FACT CHECK: Red Hook Budget Cuts

Why did the Red Hook Town Board cut the budget?

Based on data from Dutchess County and the NYS Comptroller’s office, the town estimates a potential shortfall in sales taxes and other revenues of between $200K and $300K in the next 12 months alone – perhaps more. This is the result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, shutdowns, economic recession and mass unemployment.

How many positions were cut or reduced?

Among others, the following reductions were made to the 2020 budget (calculated in hours by department, FTE means Full Time Employee = 30 hours, PTE means Part Time Employee):

  • Purchasing: 61% reduction
    Eliminated 61% of 1 part-time position
    Supervisor taking on those responsibilities without extra pay
  • Assessor: 35% reduction
    Reduced 1.4 FTE to 0.9 FTE
  • Town Clerk Dept: 25% reduction
    Reduced 2 FTE to 1.5 FTE
  • Building & Zoning: 24% reduction
    Reduced 37h FTE -> 28h PTE combined
  • Highway Dept: 24% reduction
    Eliminated 2 FTE and reduced one PTE by 10h
  • Judicial: 20% reduction
    One of three part-time clerk positions eliminated, judges considered ½ FTE
  • Bookkeeping: 14% reduction
    Eliminated 1 part-time position

But maybe the budget situation won’t be that bad – why not wait?

Delayed cuts often lead to deeper cuts (or bigger tax hikes) that will be required later. Supervisor McKeon and the Red Hook Town Board decided to act sooner rather than later. Temporary federal support for laid off workers was available to help offset workers with reduced hours or layoffs. All municipalities are facing similar decisions.

Town Clerk (and the Republicans) claim only her office and the Highway Department were cut.

Not true, cuts were spread across many departments and programs as you can see above. In fact, cuts were deeper in some other departments AND the Deputy Clerk was given a raise to help mitigate the cut to part-time.

Does she not know there were other cuts?

She is at the town board meetings. She knows.

So why are the Town Clerk and Republicans claiming that only clerk and highway departments were cut?

They are playing politics with the budget cuts to attack the supervisor and town board.

What do you mean playing politics?!

Town Clerk is an elected position, not someone hired (or fired) by the town board. She is a Republican elected official who has been involved in local politics and has campaigned against Democrats for many years.

The Red Hook Town Board is Democratic. The Clerk is a Republican. She and her Republican friends are making false claims about the budget cuts to try to score cheap political points against the Democrats.

But the Town Clerk quit her job in protest!

The Clerk resigned and will enjoy early retirement with a healthy public pension after many years of service. She had reportedly been planning to retire at the end of her term next year but apparently decided that she wasn’t ready to do more with less during this time of belt-tightening in town government. By quitting she is trying to play the victim to score even more political points against Democrats in the process.

The Clerk and Republicans say that the targeted cuts show a bias against women.

The cuts were not targeted – there were cuts in many departments and programs. This is just a nasty smear on top of the petty partisan politics from someone who’s unhappy that cuts were made to their department. Most of the departments understood the situation and were more than willing to make the best of this unexpected circumstance. 

It is not surprising that two elected officials who run with Republican support would oppose cuts proposed by a Democratic town board. After all, neither of them have to raise taxes if no cuts are made.

2020 Update: Red Hook Dems offer $500 scholarship to Red Hook Senior

DEADLINE MONDAY APRIL 20

The Red Hook Democratic Committee is urging local high school seniors to apply for our annual $500 scholarship award. To enter this year’s competition DOWNLOAD INFORMATION AND APPLICATION HERE: 2020RHDC-Scholarship-Application

SEND A RED HOOK GRAD TO COLLEGE:  donate at Red Hook Dems GOFUNDME PAGE!

Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to our community though at least a written essay or ideally, a creative project using visual or interactive media. “It’s easy to complain about the problems we see around us–but today young people in Red Hook and elsewhere are getting involved and working on real solutions. Think of this project as a way to get the word out–tell a story about your good idea, or show an example of how you or someone you know has made a difference.”

Candidates must be 2020 Red Hook High School graduates, and have study plans in the coming 2020-21 academic yearthis can include college, university, technical or vocational training or other post-secondary education program or non-paid internship.

See application above for more details and contact info.

Send a Red Hook grad to college: Help fund our 2019 scholarship!

The Red Hook Dems annual scholarship for a senior graduating from Red Hook High School was first offered in 2011. The Red Hook Democratic Committee will continue this tradition again this year—pledging a five hundred dollar scholarship to encourage a worthy student to pursue further studies beyond High School.

