Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger’s 2024 Operating Budget Approved by Ulster County Legislature With Minimal Changes

Posted December 7, 2023


The 2024 operating budget prioritizes infrastructure, housing, and climate with no property tax increase; new capital reserves will be considered at December 18 meeting


KINGSTON, NY - The Ulster County Legislature voted today to approve the 2024 Ulster County Operating Budget submitted by Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger with minimal amendments – giving the green light to the County Executive’s plans for investing in infrastructure, combatting the housing crisis, and addressing the climate emergency, among other priority areas. The 2024 Operating Budget is the first prepared by Metzger since taking office, and the County Executive now has five days to consider signing the budget as passed by the Legislature or exercising her line-item veto authority on any amendments. The budget passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan supermajority vote of 18 to 3 with two absences.


The 2024 Operating Budget keeps property taxes and sales taxes flat and maintains a maximum fund balance as permitted by County policy, reserving 20% of operating expenditures in a “rainy day” fund to protect taxpayers from any economic uncertainty next year.  


“The County government is in a strong financial position going into next year, and the 2024 Operating Budget makes smart investments in infrastructure, housing, climate, mental health, and so much more – all while keeping costs down at a time when our residents are facing high costs everywhere,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger. “I want to thank Chair of the Legislature Tracey Bartels, Ways and Means Chair John Gavaris, Minority Leader Ken Ronk, and Members of the Legislature for passing this budget, and for their diligent review and thoughtful input. I’ve had truly great partners in this budget process.” 


"The 2024 budget is a testament to our dedication in addressing the diverse needs of our community,” said Chairwoman of the Ulster County Legislature Tracey Bartels. “With significant investments in roads, bridges, housing, climate, and mental health, this budget reflects a forward-thinking approach that underscores Ulster County's commitment to strategic growth and improved quality of life for our residents. This budget process was an exercise in true collaborative government and I want to thank the County Executive for her partnership in charting a path towards a more transparent and inclusive government for the benefit of Ulster County." 


The 2024 Operating Budget reflects a forward-thinking approach to addressing the diverse needs of the community and underscores the County's commitment to strategic investments in key areas that will foster growth, enhance infrastructure, and improve the overall quality of life for its residents.


Recognizing the critical importance of robust infrastructure, nearly $20 million has been earmarked for comprehensive improvements to roads and bridges. This substantial investment not only ensures safer transportation but also contributes to the County's economic vitality.


Addressing the pressing issue of housing and homelessness, the budget funds a new office in the Department of Social Services (DSS) that will provide proactive, personalized assistance to clients who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. Targeted assistance will be provided to residents to help them access available resources for emergency housing and support services, and connect to permanent housing options. 


In the realm of mental health, the 2024 budget continues to prioritize the well-being of Ulster County's youth. The budget sustains funding for a successful pilot program initiated last year to provide extra mental health support to middle schools and makes a $3.8 million investment in a County Community Behavioral Health Center. This center will offer 24/7 crisis stabilization services, reinforcing the county's dedication to mental health care accessibility.


Recognizing the transformative power of education, the 2024 budget allocates $6.9 million in operating assistance for SUNY Ulster. This investment aims to ensure equitable access to higher education for all residents, fostering a skilled and empowered workforce for the future.


To expand access to vital services in the western part of the county, the budget earmarks $700,000 for Phase 1 improvements to the Trudy Resnick Farber Building in Ellenville. This strategic investment aims to transform the building into a community service hub, facilitating equitable access and enhancing the overall well-being of residents.


Moreover, the budget acknowledges the importance of sustainable practices by creating an Energy & Electrification Manager within the Department of Public Works. This key position will oversee energy improvement projects at county facilities, aligning Ulster County with environmentally conscious initiatives.


Recognizing the value of a skilled and empowered workforce, the budget establishes a robust training program for employees and introduces the Ulster County Leadership Academy. This academy will cater to emerging leaders within the county workforce, fostering professional development and ensuring the continuity of effective leadership.


The 2024 Operating Budget includes additional expected revenues from an increase in the occupancy tax, which is levied on hotel, motel, and short-term rental stays within the County. Earlier this year, the County Executive recommended to the County Legislature to increase the County’s occupancy tax from 2% to 4%, which is comparable to surrounding counties, and still lower than neighboring Dutchess County’s occupancy tax which is 5%. The 2024 Operating Budget seeks to dedicate 25% of annual revenues from the new occupancy tax to the Housing Action Fund, and 25% of annual revenues to the UCAT system. 


The 2024 Executive Budget submitted in October included additional priorities of the County Executive that involve making improvements to County buildings and constructing new facilities to enhance public safety, increase public access to services, and decrease long-term operational costs while lowering emissions. These capital improvements include dedicating $18M to a Government Operations Center capital reserve fund that will cut bonding costs for the facility in half and creating a Decarbonization Capital Reserve fund to be used to transition County facilities away from expensive and climate-damaging fossil fuel systems like oil and gas. These new capital reserves are expected to be considered at the December 18 meeting of the County Legislature. 



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