KINGSTON – Acting Ulster County Executive Johanna Contreras presented the 2023 Ulster County Executive Budget proposal last week in Legislative Chambers at the County Office Building in Kingston. At $378.5 million, the 2023 budget includes investments in essential services, a historic 3% decrease in the tax levy, and bolstered reserves.
“Thanks to the record of sound financial management in Ulster County, we are on solid financial footing,” Acting County Executive Johanna 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.”
At the end of September, Ulster County received notice from the Office of the State Comptroller that the “Fiscal Stress Score” for 2021 was at 3.3 compared to 6.7 in 2020 and 22.5 in 2019. This score takes into account factors like the use of short term debt, operating deficits or surpluses and cash on hand, and a lower score generally indicates fiscal health.
The 2023 Executive Budget includes added front-line staff to meet increasing needs in emergency management, social services, environmental health, mental health, and public safety.
The 2023 Executive Budget also includes funding to support the Crisis Stabilization Center, enhanced mental health services, expanded child care eligibility and a pilot program to provide home energy assistance.
The 2023 Executive Budget also creates several reserves to align with the Ulster County Fund Balance policy while making multi-year commitments to shared priorities.
Housing and Green Growth
The 2023 Executive Budget will include a commitment of $17 million for a reserve dedicated to Housing and Green Growth, bringing the total reserve account to $20 million.
The funding will be available to support a wide array of initiatives including the creation of new housing, preservation of existing housing, a revolving loan fund for housing improvements, anti-displacement efforts, incentives for Housing Smart Communities, and capital improvements for infrastructure.
Transportation and Mobility
The 2023 budget will commit a total of $7.5 million toward Transportation & Mobility projects in the coming years, to begin to address the challenges faced by residents who are traversing a county the size of Rhode Island. The funding will be available to tackle a wide range of transportation issues related to equity and the environment, including providing microtransit, expanding service in the Southern parts of the County, enhancing bus shelters, continuing fare-free rides in the future,and aggressively shifting our UCAT fleet to electric vehicles in order to improve air quality and advance our climate-related goals.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder
The 2023 budget identifies an additional $10 million to dedicate towards Mental Health Care and Substance Use Disorder Treatment over the coming years. In the coming months, the County will seek proposals from community organizations who are working tirelessly to tackle the mental health and substance use crisis from a variety of angles ranging from Prevention to Harm Reduction, to Recovery, and Treatment. In 2023, this reserve will show commitment to this work and safeguard these resources for the future.
The 2023 Executive Budget will commit $7.5 million for innovative new workforce programs, such as apprenticeships,on-the-job training, and investments to strengthen school-to-career pathways. As high quality jobs at local employers like Upriver Studios, Community Manufacturing Solutions or Viking Industries are added – along with hundreds of new jobs at Cresco Labs in Ellenville, Zinc8 Energy Solutions and Arch Top Fiber at iPark 87 – these investments will ensure that existing residents have the skills and credentials to compete in the economy of the future.
This year’s budget will direct $5 million to a Community Resilience Reserve. The funding in this reserve will support initiatives such as improving food security, supporting our local farmers, and building a more sustainable local economy. This investment will prioritize grassroots organizations and community-led initiatives in order to support innovative approaches that are developed from the ground up.
Capital Projects Reserve
The 2023 Executive Budget will add $25 million to the existing Capital Projects reserve, bringing the total reserve account to nearly $30 million. As interest rates continue to increase, it is prudent to dedicate resources to support Capital projects without needing to borrow money. This will provide the County with the flexibility necessary to remain fiscally responsible and determine when and where it is best to borrow and when to use the reserve to fund Capital projects. The funding will be available to use for capital projects including vehicle fleet and heavy equipment replacement, building maintenance projects, reconstruction and paving of county roads and further energy upgrades to continue to reduce our carbon footprint.