By Holly Crocco
The Putnam County Legislature adopted a 2024 budget at its Oct. 30 meeting that includes modifications made to the spending plan that was originally proposed by County Executive Kevin Byrne, including salary raises in various departments.
The vote passed 8-1, with Legislator Nancy Montgomery, D-Philipstown – the only Democrat on the board – voting against it.
“As much as I was hopeful for a responsible 2024 budget, for one that would represent the needs of the entire county and not just part of the county, this one is not,” she said before the vote.
She questioned why the budget maintains funding to care for and feed horses that the county doesn’t own, but houses at Tilly Foster Farm, but fails to fund “basic county departments.” For example, Montgomery said the nursing department has remained understaffed for 10 years.
“Is this what you want for your constituents – an understaffed health department? And for your employees in that department to face that stress every day?” she asked.
Montgomery said the county’s own health assessment report reveals that “the need for mental health treatment and intervention continues to increase, especially for youth. High diagnosis rates for anxiety, emotional problems and a number of residents feeling lonely and isolated substantiate this issue,” she said.
Despite this finding, she said the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub has been continuously denied funding from the county – funding she has requested for her district.
“Is political animosity more important to you than your constituents, or any constituent, even mine?” she asked.
Montgomery also criticized her colleagues for approving raises for various department heads and employees, such as the sheriff’s command staff, which were not in the original budget but added by legislators. “Can someone explain the bizarre raises included in the 2024 budget?” she asked.
Legislator Greg Ellner, R-Mahopac, who is completing his first year on the governing board, said there is no way to please everyone in one budget.
“Some things I would have like to have seen never took place, others did,” he said. “That’s just the way of the world. That’s the way things take. However, I can’t dwell on the past, I have to move forward… You cannot serve everybody.”