Tough budget choices for fiscal 2010

Reality is [that] the money does not exist to sustain government as it exists today. In 2010, county government will do less because we have less."

These words of County Executive Bill Steinhaus accompanied his proposed $398.9 million county budget for 2010 on which county legislators will vote Monday, Dec. 7.

For the past month and for the next few days, the 25 county legislators who serve countywide have been struggling over how to stretch tax dollars to provide essential services, while wrangling over which services must be cut. This is not easy.

Last year, services were largely maintained causing property taxes to soar 11 percent. This year promises to be even tougher as taxpayers cannot afford the same rate of taxing and spending. Tough decisions will force legislators to either eliminate services, raise taxes further — or a combination of both.

u u u

Consider the following cuts that have been proposed in the executive’s budget. Legislators must decide whether to leave them cut or whether to restore them. If they vote to restore, taxes will rise.

• The elimination of 75 sheriff deputies that comprise the county road patrols that our municipalities and schools rely on for protection. Cost to retain: $5.3 million.

• The elimination of the Crime Victim’s Assistance Program that provides comfort and assistance to rape victims including preservation of forensic evidence that has led to the conviction of rapists. Also slated for elimination is a Teen Parent program, Supervised Visitation program, and Domestic Abuse Response Team program. Total cost to retain: $563,952.

• Zero funding for the Resource Recovery Agency, the waste-to-energy incinerator that burns our trash, and for which contractually the county is required to pay. Cost to retain: $6.6 million.

• The elimination of the Long-Term Home Health Care program operated by the Department of Health that provides in-home care to seniors countywide. Cost to retain: $323,000.

• Elimination of the Environmental Program at the Cornell Cooperative Extension that organizes town-wide vernal pool surveys, organizes a countywide watershed coalition and updates the county’s Natural Resource Inventory, as well as programs that further the interests of agriculture, nutrition, 4H, teen leadership and environmental planning. Total cost to retain: $496,002 ($219,006 of that is for the environmental program).

• Elimination of the Human Rights Commission that advocates for residents who face discrimination pertaining to employment, housing, public accommodation, education and civil or human rights. Cost to retain: $231,828.

• The layoff of 25 county employees plus the elimination of 31 vacant county positions.

• Whether to continue to exempt clothing under $110 from sales tax. Cost to retain: $5.4 million.

Balancing services with jobs and the tax levy is tough work. A decision to retain any of the above (not to mention all of them) will result in tax increases that in this tough economy nobody wants — or needs.

Your input is welcome. E-mail concerns to all 25 county legislators at or plan to attend the County Budget Public Hearing on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie.


Michael N. Kelsey is the Dutchess County legislator-elect for the towns of Amenia, Washington, Stanford, Pleasant Valley and the village of Millbrook. He will be sworn in on Jan. 5, 2010. Write him at

Latest News

The artistic life of Joelle Sander

"Flowers" by the late artist and writer Joelle Sander.

Cornwall Library

The Cornwall Library unveiled its latest art exhibition, “Live It Up!,” showcasing the work of the late West Cornwall resident Joelle Sander on Saturday, April 13. The twenty works on canvas on display were curated in partnership with the library with the help of her son, Jason Sander, from the collection of paintings she left behind to him. Clearly enamored with nature in all its seasons, Sander, who split time between her home in New York City and her country house in Litchfield County, took inspiration from the distinctive white bark trunks of the area’s many birch trees, the swirling snow of Connecticut’s wintery woods, and even the scenic view of the Audubon in Sharon. The sole painting to depict fauna is a melancholy near-abstract outline of a cow, rootless in a miasma haze of plum and Persian blue paint. Her most prominently displayed painting, “Flowers,” effectively builds up layers of paint so that her flurry of petals takes on a three-dimensional texture in their rough application, reminiscent of another Cornwall artist, Don Bracken.

Keep ReadingShow less
A Seder to savor in Sheffield

Rabbi Zach Fredman

Zivar Amrami

On April 23, Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield will host “Feast of Mystics,” a Passover Seder that promises to provide ecstasy for the senses.

“’The Feast of Mystics’ was a title we used for events back when I was running The New Shul,” said Rabbi Zach Fredman of his time at the independent creative community in the West Village in New York City.

Keep ReadingShow less
Art scholarship now honors HVRHS teacher Warren Prindle

Warren Prindle

Patrick L. Sullivan

Legendary American artist Jasper Johns, perhaps best known for his encaustic depictions of the U.S. flag, formed the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 1963, operating the volunteer-run foundation in his New York City artist studio with the help of his co-founder, the late American composer and music theorist John Cage. Although Johns stepped down from his chair position in 2015, today the Foundation for Community Arts continues its pledge to sponsor emerging artists, with one of its exemplary honors being an $80 thousand dollar scholarship given to a graduating senior from Housatonic Valley Regional High School who is continuing his or her visual arts education on a college level. The award, first established in 2004, is distributed in annual amounts of $20,000 for four years of university education.

In 2024, the Contemporary Visual Arts Scholarship was renamed the Warren Prindle Arts Scholarship. A longtime art educator and mentor to young artists at HVRHS, Prindle announced that he will be retiring from teaching at the end of the 2023-24 school year. Recently in 2022, Prindle helped establish the school’s new Kearcher-Monsell Gallery in the library and recruited a team of student interns to help curate and exhibit shows of both student and community-based professional artists. One of Kearcher-Monsell’s early exhibitions featured the work of Theda Galvin, who was later announced as the 2023 winner of the foundation’s $80,000 scholarship. Prindle has also championed the continuation of the annual Blue and Gold juried student art show, which invites the public to both view and purchase student work in multiple mediums, including painting, photography, and sculpture.

Keep ReadingShow less