Newsletters

Letter to The Editor: The 4th Annual Health and Wellness Fair

For the third year in a row, we were privileged to host and organize a Health and Wellness Fair and blood drive at Mesier Park in the Village of Wappingers Falls. This free and family friendly event was open to the public and was sponsored by our Village Mayor-Matt Alexander, Stop & Shop Supermarket, Walgreens, Beacon Dental, Ellen Smith from Take Shape for Life, the C.O.L.O.R.S. Foundation and Brown Chiropractic Associates.

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Astor Early Childhood Program with Legislator Amparo Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Astor Early Childhood Program with Legislator Amparo
Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

C.O.LO.R.S with Legislator Amparo Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

C.O.LO.R.S with Legislator Amparo
Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Theme this year was self-esteem. Self-Esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Sometimes we look for validation from others when we feel unsure of ourselves and/or participate in dangerous activities to “feel good.” This year’s fair provided entertainment coupled with health and wellness related services and information. Our theme encompassed many ways to work on our self-esteem because we provided activities which interpret health in a wider way, in a way that makes people feel better about life and happier.

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Good health is central to living well. Access to experts and information allows us to maintain good health and manage health-related conditions in the most effective manner. It’s also a great opportunity for local professionals, practitioners and businesses to show their support for our effort to promote good health.

Brown Chiropractic checking blood pressure. Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Brown Chiropractic checking blood pressure.
Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Mayor Matt Alexander with Legislator Amparo Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Mayor Matt Alexander with Legislator Amparo
Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

 

Legislator Amparo speaking at the 4th Annual Health and Wellness Fair on June 7, 2014. Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

Legislator Amparo speaking at The 4th Annual Health and Wellness Fair on June 7, 2014.
Photo Credit: Travis Jones, Fortune Visuals

As your legislator, I am committed to bringing health and wellness to Wappingers Falls and the Town of Wappinger. A special thanks to everyone, including Innercity Works, the Southern Dutchess NAACP, the C.O.L.O.R.S. Foundation, our volunteers and participants for their role in a successful health fair. It is greatly appreciated.

 

Francena Amparo

Dutchess County Legislator

Dist. 14

 

 

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Here and Now: Did You Know?

County Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens

The County Legislature approved a local law that would provide a county property tax exemption to individuals with disabilities and limited incomes. The exemption would not go beyond the amount of a senior citizen tax exemption that is already being given by a school district or local municipality where the person resides.

Funding

Recently, the County received $688,340 from the HOME Investment Partnership Program to help build affordable housing. The County also received $652,325 from the Workforce Investment Act and the National Emergency Grant to support on the job training programs.

Dutchess – Ulster Public Defender Pilot

The County Legislature approved a pilot project designed to save money on shared services between the Public Defender’s Offices of both Dutchess and Ulster Counties. The Ulster County Legislature has also approved the program. In cases where there is a conflict of interest, they will switch staff. This type of shared service is the first of its kind in New York State and the Legislature hopes to be a model for other county governments.

New County Historian

Dutchess County Legislators voted to approve William P. Tatum, III as the new Dutchess County Historian. He was one of 76 candidates who applied for the position that had been vacant for the last 5 years. The position is not expected to cost taxpayers any additional money because the funding comes from a position that was vacant in the County Clerk’s Office. Mr. Tatum will be responsible for collecting and preserving documents, maps, photographs and other materials pertaining to the history of Dutchess County.

Here and Now: Highlights

SALES TAX AGREEMENT WITH LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES

The Sales Tax Agreement with Beacon and Poughkeepsie affects how sales tax will be applied to Towns and Villages. Some Town Supervisors and Mayors expressed concerns with the agreement because those terms would essentially apply to their local municipality. One issue at hand was the split of growth in sales tax revenue. For Towns to receive 2% of the growth and have it distributed based on population seems grossly unfair to Towns. The other issue was the 10 year lock in agreement. Towns and Villages are stretched to the limit trying to meet their obligations to residents and comply with the 2% tax cap. Even with these growing concerns, the County Legislature passed the resolution.

