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Legislature approves 2018 county budget

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County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo's 2018 budget is a done deal.

The spending plan easily cleared the County Legislature last night, with only three of the 29 members voting against it; all of the no votes were Democrats. The $1.2 billion plan includes a major staffing boost in the county's Child Protective Services and a $1.6 million increase in child care funding, largely from the state. It also lays out an additional $1.7 million for preventive services, which are programs that are proven to help prevent child neglect and abuse and that help keep youth out of the foster care system.

The budget also keeps the tax rate at $8.99 per $1,000 assessed value.

Democrats offered two amendments to the budget, both of which failed along party lines. One addressed Probation Department salaries, the other would have added funding for child care services.

Democrats voted for the budget because of the investments in Child Protective Services, preventive services, and increased child care funding, as well as the continuing emphasis on dissolving local development corporations, Democratic Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh said in a statement sent out after the vote. LDC's are quasi-governmental entities formed to perform specific governmental tasks. Dinolfo has said that the county will save $2 million this year through previous and planned efforts to dissolve LDC's.

But the Democratic caucus still has criticisms of the budget. It keeps the tax rate flat, but "county taxpayers continue to see their tax bills creep higher as the County collects more revenue and fees while continuing to itemize services ‘below the line,'" Kaleh said in her statement.

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