The Stop the Cuts Petition for Dutchess County sign now

Unfortunately, the 2009 Dutchess County Budget proposed by the County Executive for next year includes many short-sighted cuts to crucial and pro-active programs that will end up costing local taxpayers more when further necessary services become necessary after those cuts.

Note as well-- according to the County Executive himself in his own Budget Message Oct. 31st, Dutchess County now has "fewer county employee positions than when I took office as County Executive in 1992. Rockland County has the same size population as Dutchess County but has 800 more employees. Ulster County has far less population than Dutchess County 100,000 less but still has more county employees than Dutchess County...this budget eliminates forty-three positions including unfortunately nine occupied positions."
[www.co.dutchess.ny.us/CountyGov/Departments/CountyExecutive/15849.htm]

Many of us also continue to wonder why the County Executive, in the midst of all these cuts, has propoesd to dole out literally an extra million dollars to our county's Department of Solid Waste Management-- along with literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for a new security force of questionable need.

Finally, there are quite a few other ways Dutchess County could save money for local taxpayers while making the county a better place instead of the misguided cuts listed below:

1. Dutchess County could literally save a million dollars a year for local taxpayers by allowing county employees the option of getting reimbursed for prescription drugs they have choice to get from Canada-- as G.O.P. County Executive Kathy Jimino has long done in Rensselaer County, along with Schenectady and Lewis counties. [see www.PetitionOnline.com/SaveOnRx]

2. Dutchess County could save tax dollars with a "housing-first" approach to chronically mentally ill alcholics and drug addicts that continue to cycle in and out of our jail, shelter, hospitals, prison, and other institutions-- as Pathways to Housing is successfully doing in Westchester County, New York City, Chattanooga, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, Salt Lake City, Hartford, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Norfolk, Fort Lauderdale, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago.
[see www.PetitionOnline.com/House1st, www.PathwaystoHousing.org]

3. Many tax dollars could be saved if businesses in our county's Empire Zone and Industrial Development Agency were held more accountable for the tax dollars and support they receive.
[see www.ABetterChoiceforNY.org; www.petitiononline.com/statewar]

4. Dutchess County could also save tax dollars spent on misclassified workers-- by making sure that labor law is much more enforced (as in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland).
[see www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/061807_misclassificationStudy.html]

5. Dutchess County could literally save millions of dollars annually for local taxpayers by making sure those without insurance get care before local emergency rooms-- as in San Francisco.
[see www.HealthySanFrancisco.org; www.petitiononline.com/duhealth]

6. Dutchess County could pro-actively save tax dollars spent in response to flooding by protecting 100-mile floodplain from development (as in Rockland County).
[see www.co.rockland.ny.us/Highway/HwyPermits/RCDA\%20Permit\%20Application.pdf]

7. Dutchess County could also pro-actively save millions of public health tax dollars spent on Medicaid and other health care bills due to water and air pollution in Dutchess County.
[see www.petitiononline.com/hybrids; www.PetitionOnline.com/forCasey]

So-- get the facts (more below), get involved, sign on to this petition, send a message on this to all county legislators at [email protected], and speak up at the annual county budget hearing Thursday, December 4th at 7 pm at the Bardavon at 35 Market Street-- pass it on.

Joel Tyner
County Legislator (Clinton/Rhinebeck)
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

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Big, unnecessary cuts have been proposed to many crucial contract nonprofit agencies-- including completely eliminating current county funding for Literacy Connections, drastically underfunding CASA and Teen Challenge programs for Mental Health America of Dutchess County (underfunding CASA means losing about $500,000 in other funding/volunteer time leveraged), big cuts to Family Services, Grace Smith House, and Legal Services of the Hudson Valley re: victims of domestic violence-- and a a $200,000 cut from the Dutchess County Arts Council (meaning completely eliminating funding for Mid-Hudson Civic Center and a 69\% cut to the Bardavon, along with Arts in Ed grants and Cultural Capital, along with a 44\% cut to the Arts Fund and a 49\% cut to Arts Management/Technical Assistance, Art Scene, Public Communication, General Operating, &
Folk Arts).

From the Nov. 7th Poughkeepsie Journal:
[www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20081107/NEWS01/811070335/1006/RSS01]

"In his 2009 budget plan, Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus proposes cutting 43 positions, including those on the 21-year-old Human Rights Commission [$206,000].

