Legislature Proposes Changes to New 2019 Ulster County Budget

The Ulster County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee was asked on Tuesday to add another roughly $200,000 in spending to the proposed 2019 county budget, on top of the roughly $425,000 in additional spending requested Monday.

The bulk of this additional spending allocates $100,00 toward the county’s Restorative Justice program with a goal of expanding its scope beyond youths who have had police contact. The rest of the proposed addition includes $24,000 for salary increases for two assistant district attorneys, $18,500 for a nutritional study of the county jail’s meal program and $18,000 for salary increases in the Legislature clerk’s office.

The changes recommended by the Legislature are currently under review, according to Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell. If Ulster County Executive Mike Hein were to veto any of these amendments, the County Legislature would have the opportunity to override that veto with a two-thirds vote.

According to The Daily Freeman, all but one of the requests call for funding to come from the contingency amount built into the 2019 budget proposed by Ulster County Executive Michael Hein.

Additionally, the Benjamin Center, a budget consultant for the Legislature, recommended that funding the raises by increasing revenues from the county’s hotel/motel tax; proposed by Legislator Joseph Maloney, D-Saugerties. However the Ulster County Executive office said that under state law, money raised through that tax must be used for tourism-related expenses.

Legislator Tracey Bartels, non-enrolled but caucuses with the Democrats, proposed both a jail nutrition study and creating another auditor position in the county Comptroller’s office to be held by a certified public accountant rather than the administrative assistant position proposed in the budget. The position would allow the Legislature to exercise its charter authority to request and direct that the Comptroller’s Office conduct audits of programs and county departments.

Comptroller Elliott Auerbach requested the reinstatement of a confidential secretary for his office which was eliminated in 2017.

The Benjamin Center also recommended a $1 million reduction in the county property tax levy and a $1.6 million increase in the sales tax revenue estimate, but no amendments were made reflecting these recommendations.

“We’re substantially improving services to our senior citizens, to our veterans, those most in need in our community while at the same time we’re lowering property taxes for county residents for the seventh year in a row,” Crannell said.

Hein has proposed a $329 million county budget for next year that calls for a spending increase of $5.1 million, or 1.6 percent, over the $323.8 million county budget adopted for 2018, and a 0.2 percent decrease in the amount to be generated by property taxes.

The full Legislature will vote on a final 2019 spending plan at the Dec. 18 meeting.