Contribute at our GoFundMe page.

We are excited to give this gift to our community. We are celebrating the fact that the Red Hook Democratic Committee is an established and vital part of Red Hook. We are doing this to highlight our shared values of community service, empowering our youth and our belief in the importance of education.

A graduate will receive the 2019 award this May 30 at the Red Hook High School Awards night. This scholarship has been coordinated with the High School administration and application forms have been made available to the student body.

We are asking for your participation in this effort. A modest contribution will help us to bring a student’s dreams closer. We have already collected some of the donations needed to fully fund this year’s award. Please consider joining us with your contribution to this worthwhile effort.

We know that when we all pull together, great things happen. Let today be one of those days when we join to make our town a better place.

To enter this year’s competition DOWNLOAD COMPLETE INFORMATION AND APPLICATION HERE.

Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to our community though at least a written essay or ideally, a creative project using visual or interactive media. “It’s easy to complain about the problems we see around us–but today young people in Red Hook and elsewhere are getting involved and working on real solutions. Think of this project as a way to get the word out–tell a story about your good idea, or show an example of how you or someone you know has made a difference.”

Candidates must be 2019 Red Hook High School graduates, and have study plans in the coming 2019-20 academic yearthis can include college, university, technical or vocational training or other post-secondary education program or non-paid internship.

Super Tuesday Primaries Watch Party!

Tuesday, March 1st, 7-10 pm
Murray’s : 73 Broadway, Tivoli, New York 12583

Open to the public–all are welcome!

Join us to watch the results roll in from the Super Tuesday Primary Election states. Over 1000 delegates are up for grabs in the Democratic primaries including Texas (252 delegates), Georgia (116), Virginia (110) and Minnesota (93) and plenty up grabs on the Republican side as well. Conversation starts at 7pm with short updates on what’s happening from county, town and village officials followed by social time. Stop in anytime. Location to be announced shortly. Hosted by the Red Hook Democrats. Give what you can/Suggested donation $10.

RH Dems Caucus

Join us Wednesday September 9th from 6:00-7:00pm at the Red Hook Village Hall to help nominate candidates for the coming November 3 election.Caucus2015

Red Hook Dems offer $500 scholarship to 2015 RHHS grad

DEADLINE WEDNESDAY APRIL 15!

The Red Hook Democratic Committee is urging local high school seniors to apply for the Annual RHDC $500 scholarship award. To enter this year’s competition DOWNLOAD COMPLETE INFORMATION AND APPLICATION HERE.

Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to our community though at least a written essay or ideally, a creative project. “One of the best entries from previous years was a multi-media project where the senior had interviewed friends and family about our community,” said chair John Schmitz.

“This is an opportunity to have fun and, instead of just more selfies, use your phone (camera) for something really creative and make a real comment about the community you live in.” Candidates must be a 2015 Red Hook High School graduates, and have study plans in the 2015-6 academic yearthis can include college, university, technical or vocational training or other post-secondary education program or non-paid internship.

Micki earns seat at Dutchess table

Our big election news: early results show Micki Strawinski winning a very close race for County Legislature with a final tally of 1209 to Ben’s 1168. Unofficial reports also showed about 104 absentee ballots to be counted, which leaves the race technically unfinished yet likely still won once official results are in.

This result represents a huge shift in voter sentiment from her previous run in 2011 when she lost by 308. Since that time Micki worked hard to learn the County issues, often attending County meetings and speaking up for Red Hook more strongly than sitting legislators. During this year’s campaign, Micki spoke with many hundreds of voters about their concerns on what many see as poor handling of issues like the new jail and the County finances. She promises to push the County to take a more responsible approach.

As expected, Red Hook turnout was low at approx 34%–even lower than in 2011 when 41% voted.

Elect Micki Strawinski to County Legislature

Micki Strawinski will appear on the Democratic and Working Families ballot lines in the November 5, 2013 election. Please visit her Facebook page to learn more, get the latest information on her campaign efforts, and find out what you can do to help.

Born and raised in Dutchess County as a middle child of six kids, I moved to Texas for work where I met my husband Doug Strawinski and eventually convinced him to move back to Dutchess County in 1996. We have two children, both graduates of Red Hook High School: Andrew (26) and Jaclynn (24). Red Hook has been a wonderful place for us to live and raise our family.

In 1998, I joined the group that would soon be renamed the Red Hook Parent Teacher Student Association where I served as Vice President and President. I served on the school district’s Committee for Special Education as a child advocate for several years and volunteered in many other school-related activities as my children progressed through school.