Some positions Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus wants to cut:

o 10 vacant positions: Five deputy sheriffs, two part-time program assistants, a jail transitions counselor, a jail instructional aide and a jail building maintenance mechanic, according to the county executive's and sheriff's offices.

o Four occupied positions: Two assistant election supervisors and two assistant machine coordinators, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Fran Knapp. The employees only work during elections.

o Three water lab positions in the health department.

o Two vacant accounting clerk positions in Comptroller Diane Jablonski's office

o One vacant stenographer position in the Legislature's office.

o One vacant assistant district attorney position"

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Cuts in Funding Proposed for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County:

-- 36\% cut of $118,280 to Green Teen Community Gardening and 4-H Youth Development programs in Cornell now funded through the county's Youth Bureau

-- 39\% cut of $49,053 to Nutrition programs funded through county's Department of Health

-- $40,340 cut to Environment, Agriculture/Horticulture, and Financial Management programs now funded through the Planning and Development Department

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More details on the County Executive's proposed cuts:

-- $10,000 cut to our county's Office for the Aging in home care for senior citizens (tho waiting list now)

--$29,000 cut to Multi-County Community Development Corporation Youth Bureau for at-risk children

-- $12,000 cut in funding to the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board

-- $24,000 cut in funding to Hudson River Housing for their after-care case management program

-- $151,000 cut in funding to Grace Smith House in services for victims of domestic violence

-- $75,000 cut in funding to Astor Home for zero-to-five early childhood program (mental health services for sexually abused children)

--$164,000 cut in funding to Dutchess County Community Action Agency's program for preventive services to keep children out of foster care (according to DSS Commissioner Bob Allers, this is his top choice to find funding for; the last program he cut in order to try to comply with request from County Executive to submit cuts)

-- $7.2 million cut from our county's Mass Transit program (over a 50\% cut; includes hike in LOOP fares)

-- $6.1 million from repealing sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear less than $110

-- $3.4 million from breaking promise to county employees on contractually obligated raises

-- $4.7 million from chargebacks to towns and cities across county for sheriff patrols

-- $1.3 million from chargebacks to municipalities across county for elections

-- $2 million from underfunding housing out of inmates

-- $1.1 million cut from underfunding to our county's Board of Elections

-- $10,000 cut from our county's Veterans Service Agency

-- $4.4 million cut from our county's Department of Social Services

-- $919,000 cut from county's Health Department (including eliminating water lab; more below)

-- $737,000 cut from Dutchess Community College

-- $315,000 cut from our county's Youth Bureau (underfunding crucial programs for kids)

-- $74,000 cut from our county's Early Intervention Program for children zero to three

-- $8000 cut from our county's Criminal Justice Council

-- $1.1 million cut from our county's Department of Planning and Development

-- $115,000 cut from our county's Water and Wastewater Authority

-- $21,000 cut from our county's History Department

[not to mention the County Executive's proposal to halve the salary of County Legislature Attorney David Sears, continuing to underfund Comptroller's office

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From East Fishkill Senior Friendship Center Site Manager Rosemarie Yasiejko:

Seventy-four seniors from East Fishkill signed on to this nine-sentence petition below to reverse the County Executive's pending proposal to cut senior programs:

"It has come to our attention that there is a pending proposal to close our Friendship Centers one day a week. The monetary savings realized by this measure cannot begin to equate the value of our senior programs, not only for the homebound clients, but also for the congregate clients. We look to the centers for companionship, friendship, compassion, caring, and concern. These centers are the extent to which many of our social lives exist. All too often spouses have passed away, children have moved away, and the centers are the only thing separating us from gross loneliness and depression. They afford one a sense of value, of worth, of belonging and being needed and wanted. To close these centers, even for one day, would cause anxiety and dread to those already harboring feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem. We must not put a price on a person's worth and emotional well-being. We, the undersigned request that you make every effort possible to keep our centers open five days a week. Thank you for your help!"

From Rosemarie Yasiejko directly:

"This comes to you on behalf of the seniors of Dutchess County who are facing the possibility of the elimination of one day a week of senior programming offered through the Office for the Aging Friendship Centers.

With an ever growing population of seniors in our area, both homebound and active, the necessity for programs that address the needs of the elderly has become more important than ever. The goal is to keep our seniors healthy and independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. Ultimately, this saves taxpayer dollars by delaying or avoiding the need for nursing homes, and thus leaving fewer people in need of public assistance to pay for such expensive options

Our centers provide not only nutritionally balanced meals, but also a place to come together for companionship, recreation, learning, exercise, and fun. Referrals for additional services are provided and assistance is given when appropriate. The facilities are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer, allowing a safe and comfortable haven for seniors to escape to during the day.

