News roundup from Dutchess County

In the upcoming Nov. 3 election, Dutchess County residents will be given the opportunity to vote on a proposition that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative district lines within the county. Previously, legislative district lines have been drawn by members of the County Legislature every 10 years. If the provision passes and the Independent Reapportionment Commission is formed, its seven members will spend six months determining how to divide the district to accurately reflect the diverse communities within Dutchess County. They will be assisted by map and census data, as well as an outside consultant. The only requirements to serving on the commission are that members are residents of Dutchess county and have not held elected office, worked for the state or county or been a member of any political committee in the last three years. If the proposition passes, County Executive Marc Molinaro will present a pool of applicants to the Legislature’s clerk. The minority and majority leaders of the County Legislature will each pick two members, and the remaining three members will be selected by those already nominated for the commission. The hope is that the independent commission will mitigate partisanship from the districting process and allow for a more accurate representation of Dutchess County in the County Legislature. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, Dutchess’ proposition: Voters to decide on independent commission to redraw district lines,”  10.02.2020). 

Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison released his intended 2021 budget for the city on Oct. 15. The proposed budget includes a homestead tax decrease of 5.44 percent and a non-homestead tax decrease of 4.2 percent. Mayor Rolison’s hope is that this tax decrease will alleviate some of the economic burden placed on Poughkeepsie residents by the recent economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these cuts, along with a decrease in sales tax revenue and an increase in the cost of employee health and retirement benefits, place the city’s budget in a perilous position. In an attempt to close the budget deficit, Mayor Rolison is negotiating with two of the city’s labor unions. If approved by members and common council of both unions, members of both groups would forgo raises in 2021, as would management employees. This would save more than $750,000 over the course of the year. Rolison is also counting on $1 million in aid from the federal government. (The Mid Hudson News, “Rolison proposes 2021 city budget with property tax decreases,” 10.15.2020). 

Republican Mayor Rob Rolison endorsed Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) in the upcoming election. Despite their political differences, Rolison noted that “He is involved in so many things in the city from helping with funding for the police through the Department of Justice, five officers that we have the ability to hire and we have hired one on the federal grant, also he has been very, very focused on helping us with our YMCA initiatives.” Congressman Maloney’s Republican opponent, Chele Farley, points to her endorsements from law enforcement groups as evidence that she is the best candidate for the seat. (The Mid Hudson News, Rolison crosses party lines and backs Maloney for re-election,” 10.15.2020). 

On Oct. 20, residents of the Poughkeepsie school district will vote on two propositions to improve school facilities in the district. Proposition 1 dedicates $48.25 million of funds to provide more secure entrances, repair roofs, renovate bathrooms, upgrade the HVAC system and install marquees. The tax increase to fund Proposition 1 will vary from household to household. Seniors with a STAR exemption will see a $4 per year increase on a home valued at $100,000. Homes with just a STAR exemption will see a $15 increase per year, and homes with neither exemption will experience a $24 increase per year. Proposition 2 aims to improve the overall quality of education provided in the district by creating advanced instructional programs, as well as renovating cafeteria facilities. The combined cost of the two propositions is $98.9 million. (The Mid Hudson News, “Poughkeepsie City School District residents to vote on $99 million improvements, ” 10.15.2020) 

Almost a year ago, Poughkeepsie City Councilman Chris Petas had the idea of creating mini-libraries for people to borrow and donate books for free. Recently, the first mini-library—a small stand containing books—was installed at City Hall. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted some key reasons why such mini-libraries are so important. Councilman Petas stated, “With so many Poughkeepsie students now not attending school physically, it is all the more reason to install these reading stations throughout the city to help inspire our students to continue to read and to stay engaged.” (The Mid Hudson News, “Councilman unveils Little Free Library program in Poughkeepsie,” 10.14.2020). 

On Oct. 8, Marist College announced a “pause” in in-person classes and activities following the discovery of 30 new COVID-19 cases resulting from an off-campus party on Oct. 3. Marist is pursuing disciplinary action against students who violated the code of conduct by attending the party. On Oct. 17, Marist re-opened campus and resumed in-person classes and activities. Despite this, social gatherings and parties will still be prohibited. The 30-person outbreak was the largest Dutchess County has seen since cases declined over the summer. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Marist lifts ‘pause’ after COVID outbreak of at least 30 cases,” 10.16.2020). 

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