What experience and/or training has prepared you to serve in the position you seek?
I have 34 years of administrative experience in a variety of fields including construction, purchasing and medical office management and am currently in my tenth year of employment at Bard College, currently as the Student Employment Manager.

I served as chair of Red Hook’s Greenway and Trails Committee until 2007 when I was elected to the Red Hook Town Board where I serve today. I co-founded Northern Dutchess Communities that Care and was co-organizer of the Red Hook Winter Market and the annual Red Hook town-wide Spring Cleanup. I also serve as the liason to several town committees including the Economic Development Committee and Senior Services Committee.

As liaison to a number of town committees I have had the opportunity to be a part of many great accomplishments by these groups of dedicated volunteers. During my term, the Economic Development Committee was restructured and now has members from a variety of businesses and interests. The Conservation Advisory Committee headed by Brenda Cagle received grants for solar panels on town hall and the firehouse. The Greenway and Trails Committee completed the wetlands trail and began a new annual event “The Tour de Red Hook” and the Senior Services Committee developed an Emergency Response Directory, sponsored twice a month food drives, several Medicare workshops and started a Senior Walk Program.

Please share your thoughts on property taxes and any specific related changes or policies you support and will work to pass if elected.
While serving as your town councilwoman these past four years, I have been a strong voice for keeping our town taxes low and objected to unnecessary spending at a time when financial constraint was urgent. I’m no stranger to balancing a checkbook or a budget whether at home or at work and know from experience the burden that our onerous property tax system places on hard-working families.

I’m proud to have helped construct and pass a 0% tax increase budget during my term. And to save more, I waived my rights to a yearly $4000 insurance buy-out for elected officials and have supported a resolution to eliminate it for all local officials at a savings of thousands of dollars to the residents of Red Hook and Tivoli.

Real, meaningful property tax relief can only come in the form of a method such as a Circuit Breaker which would set a maximum amount that a family would be required to pay based on their income. I have lobbied in Albany for exactly that and will continue to do so on behalf of Red Hook and Dutchess County.

What is your position on the prison overcrowding, jail construction and public safety issue?
The overcrowding issue in the jail should have been addressed years ago and has only been exacerbated by recent cuts to social and mental health services. I understand that the county has extensive Alternative to Incarceration Programs that are successful but we should look for further improvements by trying programs from other counties or states that have had success.

I will also push to make sure that we are working with the state regarding the possibility of local shared facilities. For example, the Fishkill Correctional facility has empty dorms that would reduce the transportation costs spent moving inmates to other counties.

We must also look at the full picture of how to best handle the various populations within the jail. 75-80% of our inmates are being held pre-trial or pre-sentencing – if we can reduce the backlog of cases with faster courts it will save us money on incarceration.

What is your position on independent redistricting at the county level?
Last December, my opponent and the newly elected Republican majority repealed an independent redistricting law that had been passed with bipartisan support just a year earlier. This law would have created a committee of five citizens with two picked by each party and the fifth picked by those four members. The committee would redraw the legislative districts and present the plan to the full legislature for a vote.

The goal was to ensure that county legislative districts would be redrawn with the best interests of the people in mind, not gerrymandered to the benefit of one side or another. Instead, we now have a committee that was hand-picked by a single party. Governor Cuomo has stated that he will not sign a redistricting plan at the state level that does not come from an independent body. Why should we do any less? When elected I will push to restore truly independent redistricting for the people of Dutchess County.

Choose one more important issue facing our county today and how you would handle it.
We must work with the federal government to secure funds to ensure that our aging, and sometimes dangerous, infrastructure is being maintained properly and repaired where necessary. While serving on the town board, we received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for town projects and I will work to ensure that no stone is left unturned at the county level when it comes to funding for our infrastructure and other services. Every dollar we find in grants for the county and Red Hook is a dollar less in taxes that must be raised.

Why should voters pick you on election day?
For more than 20 years I have dedicated myself to service – whether it was as an active member of parent teacher associations, child advocate and tutor in the school district or as a volunteer my local community. Over the last 4 of these years, it has been my great honor to serve as a council member on the Red Hook Town Board. In this time I have learned a great deal about how government is supposed to work.

With the encouragement of family and friends I decided to take a step up the political ladder to the county level. While I will represent the residents of Red Hook and Tivoli, decisions made at this level will take on a more personal meaning because of the deep family roots I have in the county. If elected I can only promise this: I will continue to serve with the same energy, enthusiasm and advocacy as I have in the past.