In East Fishkill, the majority of our congregate clients do not drive and would be stuck at home if not for the availability of the transportation provided by Office for the Aging. Our homebound clients look forward to having our drivers (volunteers and employees) stop in daily. Often times, they are the only contact with the outside world on any given day. They may bring in the mail or newspaper to clients who cannot retrieve them on their own. Our drivers have discovered clients in need of emergency assistance or even deceased. Drivers often update site managers when concerned about the well-being of a client. Upon investigation, emergency contacts are notified when necessary. Our program provides more than a nutritious meal, it provides security and friendship, caring and trust.

The Friendship Centers also provide assistance to families who need to work or live too far away to assist their loved ones with day-to-day activities. We are a service that can help fill a senior's day with activities that improve one's quality of life and gives them a reason to get up in the morning. The family members know their elderly loved ones are in good hands and no longer need to worry. Our program offers a necessary "bridge" to clients who are still active and relatively self-sufficient before reaching the point where more assistance is required.

Our seniors look forward to the programs offered at the Dutchess County Office for the Aging Friendship Centers and often dread a "long" weekend. We need to keep in mind that we, too, hope to one day reach the "not-so-golden" years and to have the ability to attend functions for as long as possible.

In conclusion, on behalf of myself and the seniors of Dutchess County, we ask that you please do everything within your power to keep our centers open five days a week. Thank you for all your efforts."


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From Family Partnership Center President Joseph D'Ambrosio and Family Partnership Center Partners Committee Chair and Managing Attorney for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley:

"We are writing on behalf of our partner agencies which are threatened with drastic funding cuts in the County Executive's proposed 2009 budget...Partner agencies and external partners stand to be severly affected by the County Executive's proposed cuts. Agencies affected are as follows:

-- Literacy Connections, cut $18,200, which represents the full amount of funding received for literacy and language tutoring for functionally illiterate adults;

-- Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Grace Smith House, cut $137,404, funding is the only funding available in Dutchess County to represent victims of domestic violence in divorce actions;

-- Teen Parenting Program, cut $99,000, funding is necessary to help our most vulnerable youth and their babies;

-- Crime Victims Assistance Program, cut $118,000, funding provides direct services to over 500 innocent victims of crime and provides education and training to others;

-- Supervised Visitation Program, cut $37,000, which will reduce services by 35\%;

-- Mental Health America, cut $80,578, for gang prevention, recreation programs for youth and for Court Appointed Special Advocates, funding leverages more funding and utilizes the skills of sixty volunteers in addition to paid staff;

-- Council on Addiction Prevention and Education, cut $155,000, which will affect the Tobacco Free Youth Initiative, Marathon Project, and the Tobacco Free School policy;

-- SPCA, cut $11,000 from the Humane Law Enforcement program, as services are mandated by the State of New York, local police agencies will need to fill the void at additional expense;

-- Taconic Resources for Independence, cut $38,000, funding to assist those with disabilities;

-- Human Rights Commission, cut $206,000, which constitutes the total budget for the organization;

-- Mediation Center, cut $51,250, for community and family mediation services in Dutchess County; and

-- YMCA, cut $30,000, funding for teen programs.

But cutting these programs, overall costs to the county will increase dramatically through jobs lost, business lost, increased foreclosures, and clients not served, resulting in recidivism and increased court costs. The impact of the proposed cuts will ripple through the county with a much more broad reaching effect on the quality of life in Dutchess County, going beyond those directly served by the programs listed above.

We implore you to restore the above listed programs to their 2008 funding levels, to fulfill the promise of the County Executive that the quality of life in Dutchess County will not be affected in a negative manner. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request."

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From Susan West of Family Services, Inc.:

"Proposed Budget's Impact on Family Services' Crime Victim Assistance Programs:

The loss of Dutchess County's grant of $118,045 to Family Services' Crime Victims program will be a major blow in and of itself; over 1,300 crime victims used this service last year, and this, in essence, is really the only crime victims program in the county. What is even worse, is these funds serve as the 25\% required match required to receive funds from the NYS Crime Victims Board. This will translate into the loss of an additional $426,047 of State funds for a total loss of $544,092. This comes on top of recent shifts in funders' priority areas; this year Family Services' Crime Victims program lost County CDBG funding and will also lose United Way funding at the end of 2008.

In addition, this program leverages over $200,000 worth of intern and volunteer service hours to victims of crime. These volunteers, which require staff training and support, are the people at the other end of the phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when victims reach out for help.

