Ulster County’s 2018 budget reduces property taxes once again

County Executive Mike Hein. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

In announcing his 2018 budget Tuesday afternoon, County Executive Mike Hein said smart fiscal management had allowed Ulster County to invest in new initiatives and infrastructure, while reducing the county tax levy to its lowest level since 2009.

Hein delivered his budget address in an annex to the county’s probation department on Broadway in Kingston which will be transformed into a “Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center” for 16- and 17-year-old offenders under his 2018 budget. The new initiative is one of a number of small-bore initiatives contained in the budget which, Hein said, were made possible by administration’s steady fiscal stewardship.

“If you willing to embrace innovation and change while partnering with others, then you can accomplish both fiscal responsibility for taxpayers and socially responsible programs that benefit us all,” said Hein.

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Overall spending in Hein’s 2018 plan is $324 million, a little less than $1 million below 2017 levels. Hein’s budget also anticipates $2.87 million in increased revenue, primarily in the form of sales tax. Hein’s budget also incorporates $12.75 million from the county’s reserve fund, $3.59 million less than was used in the current budget. Overall, the property tax levy will drop from $76.89 million in 2017 to $76.7 million next year. Hein noted that his proposed tax levy was the lowest in Ulster County since 2010; 2018 would be the sixth straight year of declines in county tax bills.

Hein’s budget also includes a series of new initiatives focused on public safety, seniors, the environment and infrastructure. In addition to a $1.6 million capital project to create the new youth justice center, the budget calls for new spending to provide free well water-testing services to low- and moderate-income county residents. The budget also contains money for a new pilot program that will allow the county to add 10 “green” vehicles to its fleet. Additional money will go to expand the county’s “Lifeline” service, which provides devices to allow vulnerable seniors to contact emergency services in the event of a fall. Hein’s budget also includes funding for two new substance abuse prevention programs, a new online guide for treatment and prevention services and a task force to evaluate and improve current county-level drug prevention efforts.

The proposed budget also includes $15 million to continue Hein’s “Building a Better Ulster County” program. Since 2014 the program has spent some $60 million to repair and replace county roads and bridges. In 2018 the program is slated to repave 65 miles of county roads. $2.1 million of the total will go to replace aging signage on county roads with more modern and more visible designs.

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