $6.5 million to support SUNY Ulster, which is one of the largest County contributions in the State.
Each year, governments typically see huge increases in health insurance premiums which leads to budgetary challenges. The 2019 Executive Budget expands upon the multi-year commitment to further redesign the County’s self-insured health insurance program. “I am thrilled to say that this year, by partnering with the New York State Association of Counties, we are now creating a new stop loss consortium to further control our costs. Instead of accepting those massive insurance increases as inevitable, we did something about it and have lowered health insurance costs for over 1,300 hardworking County employees and their families while still lowering property taxes for all Ulster County taxpayers,” said County Executive Hein.
Substance Abuse Prevention Programs
As the nation continues to fight the opioid epidemic, the 2019 Executive Budget expands upon the funding provided in last year’s budget for substance abuse prevention programs. This includes a new County Executive initiative to identify gaps in addiction treatment for those at, and those being discharged from, the Ulster County Jail. There is also new funding for a pilot that will encourage first responders to transport any overdose patient in the service area to Ellenville Regional Hospital to provide treatment and counseling services.
In addition, according to County Executive Hein, “We have successfully created a new State law to help reduce the amount of prescription drugs on our streets that far too often end up in our children. After two years, we were able to get an important new law passed that requires all large chain pharmacies to allow everyone to return any unused medication for disposal.” With the newly signed legislation taking effect in January 2019, the County will run a public awareness campaign to inform residents of the new law.
“The 2019 Executive Budget exhibits the continuation of my strong commitment to the hard-working property taxpayers of Ulster County,” said County Executive Mike Hein. “I envision a brighter future for everyone. I refuse to accept that generational poverty is inevitable, and I believe we can make a difference, providing access to low cost higher education, low cost healthy food, and health care for those who may find them unattainable. I believe that County government can work efficiently and be fiscally responsible while providing the necessary services needed by our citizens.
County Executive Mike Hein continued, “A government that respects its taxpayers by reducing their burden while never sacrificing critical services for those in need, and by choosing efficiency over waste, is able to fund valuable programs for our Veterans, our seniors, our children and our families. We can do it all, while modernizing our infrastructure and supporting intelligent economic growth too. Every step of the way, embracing our role as a leader in environmental protection because we know it is our children’s futures that are at stake.”
For 2019 Executive Budget Documents please visit: http://ulstercountyny.gov/budget