Loss of County funding would mean that the Crime Victims program would close, leaving only the Sexual Assault Forensive Examiner (SAFE) component. It would mean the loss of 8 full-time equivalent positions-- highly trained, experienced, and caring advocates and trauma therapists who work directly with victims. Approximately 1,200 adult and child victims would not receive this support, there would be no 24-hour hotline, and Executive Law would be ignored.

Proposed Budget's Impact on Family Services' Teen Parent Program:

The Teen Parent Program is slated to lose over $99,000 in this budget proposal. If these funds are eliminated the program services will be decimated.

These funds allow Family Services to retain 4.5 full-time employees to provide intensive case management to young families. Elimination of the core funding will immediately result in the loss of three full-time staff, as the Medicaid billing will automatically be reduced by half with the loss of the first two staff.

The program will go from serving 192 families to approximately 64 families annually, leaving the highest risk babies in an extremely vulnerable state.

Proposed Budget's Impact on Family Services' Supervised Visitation Program:

The proposed budget eliminates support of the Supervised Visitation Program by DSS. This $34,015 loss represents more than 1/3 of our current funding. This program targets non-custodial parents who have been ordered by Family Court to visit with their children only in a safe, supervised setting.

If unfunded by DC DSS we would need to stop providing services to approximately 30 local families, and over 40 children would be unable to see their non-custodial parent in a safe, supportive environment.

Proposed Budget's Impact on Family Services:

The loss of these programs would also take a toll on the infrastructure of Family Services. These combined funds represent approximately 10\% of our agency's budget and staff. One of the strengths of agencies like Family Services is a diverse portfolio of services. Loss of programs like these can seriously weaken the ability of the agency to attract new funding and to participate in the complex collaborative environment which has created such a strong network of support to the citizens of the County.

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From Kirsten Menking ([email protected])...
Associate Professor of Earth Science, Department of Earth Science and Geography, Vassar College

Subject: Cornell Cooperative Extension funding

Dear Legislators:

I am writing to express my support for the Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County Environment Program, which is facing a 9\% budget cut under County Executive William Steinhaus' proposed county budget for next year. While I understand that these are very challenging times financially, I would hope that the Environment Program's funding could be fully restored or even increased. Our county faces a number of challenges, including flooding, air pollution, invasive species, and groundwater contamination, and the Environment Program provides a vital service to the community through its educational programs that address these and other issues of local concern.

I have had the pleasure to work closely with Environment Program staff on a joint grant to study the Casperkill watershed, on the establishment of a watershed protection group for that stream, on a workshop designed to educate local residents and government officials on proper ways to deal with flooding, and as a founding member of the Dutchess Area Environmental Science Advisory Network. I have been very impressed by the knowledge and dedication of the Environment Program staff, particularly of Allison Chatrchyan and Carolyn Klocker. When the legislature opted not to continue funding the Environmental Management Council a couple of years ago, CCEDC Environment Program staff stepped in to provide the research support and education needed by town CACs and government officials to make informed decisions about land use planning and environmental hazard response. Though the EMC has subsequently been reconstituted, it does not have the professional staff trained in environmental science that it once did, so the Environment Program's technical support is vital to its mission.

In addition to its valuable work in support of the EMC and CACs, the Environment Program also provides technical and logistical support to watershed groups throughout the county. These groups involve local citizens in watershed protection efforts critical to the maintenance of healthy watersheds and clean water supplies. Staff have also written grants (the wonderful "No Child Left Inside" grant with Poughkeepsie High School) to involve local secondary school students in environmental science research and education. Given the difficult environmental issues we have dealt with and continue to face in Dutchess County and the excellent work that is being done by the CCEDC Environment Program, now is not the time to consider cutting funding.

Indeed, if anything, funding should be increased to allow the expansion of the Environment Program's mission to include the environmental monitoring previously performed by the EMC.

I hope that you will work to restore funding to the Environment Program and to the Cooperative Extension more generally."

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From the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse (249 Hooker Avenue in Poughkeepsie):

Mission: To promote a positive environment for children by providing education, prevention, and intervention services in our community.

Cuts to Programs Currently Funded by the Dutchess County Department of Social Services:

-- $3,688 cut in county funding to Child Advocacy Center

The Child Advocacy Center brings child protective service workers, law enforcement officers, and other service providers together under one roof to meet the needs of child victims and families while undergoing sexual abuse investigations. This coordinated response reduces trauma to the child victim and enhances prosecution. The Child Advocacy Center operates with the guidance of a multidisciplinary team with representation from each Dutchess County public and private agency involved in dealing with child sexual abuse. 533 children were served last year in this program.

