Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan hopes to make good on campaign promises by expanding the size of the county government and decreasing property taxes to the lowest level in a decade.
The $342.28 million proposed budget calls for a 3.9% increase in spending from the $329.26 million budget that currently stands, according to The Daily Freeman. The promises Ryan intends to keep include increasing renewable energy investments, addressing the opioid epidemic, prioritizing smart economic growth and to relieve some of the financial burden on taxpayers.
“This budget delivers on our commitment to move Ulster County forward by standing up the first-ever Green Careers Academy to expand opportunities and help grow our economy, by putting real money behind our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and by opening up new avenues for residents from throughout the county to engage with County Government,” Ryan said in a statement on the county website.
The following information and quotes were taken from an article posted on the Ulster County Government website.
Ryan hopes that initiatives for his “Green New Deal” for Ulster County will transform the area into “the epicenter of an emerging green economy.” One such program is the Green Careers Academy, where the county will partner with SUNY Ulster to teach skills necessary to land a job in the renewable energy market. The program offers reduced or free tuition for entry-level Clean Tech courses for Ulster youths, volunteer firefighters, veterans and low-income residents.
Additionally, the Ulster County Department of the Environment will see a 15% increase in their budget, furthering green initiatives. Ryan hopes to double renewable energy from 20% to 40% by continuing to pursue solar projects in 2020. Funding to UCAT transportation will allow them to acquire three electric buses and an accompanying high-voltage charging center.
The county took an ambitious stance on the opioid epidemic, using $3 million in grant funds to reduce opioid-related overdoses by 50% in two years. The Ulster County Sheriff’s office will receive two new deputies who will be assigned to the Opioid Response County Law Enforcement program. They will join an overdose response team which includes mental health professionals and counselors to assist families and individuals who are dealing with overdoses within 72 hours. The county was also awarded a $2.5 million grant to analyze the gaps in the county’s prevention and treatment system.
The county is pouring $590,000 to assist low-to-moderate income families buying homes in Ulster County. The program will be administered by RUPCO in order to cover down-payment and closing costs for potential homeowners.
On the social justice side of the spectrum, seven new public defense positions have been added to assist residents in need of an attorney. These hires hope to decrease the caseloads of county courts and ensure that residents receive proper assistance and just verdicts.
Meanwhile, funds raised by property taxes will drop from $73.51 to $73.31 million, which equals a 0.25% drop in that tax sector, according to The Daily Freeman.
The full budget is available on the county website at ulstercountyny.gov/budgets.