MUNICIPAL ELECTRICITY AND GAS ALLIANCE (MEGA)

MEGA is an aggregator of electricity and natural gas. The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) has partnered with MEGA to bring competitive energy prices to counties. I sponsored a resolution last year and this year asking the County to consider participating in MEGA and both times these resolutions were voted down. Ulster, Greene, Sullivan and 26 other counties have joined MEGA to save hundreds of thousands of dollars on their electric bills annually for their respective county buildings. The Democratic Caucus believes this could be a great opportunity to look for cost saving mechanisms in county government. MEGA only requires the County to fill out a participation authorization form to look at cost savings for the county before joining. Research this issue and you will find that Rockland County is saving about $1 million a year. Even County Exec. Diana (R) from Orange County has stated that municipalities who have partnered with MEGA saved between $11 and $12 million since April 2010 and the county alone is expected to save roughly $900,000 through the course of its 16 month contract. Why not Dutchess?

DUTCHESS COUNTY AIRPORT

Currently, we are awaiting feedback from a consultant and the County Executive to determine how the County can make the airport an economic engine. In the interim, the legislature voted for a measure to improve the airport to make it more profitable and to attract future investment. Such Improvements include a taxiway replacement, terminal enhancements, new equipment, machinery and other work; these improvements will be implemented at the airport and is part of a 5 year master plan with the FAA. The total cost of the project is $2,497,046. Federal aid is $1,882,800; State aid is $104,600; and county serial bonds are $509,646.

SOLARIZE DUTCHESS

The County Legislature passed a resolution authorizing the county to study the feasibility of installing solar power on county buildings as it could make for substantial savings for county taxpayers. This is intended to develop a community solar initiative to help residents and business owners overcome financial and logistical obstacles of installing solar power through high volume group purchasing. Solarize New York successfully merges education and community activism, simple low-cost advertising, job creation and economies of scale to drive participation. Now, we just have to make sure the program actually gets off the ground. If anyone has experience in this profession, please feel free to lend your suggestions to the County Legislature and the County Executive.

DUTCHESS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

The County Legislature voted 18-6 on Monday to approve the college’s $63.6 million spending plan for 2013-14 despite concerns voiced by some members. Although DCC’s tuition is among the lowest in the state and is the lowest in the Hudson Valley, I, along with other legislators voted against this resolution because a $200 increase in a two year period is too large and too much of a burden on the students. I think community colleges serve the needs of society by providing opportunities to students who otherwise could not afford to go to a four-year college.

DUTCHESS COUNTY SELF-INSURED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PLAN

The legislature voted to offer its municipalities the opportunity to participate in the county’s self-insured workers’ compensation plan to reduce premiums. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to people who suffer job-related illnesses and injuries. This is a shared service opportunity that will benefit the county, our municipal partners and taxpayers.

Here and Now: County Costs and The Judicial System

Housing out 150 and 200 inmates daily, on average, costs the County approximately $8 million a year. The annual jail population, including inmates housed in other counties has jumped 24% from 2002 to 2011. Two years after the jail opened in 1987, the jail experienced overcrowding issues. Those issues continue today even with the expansions made to the jail 1995. The county has been paying to house out inmates since 2002. This is an illustration of the challenges and fiscal impact facing the county, improper budgeting and mismanagement of our criminal justice system.

Last year, the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council (DCCJC), a group of county criminal justice leaders, released a Needs Assessment Report (CJC Report) which stated that redesigning the 292-bed jail is cost prohibitive. While the CJC Report undoubtedly identified challenges in the criminal justice process from arraignment through trial and sentencing and ultimate release back into the community, the bulk of the report’s focal point was on building a new facility at a cost of $78 million to $202 million, before cost overruns. The CJC Report also fails to consider an addition.

A subsequent report by a jail design firm, Ricci Greene Associates, was commissioned by the County Legislature to review and assess the DCCJC Needs Assessment Report. Ricci Greene’s report said the county needs 598 to 625 jail beds at a cost of $150 million to $200 million and gave a strong and comparable alternative in rebuilding at the current jail site. However, this report fails to consider an addition. Both reports state that the use of Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs should be enhanced and expanded as it would help reduce the need for more jail beds. In fact, a few can be implemented today at little to no cost.