-- 46\% cut in county funding (of $27,885) to Teen Life Connections

Our Teen Life teaching team uses asset-building tools in a 10-week group session to educate over 300 at-risk teens in Dutchess County. The training enhances pro-social values and beliefs, and reduces negative behaviors that places teens at risk for abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. 285 youth in five schools and other community sites were served last year in this program.

-- $15,800 cut in county funding to Parent Empowerment Program

Parent educators work with various groups of parents to build skills, enhance knowledge of child development and age appropriate expectations for children and provide support through group interactions. Classes are offered to parents in substance abuse recovery, involved with CPS or the court system. Workshop series are also offered to parent groups through PTA's, daycare centers and other community organizations. 2,002 parents with 2,442 were served last year in this program.

-- $11,720 cut in county funding to Special Needs Parenting

Case Managers provide parent education classes and weekly home visiting support for parents with mental retardation and developmental disabilities living in our community and who are pregnant or parenting young children. In addition to learning parenting skills, parents gain socialization and support from peers and receive assistance in meeting the needs of their young children. Case Managers work closely with other service providers involved with our families. 62 parenting workshops were conducted last year in this program, with 1,161 home visits to 41 parents with 47 children, and 203 supervised visits for parents with children in foster care.

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From Dutchess County Family Court Judges Damian Amodeo, Peter Forman, & Valentino Sammarco:

Re: Supervised Visitation Program of Family Services, Inc. and CASA of Dutchess County

"It has come to our attention that the Supervised Visitation Program of Family Services, Inc. and the CASA of Dutchess County programs are being proposed for next year's budget. We would like to offer our support of these programs and underscore the reality that these budget cuts will jeopardize the ability of these programs to continue operating for the benefit of county residents.

The Supervised Visitation Program of Family Services, Inc. utilizes space in the Dutchess County Family Court building to provide a safe, neutral environment where children can visit their non-custodial parents. Often allegations of domestic violence, substance abuse and/or mental health problems and child abuse create a situation where a judge will mandate supervised visitation to ensure that there is no trained staff to monitor the family visit until a final decision as to visitation can be made. The Court system contributes significantly to the program in providing the court officers to ensure the safety of the families, the facility for the visitations and the services such as telephone, fax, and copying equipment. The program has serviced 80 families including 129 children over the past year alone. It is clearly in the best interests of the children in our community to be able to visit their parents in a safe, professionally supervised and secure environment.

The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program, which is primarily comprised of volunteers, also provides a vital service to the children of Dutchess County, particularly those children in foster care, and by extension, to the Family Court. These trained volunteers are able to refer families to community services, to meet with children, school personnel, mental health providers and other significant people in the child's life. The reports provided to the court are invaluable in assessing the parent's compliance with their orders of disposition and the well-being of children in care, who are frequently moved from one placement to another with a CASA volunteer often providing the only continuity in assuring that service interruptions are minimized.

CASA has served 37 families in 2008 with a total of 73 children. They appear in court during permanency hearings and have proven to be an effective advocate for the best interests of the children they serve. It would be shortsighted to eliminate funding and thereby lose the invaluable services of these trained and dedicated volunteers.

While we are cognizant of the fiscal realities facing the County, the problems resulting from the loss of funding to these programs are dire and will ultimately rest on the County's doorstep by prolonging the stay of children in foster care or creating situations that will require additional County services to address these problems. Please consider carefully whether these programs that are proactive in dealing with these situations might not be a better way to allocate what little funding there might be for social services. As always, we appreciate your careful consideration of these programs in debating how best to plan for the future of our community."

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From Steven Klein of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley:

"I write to you on behalf of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, in hopes of convincing you to restore funding for our domestic violence matrimonial program. In the past, the support you have given us has allowed us to level the playing field between an abusive spouse and the abuse victim.

Rather than focus on the plight of our clients, however, I want to address this letter to the benefits this program provides to the County. I do so as one who has sat in your place. I used to serve on the Ulster County Legislature, and remember well how difficult it was to meet everyone's needs and demands, especially in difficult economic times.

I also have the benefit of many years of experience as a Family Court attorney. The Family Court is inhabited by what I call "recidivist litigants." There is no limit under the law as to how many times a parent can come back to court to attempt to change a custody order, or claim a violation of the order by the other parent. And, since many of these litigants are low-income, they qualify for assigned counsel, which the Dutchess County taxpayers pay for at the rate of $75 per hour.

I have also discovered, however, that the recidivist litigants tend to be those who were not represented at the time of their divorce. Without the benefit of an attorney at that stage, parties often reach agreements which are vague and replete with loopholes, making it almost impossible to avoid future Family Court litigation.

