October 1, 2010

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No tax hike in 2011 Ulster County budget proposal

Hein says his "Taxpayer First" initiative of cost savings
and avoidance has paid off

KINGSTON – Saying the "most important thing we can do is control property taxes," Ulster County Executive Michael Hein presented a 2011 budget plan with no change in the tax levy.

That does not come without some pain. The $351.5 million budget proposal does contain layoffs, but Hein emphasizes the county is providing essential services.

The County Executive made many tough choices and cut spending in numerous departments in order to protect taxpayers from the skyrocketing cost of government. Government, Hein said, must start doing what hard-pressed taxpayers are doing – cutting spending.

“They are making tough choices every day and they expect their leaders to do the same, to show the courage and understanding to protect them from tax increases we simply can’t afford.

One way county government can do that is to cut spending, including the number of people working for county government. 

Six employees will be laid off.  In addition, 33 employees are expected to take the early retirement incentive at the end of 2010, so the budget includes a decrease in the workforce of 75 positions in 2011. Most departments, including the executive office, are affected by the staff reduction policy. 

There are other cuts, but, Hein said, not in areas that would be counterproductive. 

“The economic development initiatives Ulster County is undertaking today are instrumental in shaping our future”, Hein said. In this proposed 2011 budget, the County Executive maintains funding to Ulster County’s various economic development programs.

No comment from Majority Leader Paul Hansut, left,
but Minority Leader Jeanette Provenzano clearly
liked what she heard

In defending a zero tax budget, Hein cited what he said was a critical achievement made through sound fiscal policy – a healthy fund balance heading toward the end of 2010.  Hein took credit for part of that through is “Taxpayer First” initiative of aggressive cost savings and cost avoidance, announced earlier this year.

“It’s about taking the actions during the course of the year that this new form of government allows us to take, that allows us to avoid having a tax increase in 2011.”

Fellow Democrats were impressed with the budget proposal.   Minority Leader Jeanette Provenzano said this is a validation of the charter form of government. She promised, however, that there will be a full review of the budget, and that while a zero tax is desirable, it is not necessarily the final word.

Former Ways and Means Chairman Alan Lomita agreed.  “This new form of government is working,” he said.

Republicans are refusing to comment. Both Majority leader Paul Hansut and legislator Kevin Roberts, who each sat through the budget presentation, claimed they needed to 'read it' before talking about it.


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