In June, a Resolution for a $1.2M bond related to jail construction was approved by the legislature. I along with a few others voted no for the cost of yet another study on the county jail. There have been a number of studies, ALL suggesting an addition. Previous studies need to be read/digested and updated. This is not a $1.2 million study. The administration needs to stop kicking the can down the road and make a decision before the election. We all agree that this was too much for another analysis of the county jail especially given the fact the county budgeted $750,000 for this process.

Note: 1) The current jail site is 7 acres while other county jails occupy as little as 1.5 acres and house more inmates; 2) A regional approach to jail expansion is no longer an option; 3) The proposed jail would be the largest capital project ever undertaken by the county; and 4) County Comptroller, James Coughlan (R), said “$1.2 million to be spent on the next jail study may be excessive, depending the scope of the analysis and a new jail will have a price tag of between $125M and $200M. Interest payments alone on $125 million will be $9 million a year, forcing big spending cuts or tax increases. With county residents financially struggling, the county executive and legislature cannot just go to taxpayers with a big tax hike.”

Here and Now: Forecast for 2014 County Budget is Dismal

2014 BUDGET – FORECAST FOR COUNTY BUDGET IS DISMAL

In a presentation made to the legislature last month, County Budget Director, Valerie Sommerville, said the county has little to or no cushion in the general fund and very little options for making up the money. Dutchess is facing significant fiscal challenges and uncertainties. The county budgeted for a 2.2% increase in sales tax revenues and so far this year sales tax revenue is down 1.25%, leaving a projected gap of $3.4 million. In addition, the county counted on the State Legislature to allow the county to increase the mortgage recording tax that was projected to give us $4.8 million in additional revenues. The state legislature, however, did not pass this home rule request.

The County Executive is currently working to craft the 2014 Dutchess County budget. As a result, the county is once again requesting your feedback regarding the programs and services offered by Dutchess County Government and what choices YOU would make regarding revenue and spending options. The Budget Survey provides residents with an overview of where county government’s revenue comes from and how county dollars are spent. This year, there is a new “Help Us Balance the Budget” section, where residents can make revenue and expense decisions necessary to close the currently projected $27 million gap for the 2014 budget.

See more at: http://www.thinkdutchess.com/2013/09/county-budget-survey-need-your- help/#sthash.dyQSgGbE.dpuf 

 

Newsletter: The 2013 County Budget

The 2013 COUNTY BUDGET

Faced with a $40 million dollar budget deficit, a budget survey was conducted mid-last year asking county residents about their priorities for the 2013 budget and what type of tax increases could be accepted.  The survey exhibited the need for services delivered and the majority said they could tolerate a tax increase as high as 7%.

Today, the 2013 budget includes closing the Department of Social Services one day a week to allow workers to catch up on paperwork; capping the amount of sales tax that our town, cities and villages receive; and imposing a one-half (1/2) of 1% mortgage recording tax for 2 years instead of 4 years, as originally requested.  I voted against all 3 initiatives.

Acquiring new cases four days a week will hurt the most vulnerable and an increase in the recording mortgage tax will only hurt the middle class and working class looking to purchase a home or refinance their home.  It is also premature for the County Executive to include this as revenue in a budget, especially when it has many stages to go through before it can be implemented.  It is also disconcerting for the County Legislature to go along without questioning where the additional monies would come from should the mortgage recording tax increase not pass in Albany when the Governor clearly stated he would not increase taxes of any kind.
The sales tax cap is simply doing what we complain Albany does to the County – passing costs down to lower entities, and then bragging about holding down taxes. Taking back Elections costs that never should have been on the Town & Cities is only a token.  In fact, the Village never had election charges so they are losing the full amount of the sales tax. It also means more reduced services and an increase in property taxes at the local level.  The County can much better absorb tax increases than those Towns, Villages and individual Cities.

Looking to the future beyond 2012, this budget is setting in place the ability or the direction of contracting out for roads and bridge work to private contractors, costing the county more money in the long run.