You know the old saying: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." By having the attorney involved at the divorce stage, agreements can be tailor-made for the particular parties. Rarely are there loopholes to lead to future litigation. And often, the prospect of future litigation can be avoided entirely by including language that requires the parties to go to arbitration, rather than court. In short, the taxpayers save $75 per hour, times an average of 10 to 15 hours per case, times the 5 to 10 return trips to court. You do the math.

I understand the need for government to tighten its belt during hard economic times. But I respectfully submit that maintaining this particular program will pay dividends far in excess of the costs. I hope you will restore our funding to the budget."

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From: "Tom Lawrence"
Executive Director
Poughkeepsie Public Library District
93 Market Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

Subject: Funding for Public Libraries

"Good afternoon. My purpose in writing to you, collectively, is to urge
you to restore the $160,000 in public library funding eliminated in the
proposed 2009 Dutchess County budget [a 65\% cut in funding from
the county's current funding level]. Public libraries are a good public
policy investment and produce an incredible return on the tax dollar. In
the Libary District alone, the average cost of a children's item is $20
and the average total check-out of the same items is 18. That produces a
return of investment of $1 in to $19 of received value.

The per capita cost of the return of this funding is fifty-four cents in
2009 and would represent an increase to the budget of .04\% budget yielding
up to $4,747,967 in service (using the ROI mentioned above). Isn't this
the type of bang for the [tax] buck the voters are looking for?

Take a look at our online petition which urges the Dutchess County
Legislature to restore the funding. This petition drive was initiated at
4:00 PM on Friday, November 14. As of 2:30 PM on Sunday, November 16,
there were 900 signatures. Cut and paste this link into your web browser:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/DCLibraries/index.html . Click on the
signature tab at the top left to look at the signatures and the comments.

I realize you all have difficult decisions to make. I urge you to
consider the budget not only in terms of tax impact but public policy.
Libraries represent the backbone of our American democracy. They are an
effective use of tax dollars. They create a democratic and free society.
They improve lives.

Thank you."

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From Robert Cicilioni, Dutchess County Department of Health Environmental Lab Director
[[email protected]]:

Dear County Legislators:

Thank you for you support during last nigh'ts budget hearing concerning the 2009 Health Department Budget. Sandy (the lab tech--she was in attendance last night) and I appreciate your efforts. I just wanted to clarify some statements that were made last night.

One of the biggest components is trying to determine the costs of sending our samples to a private lab. Dr. Caldwell stated many times that we perform about 4000 tests per year for our Environmental section. I'm not sure were these number were obtained from but they are inaccurate. The attachment contains yearly summary activity reports that I generate and provide to the Assistant Commissioner of Health, Richard Sewell. The numbers in parenthesis indicate samples run for the Environmental staff. For example in 2005, there were 6739. In 2006 there were 6923 and in 2007 there were 7222. In 2008 we are projected to run over 8000 samples due to an initiative concerning wells under the influence of streams or ponds. These numbers are accurate and defensible.

The RPF(also attached) only calls for 4000 samples. $80,000 was placed in Environmental's 4401.105 line to cover the cost to farm-out these samples. Based on our projected 8000 samples this year, the cost would double. If the lab is continued, the extra $80,000 in that line could be eliminated.

Another statement made was that farming-out the samples to a private lab would not inconvenience the Environmental Staff. I have spoken to most of the staff and they would disagree. The RFP attached calls for a 3PM pick-up daily of samples. This means staff that are sampling at the far end of the County would have to end there day by 1:30PM to meet the 3PM deadline. That is a waste of valuable staff time. We accept samples until the end of the day so staff can maximize their field work.

I hope you consider this information when making this important decision. If you need any further information or would like to discuss this in greater detail, please do not hesitate to call.

2009 Dutchess County Environmental Water Laboratory Budget
and the impact and/or cost savings if the lab is closed.

Appropriations 323,606

Loss of Revenue (see note 1 below) -29,000

Loss of State Aid -81,763

Fixed costs such as rent, electric, janitorial services, -50,802
other utilities that would be shifted to another Health
Dept function---no net savings to County-not yet reallocated
and accounted for in 2009 budget

Retirement of Helen Murphy-Grade 12 and fringes- -75,416
leave position vacant

Cost for Environmental Dept to farm work to the -92,300
private sector-adjusted for state aid-see note 2 below

Net to County (NONE-cost more to close) -5675

Note 1-An average of 2200 samples are received annually from non-Environmental Health Department sources producing $29,000 in revenue. Also included in these totals are samples brought in by Public Works and Dept. of Social Services that we test for free-these samples from Dutchess County agencies would have to be sent to a private lab incurring more cost.

