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Byrne: Putnam Set For Success in ’24

By Holly Crocco

After completing his first year in office, Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne delivered his State of the County address March 7, highlighting his administration’s successes and announcing plans for 2024.

Financial Review

Standing in the dining room at the county-owned-and-operated Tilly’s Table in Brewster, Byrne said he is proud of his administration’s fiscal management of the county during his first year in office.

“The 2024 county budget strengthened services, expanded mental health support, invested in critical infrastructure, and bolstered our property tax stabilization fund – all while still managing to reduce the overall tax burden in the budget for the first time in 25 years, cut the property tax rate to its lowest level in 15 years, and reduce sales tax to make it fairer and less regressive,” he said.

This was done with no knew borrowing, while also preserving the county’s AA1 bond rating from Moody’s Investment Services.

In addition, the county has provided a 10 percent property tax exemption to volunteer emergency service providers, “not only recognize their service, but to assist with recruitment and retention.” Byrne said this helps limit the need for more costly municipal services that would otherwise be staffed by paid government employees.

Also, last year, although the county lost $1.5 million in Medicaid funding from the state, its fiscal status was strong enough to independently make those programs whole in the 2024 budget – making sure the county’s most vulnerable populations continued to receive services.

However, the county is bracing for cuts in highway funding, as Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a $60 million cut to the Consolidated Local Street & Highway Improvement Program.

“Putnam County, as well as the overwhelming majority of its towns and villages, rely on this funding to pave and maintain the roads within our transportation system,” said Byrne. “Last year, Putnam received $1.2 million from CHIPS that was directly used to resurface county roads. Any cut to this funding would be unmanageable and cause significant stress to county, town and village budgets.”

Local Partnerships

Byrne announced that the municipal sewer project planned along Route 6 in Brewster that was supposed to cross state lines and connect to Danbury’s municipal water treatment facility has been squashed, after the project cost ballooned from an estimated $12 million in 2017 to more than $30 million, and funding started to fall through.

However, to prevent the county from losing an Empire State Development grant from New York, instead of returning the award, it will be repurposed to assist with the revitalization of Front Street in the Town of Patterson.

According to Byrne, town officials have agreed to utilize American Rescue Plan Act dollars to further support this economic revitalization effort. “Front Street will see new municipal water installed that brings the potential for a complete makeover,” he said. “This will make it more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.”

Other infrastructure successes include the hiring of a new contractor to complete the bridge construction on Peekskill Hollow Road in Putnam Valley, and advancement of the major reconstruction of Fair Street in Carmel, of which details are expected soon.

“This is a huge project that has been talked about for decades, and we’re going to hold a constituent forum with local officials, residents and whichever future contractor is awarded the opportunity to work on this massive undertaking,” said Byrne. “It is going to be disruptive to our everyday lives, but there is no way around this. The best we can do, and what I promise, is that we will communicate, and continue to push for a level of transparency unseen before in Putnam County government.”

Department Highlights

The County Legislature is expected to approve a new five-year contract with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department Police Benevolent Association, which passed the PBA membership last month.  

“This is a good and fair contract that will retroactively take effect for January of 2023 for our deputies, their families and our residents,” said Byrne. “It has my full and complete support. It is my understanding that the Legislature has called for a special full meeting to follow its personnel committee meeting next week to consider this contract.”

The Office for Senior Resources has instituted a new direct messaging system with senior clients, allowing them to directly call, text and email updates regarding programs, closures and relevant health information.

Also, in 2023, OSR began a cooperative venture with Mid-Hudson ARC processing and transporting weekly produce pickups from Tilly Foster Farm to provide fresh produce at senior friendship centers.

The Office of Real Property Tax Services has modernized its office and worked to make everything available electronically.

Putnam County is moving forward with a pilot program for its on-demand public transit rides, by replacing the current PART 3 route, which provides transportation from Putnam Plaza in Carmel through the Town of Patterson, with an on-demand dispatch and ride system. A smartphone app will dispatch smaller, handicap accessible vans to reach a greater geography, meeting people of all abilities where they are.

To realize the influence that purchasing, central services and information technology have on county operations, Byrne said the county should unite these departments into one Department of General Services, led by current Director of Purchasing & Central Services John Tully.

“By combining the talents that exist within these departments into one, we will be able to better run county government, and create more opportunities for savings and efficiencies across the board,” said Byrne.

Tully, and Director of Information Technology Tom Lannon, have jointly penned a proposal they plan to present to the Legislature for its consideration. “It is my sincere hope that we can move quickly, respond to questions, and get this done, together,” said Byrne.

He also announced that Bob Cuomo of Patterson will begin his role as the county’s new EMS director at the end of the month, and earlier this year a new director of emergency management, former Capitol Police and Homeland Security special agent Chris Shields of Philipstown, was revealed.

The county executive has again proposed the Savings Incentive Partnership Program, whereby if a county employee has an idea on how to save the county money and that idea in its execution realizes actual cost-savings, SIPP would provide them an opportunity to get a share of that savings.

“This program, sometimes referred to in business as ‘gainsharing,’ seeks to encourage our employees to think outside the box about how we spend and can save taxpayer money,” said Byrne. “Earlier this year I re-submitted a proposed local law for this program for the Legislature’s review and consideration.”

In concluding his address, Byrne said the county has taken a number of steps to be more effective communicators with residents, such as launching a county construction project portal on the county website where residents can view status updates regarding county road projects. In addition, a budget transparency website is in the works, “which will display detailed budgetary information in a more digestible format for the layperson who may not have a degree in accounting,” he said.

Also, the County Legislature has installed new camera technology in the County Office Building to air its committee meetings in audio and visual formats.

“Putnam County is open for business and play,” said Byrne. “We have record-low unemployment rates; we’re consistently one of the healthiest, safest counties in New York State; and we’re working to create more economic opportunities for all.”


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