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Spring 2013 Newsletter: Consolidations, Restructuring and Name Changes of Various Departments

OVERVIEW

To produce savings and create a more effective department structure, the Department of Public Works, the Highway and Engineering Division have consolidated into one division. The Auto Center, formerly part of the Central Services, is merged into the Highway and Engineering Division because the Division of Public Works is already in charge of the management and oversight of the Highway and Engineering equipment maintenance garage and employs mechanics, garage supervisor and related staff support. DPW is now located at 626 Dutchess Turnpike in Poughkeepsie.

The Legislature agreed to create an Agency Partner Grant Program and the Municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Grant Program to allow a more transparent and competitive process while providing a saving for the taxpayer.

The Division of Veteran Services is now affiliated with the Department of Health and is located at 85 Civic Center Plaza in Poughkeepsie. The Division of Youth Services is now a separate division and the Department of Social Services (DSS) is now the Department of Community & Family Services (DCFS) to reflect services and the overall department’s focus on providing assistance leading to long-term independence and sustainability for individuals and families. DCFS will not take new cases on Wednesday’s. Both are located at 60 Market St. in Poughkeepsie. The Division of Aging Services is now the Office for the Aging (OFA). This department is once again a stand-alone department that is funded almost entirely by state and federal revenue streams and will remain at 27 High Street in Poughkeepsie.

HIGHLIGHTS

Airport

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A recent internal audit of airport operations at the Dutchess County Airport revealed that the airport has been undergoing a net loss for eleven years (2001-2012). Continual budget deficits at the airport have resulted in the annual allocation of taxpayer-funded subsidies to offset the shortfalls. The height of these losses was in 2011 ($1 million) while the loss for 2012 was about $730,000.

There is no major air carrier service at the Dutchess County Airport and the majority of its operations are local and itinerant general aviation. A 2010 FAA-NYSDOT report found that aviation has a positive impact on the local economy and helps businesses meet their transportation needs. Furthermore, there is an ongoing process with Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation, Local Chambers of Commerce and Dutchess County Planning and Economic Development to attract business.

Since the Comptroller’s inquiry began, the director has since resigned, all hangars are now presently rented out with a waiting list and Richmor has pulled out of the airport. Negotiations over the renewal of an expired lease failed after 30 years of business with the County because the lease and rent reflected a bygone time. Until recently, both Richmor and the County’s Dutchess Aviation competed in fuel sales. Now, the Airport will assume full control of fuel sales.

New County Law Necessitates the Posting of Cash, Credit Gas Prices

The Legislature amended a local law on the signage of motor fuel in an effort to prevent misleading trade practices. Apparently, residents did not realize they are being charged a higher price for credit card then what was advertised for cash until it was too late.

Dutchess Community College (DCC) Tuition Hike

DCC received a little more state funding and has more enrolled students than 5 (Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Columbia-Greene, Sullivan) local county colleges. Given the fact that DCC’s total operating expenses are 2nd highest following Rockland County and its tuition costs are the lowest among the neighboring counties, I thought a $100 increase per semester was modest. At our board meeting, however, a student said $100 is a factor in deciding whether to go to college. As a result, I could not support this resolution.

Ban on Hydrofracking

I signed a letter along with 600 officials from all 62 counties in the state urging Gov. Cuomo to maintain the de facto moratorium on hydrofracking until the following independent assessments have been completed: a) a health impact assessment b) a revised socioeconomic study; and c) a cumulative impact study.

A month ago, the GOP voted to table a resolution banning hydrofracking in the County. Last year, they rejected the resolution all together. The GOP also voted down a local law banning the use of gas drilling of brine on Dutchess County Roads in August, 2012. Meanwhile, this passed in Ulster County in July, 2012 and passed in Westchester County December, 2012.

Dutchess Rail Trail

I co-sponsored a resolution authorizing the Inter-municipal Agreement between the County and the Town of Wappinger for maintenance of the Town of Wappinger Portion of the Dutchess Rail Trail so as to encourage its use. Phase III of the Dutchess Rail Trail is open with 6.5 new miles through LaGrange and Wappinger, linking to East Fishkill. Go discover the Dutchess Rail Trail!