Note 2-An average of 7100 samples analyzed over the last two years X $20 sample for a cost of $142,000 then adjusting for state aid for a net cost of $92,300 to the County-in 2008 we are on a pace to analyze over 8000 samples for the Environmental Dept.

Even though Dutchess is one of three counties to have an Environmental Lab, it is vital since Dutchess has the most water supplies in New York State and third most in the nation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Finally-- it might be worth the while of our County Legislature to at least allow a referendum on a local income tax to slash property taxes while making sure that crucial services are funded.

[see much more on this at www.PetitionOnline.com/Fairness, www.petitiononline.com/fairtax]

Note this paragraph from p. 41 of the Fiscal Policy Institute's Nov. 2006 "One New York" report-- from FiscalPolicy.org/OneNewYork.html-- "The state tax system is now so distorted that the governor and the legislature should undertake a comprehensive review. An essential part of what the governor and the legislature should do, however, is to help localities to reduce property taxes by restoring progressivity to state income taxes. In addition, the state government could give
localities more flexibility in how they collect taxes, allowing them to move away from over-reliance on property and sales taxes and instead raising funds through a local version of an income tax. The
governor and the legislature should consider giving county governments the authority to levy a 'piggyback' income tax for county government purposes. Such a tax could be structured like the income tax that the city of Yonkers is currently authorized to impose. The use of such an option would make a county's revenue system more progressive and place less of the burden on middle and lower income residents." [fact: property taxes would skyrocket in Yonkers/NYC without this!]

On that note-- five important facts from ABetterChoiceforNY.org/topten_mil.html :
[massive Better Choice Budget Coalition website-- faith groups, nonprofits, unions]

"The poorest New Yorkers pay twice as much of their income in state and local taxes than do millionaires (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy). Top income tax rates for the wealthiest have been reduced from 15.375\% to 6.85\% over the last 25 years (Division of Budget). Since 2003, people making over $200,000 per year have seen their income grow by 108\% while those under $200,000 have seen their income grow by only 15\% (Division of Budget). Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says it is better for state's economy to increase taxes on the wealthy rather than to cut spending on goods and services purchased locally. Quinnipiac poll August 6th: 78\% of New Yorkers support a millionaire's tax to avoid local tax hikes and service cuts."

Yonkers and New York City have local-level income taxes, with revenue collected by Albany through state income tax forms that is then given back to those localities-- it wouldn't be hard to add our county to that list.

Newsday, many Nassau County business leaders, the Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, and many in Monroe County have endorsed similar plans there; Rockland and Tompkins County Legislatures started study commissions to look at similar revenue alternatives to property tax hikes.

Frank Mauro, Exec Dir. for the Fiscal Policy Institute, has done the following computations for Dutchess: http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/dutchessRPTlevies.htm;
http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/dutchess1999and2000.htm;
http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/dutchess2001.htm;
http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/ImpactatDifferentIncomeLevels.htm.

"The calculations of the reduction in the county property tax levy that could be accomplished with a 10\% surcharge on the income tax (that's a surcharge on a taxpayer's state income tax bill, not a surcharge on the taxpayer's income) assume a reduction in all property taxes (including business's property taxes)."

Recall-- the way our tax system is now, middle income New Yorkers now pay literally about twice the state and local taxes that the richest 1\% of New Yorkers pay as a percentage of income because of unfair tax shifts to the local level over the last few decades-- it's high time we worked to restore at least just a bit of progressivity and fairness into our tax code, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, as Assemblyman Kevin Cahill himself has repeatedly pointed out in his speeches at Dutchess County Democratic Committee Issues Forums over the last few years.

The richest 1\% of New Yorkers are also now paying about half the income taxes to Albany as they did three decades ago under Rockefeller (when our local property taxes weren't nearly so high-- real shift to local level hadn't begun yet). Read "A Little Bit of Tax History-- The Path Not Taken: How New York State Increased the Tax Burden on the Middle Class and Cut Taxes for its Highest Income Taxpayers by Over $8 Billion a Year" by Frank Mauro-- at Fiscalpolicy.org/taxhistory2.htm.

The richest 1\% of Dutchess County residents are now getting more than $90,000 a year in federal tax breaks compared to what they paid four years ago, according to Citizens for Tax Justice-- http://www.CTJ.org -- while the rest of us are getting killed with excessive property taxes that are roughly 70\% higher than the national average, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

The Wall Street Journal recently noted that 96\% of small business owners make less than $200,000 annually-- this plan would actually help, not hurt, small business owners in our county.

