County Executive Mike Hein Announces The Culmination Of Nearly $13 Million In Safety Net Relief For Local Towns And City Of Kingston

Posted September 3, 2014

County Executive Calls On Local Municipalities To Use The Ongoing Savings To Reduce Property Taxes

Kingston, N.Y. – In a meeting today with a number of Town Supervisors, County Executive Mike Hein reviewed the projected savings of the final phase of the County Executive’s planned three year County takeover of Safety Net expenses.  Beginning January 1, 2015 the County will assume an estimated $7 million annually from the Towns and City of Kingston, bringing the total savings realized by the Towns and the City of Kingston during the three year transition to almost $13 million.  (A detailed breakdown of the Savings provided to Towns and the City of Kingston is attached.) 

“Beginning January 1, 2015 our Towns will be able to zero out their largest State mandated expense, meaning a savings of millions of dollars every year going forward.  This creates a unique opportunity for local officials to significantly reduce their expenses, and I urge local officials to make certain their property taxpayers benefit from these substantial savings,” said County Executive Hein. 

The Safety Net Assistance Program is a State mandated program that provides assistance to individuals and families who are not eligible for Family Assistance or other Federally-funded welfare programs.  New York is one of only three states in our nation that chooses to fund this State initiative on the backs of local property taxpayers.

Recent State action compounded the challenge of addressing the payment of the local share of Safety Net when the State Legislature voted to increase recipient benefits by over 30% and then increased the local share of the Safety Net Assistance Program from 50% to 71%, lowering the State’s obligation and shifting a greater burden to Towns and the City of Kingston, while maintaining the same eligibility rules for the program. 

In 2012 while delivering the 2013 County Budget Message, County Executive Hein said, “I believe all elected officials serve the exact same taxpayers. I can not and will not allow the Towns or the City of Kingston budgets to explode because of new State mandates concerning Safety Net costs.  We made difficult decisions at the County level to absorb these costs without raising property taxes…The 2013 Budget includes a fiscally responsible three year phase in that completely takes over the Safety Net expenses from the Towns and the City of Kingston, a problem that has existed since 1946.”

“After decades of Legislative gridlock my administration devised a responsible plan in 2012 to take over the expenses of the Safety Net program and provide relief to our Towns and the City of Kingston from this crushing State mandate,” said County Executive Hein.  “The Safety Net had grown into more than just a trivial dispute over who pays for what between towns, the City of Kingston and the County as it began to cause widespread and irreparable damage to the Towns and the City of Kingston’s ability to deliver essential local services.” 

Town of Shawangunk Supervisor and former Chair of the Town Supervisors and Mayors Association, John Valk, said “For decades the County Legislature and Town Supervisors debated as to how to address the Safety Net issue.  Two years ago when I was Chair of the Town Supervisors Association I met with the County Executive and he made a promise, and he has kept it; he solved the issue without any increase in County property taxes.  The end result is a financial benefit to my residents for years to come.”

Town of Saugerties Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said, “Thanks to County Executive Hein my Town will see a tremendous amount of fiscal relief and my taxpayers will benefit. When you get right down to the facts, it was Mike Hein who kept his word, ended the gridlock and solved the Safety Net problem for our municipalities.”