Hopewell Depot Restoration Corporation

I co-sponsored a resolution authorizing extension and amendment of lease agreement with the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corporation because I personally volunteered my time in the restoration of the Depot and I know how hard the local residents and businesses worked to restore this beautiful building. After a fire nearly destroyed the building in 1986, local residents formed the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp. to preserve and ultimately restore the station to its original form. Taking nearly two years to accomplish this, I am happy to say that they are now open for tours. The Hopewell Depot is located at the southern trail-head of the Dutchess County Rail Trail, in the village of Hopewell Junction.

Item Pricing

A resolution eliminating manual tagging has been tabled for various reasons. I raised following concerns: a) the lack of staff in the Weights and Measures Dept. to conduct regular inspections; b) a store making prompt payment to consumers who have been overcharged; c) the lack of scanners per square footage; d) the likelihood that the supermarket would make full- time employees part-time employees; and e) the likelihood that chaos and confusion between store personnel and customers would take place, especially when items are moved and not placed back where they belong or when a label on the shelf is changed at a moment’s notice and the scanner doesn’t read the new price.

Jail Expansion

The county houses between 150 and 200 people daily and the cost of transporting and housing inmates is approximately $4 million a year. A regional approach to jail expansion is no longer an option. The annual jail population, including inmates housed in other counties has jumped 24 percent from 2002 to 2011. Mental illness, drug addiction, barriers to jail diversion programs appear to be causing the rise in the number of people incarcerated in Dutchess County Jail. Bail trends may also be affecting jail overcrowding.

The price range for a new jail can cost taxpayers from $78 million for a 500-bed facility to $202 million for a 650-bed facility.

I think we can all agree that there is a need for substantial restructuring of the criminal-justice system but how do we get there with differing views? We all agree that the county must provide more alternatives to incarceration, ramp up its community re-entry programs, create alternative housing for women and youth, better train police on mental-health issues and divert more people from jail into programs but the GOP doesn’t want to discuss these options until the new jail is built. These measures should be implemented “simultaneous” with a new jail not separately.

Redistricting

In 2009, the Legislature, led by a Democratic majority passed a local law that would have provided for independent redistricting. The Republican majority rescinded this effort and appointed a Citizens Steering Commission on Reapportionment that met a couple of times both in 2011 and 2012. Note the Committee was not called to meet from last June until this past January when the district lines came up for a vote. Moreover, they hired David Schaefer of Skyline Consulting, the same exact consultant the state Republican Senate ‘majority’ used to gerrymander their district lines, without my knowledge or the democratic minority leader. This issue was not so much the gerrymandering but the process. I do not support the way this was handled.

Demolition of the Historic Nelson House Annex (next to the county building)

The Conditions Assessment Report did not at any time, or in any language state the building is beyond re-use or repair nor did is it use a phrase most associated with a “condemned” order that the “building was in imminent danger of structural collapse.” Yet, the majority party voted to demolish this local and national treasure built in 1925. I have reason to believe this building could have been revitalized. At your leisure, look up the history of the Nelson House Annex.

Resource Recovery Agency

The County has released a local Solid Waste Management Plan titled, “Rethinking Waste.” It is a ten-year plan for the management of solid waste outlining how much solid waste we are currently generating, how much we currently recycling and reusing. It also sets a plan for how we can decrease a generation of solid waste and increase what we take out of the waste stream. I highly recommend you go to our website, read the plan and give us your feedback.

Board of Elections is seeking Bi-Lingual Election Inspectors

The Dutchess County Board of Elections (DCBOE) is seeking individuals to serve as Elections Inspectors for the 2013 Elections, particularly individuals with Spanish language proficiency to help with a new initiative to provide Spanish language access for elections in Dutchess County. Elections Inspectors are paid $150 for a Primary Election (12pm-9pm), $215 for a General Election (6am-9pm), and $35 for a mandatory training class. Those interested should contact the DCBOE at (845) 486-2470 or visit their website: http://www.dutchesselections.com.

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