POUGHKEEPSIE – Eight Democratic legislators voted no on the Executive’s 2021 budget, citing the impact of staffing reductions on key services and the legislature’s lack of substantive debate over priorities.
Over 150 county employees took a buyout the county offered earlier this year, in response to loss of sales tax revenue due to the Covid crisis. Democratic legislators emphasized the disproportionate impact on health and human services.
“We’re heading into 2021 with 31 fewer employees in the Health Department than we had this time last year,” said Legislator Brennan Kearney (Rhinebeck/Clinton). “With Covid cases spiking and overdose deaths unabated, resources should be reallocated to address those urgent needs.”
“We need to be investing more in our health department’s COVID response” said Legislator Kris Munn (Red Hook/Tivoli), “so our schools can stay open and working families are not forced to choose between staying home with their children and putting food on the table.”
A bipartisan group of nine legislators also voted no on the five-year capital plan. “The high cost of the new jail—the county’s largest-ever capital project—forces the county to cut other projects or run up unprecedented debt,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (Poughkeepsie). The annual cost of debt service is projected to top $30 million by 2025.
Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (Poughkeepsie) criticized the slowness with which the county has moved toward building a youth center in Poughkeepsie, originally pledged in 2016.
“They are prioritizing locking people in cells,” he said, “rather than community programs that could help keep us out.”
Legislator Craig Brendli (Poughkeepsie) said, “I fully support many strong projects such as the proposed Poughkeepsie youth center, but the capital plan needs more details, fuller numbers, and clearer priorities. Without this, we risk out-of-control debt service and a possibility that good projects, which our constituents want, never come to fruition.”