Acting Ulster County Executive Johanna Contreras presented the 2023 Ulster County Executive Budget proposal on Monday, October 4. The $378.5 million spending plan comes with a 3 percent decrease in the local tax levy.
“Thanks to the record of sound financial management in Ulster County, we are on solid financial footing,” Contreras said. “The 2023 Executive Budget reinforces Ulster County’s commitment to serving its residents by investing in essential services, reducing taxes to relieve the fiscal pressures residents are feeling and committing to our shared priorities for the future.”
Late last month, the county’s Fiscal Stress Score for 2021 was set at 3.3 percent by the Office of the State Comptroller, compared to 6.7 percent in 2020, and 22.5 percent in 2019. The score is the result of an analysis of financial information submitted by local governments against uniform financial and environmental indicators. The lower a Fiscal Stress Score, the better.
The 2023 Executive Budget proposal increases spending by $25.7 million, a 7.3 percent rise over the 2022 spending plan. It features no new initiatives, but adds 42 new county jobs in emergency management, social services, environmental health, mental health and public safety.
The proposed Executive Budget also includes support for the Crisis Stabilization Center, enhancement of mental health services, expanded child care eligibility, and a pilot program to help provide home energy assistance.
An additional $17 million for a reserve dedicated to housing and green growth would increase that reserve to $20 million, with the funding available for the creation of new housing, preservation of existing housing, housing improvements, anti-displacement efforts, incentives for Housing Smart Communities, and capital improvements for county infrastructure.
Transportation and mobility projects would get a $7.5 million boost in the proposed spending plan for a county roughly the size of the State of Rhode Island. With an eye on transportation issues relating to equity and the environment, the funding would help provide micro-transit, expand service to underserved southern parts of the county, enhance bus shelters, continue the recently established fare-free ride program, and continue shifting the UCAT fleet to electric vehicles.
The 2023 spending plan earmarks a further $10 million towards mental health care and substance user disorder treatment, with the county seeking proposals over the next few months from community organizations working on prevention, harm reduction, recovery and treatment.
The Executive Proposal also commits $7.5 million to innovative workforce programs, including apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and investments in school-to-career opportunities. Acting County Executive Contreras’ proposed budget identifies local employers like Upriver Studios, Community Manufacturing Solutions and Viking Industries as recently adding jobs, with new jobs at Cresco Labs in Ellenville, Zinc8 Energy Solutions and Arch Top Fiber at iPark 87 as showing that investing locally makes sense.
A community resilience reserve of $5 million has also been established in the proposed spending plan, with funding available to support improving food security and local farms in an effort to build a more sustainable local economy. The fund would prioritize ground-up grassroots organizations and community-driven initiatives.
A $5 million capital projects reserve would be boosted to nearly $30 million in the proposed budget in an effort to offset rising interest rates by reducing the need to borrow money. County officials said the reserve would allow for the fiscally responsible flexibility to decide whether to borrow or tap into the reserve for capital projects based on what’s happening with interest rates at the time. Vehicle fleet and heavy equipment replacement are considered capital projects, along with building maintenance projects, energy upgrades, the reduction of the county’s carbon footprint, and reconstruction and paving of county roads.
The full 2023 Ulster County Executive Budget will be published as an interactive website (https://ulstercountyny.gov/budget) on Friday, October 7.