These three paragraphs are from the Tompkins County Legislature's local income tax study group final July 12th 2005 report (see http://www.tompkins-co.org/pubinfo/incometax7-12-05.pdf ):

"The group agreed in general that income tax is appealing for its potential to create more fairness, to relieve a portion of the property tax burden, and to link taxation more closely with ability to pay. A local income tax has the potential to broaden the tax base, provide relief to lower-income property owners, and offset the negative effect of increasing assessments. It is potentially attractive to businesses, would be relatively easy to administer, and could mitigate the loss of revenue due to real property tax exemptions.

"A group of local residents each of whom possesses valuable professional expertise in areas such as tax law, accounting, banking, entrepreneurship, economic development, data analysis, community service, and politics held a series of discussions and requested information to help them determine the usefulness and viability of a local income tax surcharge as a means of reducing the real property tax burden in Tompkins County.

For example, a 10 percent surcharge on the state income tax would raise about $7 million from Tompkins County residents, for a reduction of property tax of about 21 percent... Because the state income tax is graduated, a local surcharge would also be tiered according to income. State enabling legislation and a local referendum would be required...A few states, including Maryland and Indiana, allow local income taxes. Pennsylvania has had local income taxes since 1965."

Here are ten more reasons for our county to have a local income tax to slash county property taxes and make sure crucial county services are funded adequately-- directly from the Tompkins County Legislature's local income tax study group final July 12th 2005 report (see www.tompkins-co.org/pubinfo/incometax7-12-05.pdf):

1. Low-Income Relief

-- Would reduce real estate taxes for lower-income homeowners
-- Easy to create exemptions e.g. No tax below a certain income level
-- Generous rental credits/rebates could benefit low-income renters
-- Less burdensome on low-income people
-- Less burdensome on fixed-income people

2. Progressive

-- Income tax is more progressive. Those who have more pay more
-- Should result in a more progressive taxing system that could produce
greater revenues based on growth in wealth
-- Progressive (more fairness)
-- Spreads the tax burden across a greater number of people so hopefully it is smaller per person
-- Can have a progressive structure
-- Distributes tax burden to those who can afford to pay
-- Allows for exemptions and income thresholds to effect greater degree of fairness
-- Takes into account the income tax cuts adopted by the state in a
balanced manner

3. Easy to Administer

-- Based on prior NY State experience would administratively be
efficient since collected by state, uses state tax filings for calculation
-- Easy to administer (through payroll systems)
-- Tax is inexpensive to administer as it is based on NYS tax collection system

4. Broaden Base

-- Would expand the base if payroll is included
Would establish higher base and therefore greater revenue source to County while
hopefully lowering overall tax burden
Base expanded.
With commuter component would broaden base to include people who currently use
some services but don't contribute.

5. Ability to Pay

-- Provides relief for unfortunate circumstances
-- Basis is current ability to pay
-- Income tax is related to ability to pay. Your tax doesn't rise while your resources stay flat or decline
-- Every year is based on current ability to pay
-- Every year is not based on a previous year's investment decision
-- Addresses the fact that home values correlate very poorly with income

6. Ownership Incentives

-- Reduces disincentive for home ownership
-- Reduces disincentive for property maintenance
-- Reduces tax penalty for saving (investing in a home)
-- Income tax may be more appropriate for owners of large vacant parcels who wish to keep them vacant. (Encourages investment in open land)

7. Property Tax Cut

-- Provides County with additional source of revenue
-- Property tax cut
-- Possibility of property tax freeze or cap
-- Total revenue from income tax is large enough to displace other taxes
-- It's a structural change-- no more scrambling for small revenue sources

8. Rational Basis

-- Basis is rational/logical, rather than anecdotal
-- Basis is ideological rather than based on tradition
-- Is not based on simplistic/archaic ideas of wealth
-- Mitigates Tax Exemptions
-- May provide a more balanced revenue source by recognizing the high level of tax-exempt property in Tompkins County
-- Solves the unfairness of tax-exempt property
-- With commuter tax, solves several chronic Tompkins County problems-- untaxed in-commuting workers and lots of tax-exempt property

9. Adjusts with Income

-- Adjusts automatically to changing conditions
-- Automatic inflation adjustment
-- Would annually adjust so that drop in income would lower tax paid
-- Tax base would expand as income grows; no need for re-assessment as in property tax
-- Tax revenue rises (or falls) with general prosperity

10. Easy to Understand

-- Can be easy for everyone to understand and calculate depending on how it is structured
-- Easy to explain and understand
-- Income is more accurately determined than property value


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