In his first two years as County Executive, County Executive Hein restructured Ulster County government in many ways that continue to save taxpayers money. During some of the most difficult fiscal times in our nation’s history, County Executive Hein has and is continuing to keep spending down by streamlining government and making the same difficult decisions American families make every day.
In April 2010, County Executive Hein warned the Legislature and the people of Ulster County of a potential $15 to $25 million dollar budget gap. That could have meant a 20% to 33% property tax increase. With his “Taxpayer First” initiative, County Executive Hein promptly responded to this hefty budget gap with a multi- year plan of cutting costs and the identification of non-tax revenues.
Holding the Line on Property Taxes
The County Executive’s 2011 budget was passed by the Legislature with virtually no changes – and a 0% tax increase. And County Executive Hein is committed to keep the 2012 budget at the same level.
One of the County Executive’s many reforms, which helped to freeze property taxes, was to redesign the provision of County health insurance. With any workforce, healthcare costs are a major expense driver. As the County’s health insurance premiums were about to skyrocket, the County Executive transitioned employee health insurance to a self-insurance plan, saving taxpayers an estimated $2.1 million.
Reinventing Public Works
Another major area where the County Executive created savings was at the Department of Public Works. Over the years, the Department of Public Works had developed a reputation a negative reputation. To fight this perception and to provide country residents with the best possible service at the most reasonable cost, County Executive Hein implemented several important initiatives in this department. He significantly reduced the department’s workforce with a combination of attrition, layoffs, and retirement incentives. And by transitioning to a single-man plowing system, installing a Global Positioning Management System (GPS) in fleet vehicles, and entering into several “shared services” agreements with Ulster County’s towns, the County Executive created a leaner and more efficient Public Works Department. The department had an estimated cost savings of $2.3 million in 2011.
Reducing the Public Workforce
Because County Executive Hein understands that county government cannot and must not be the largest employer in Ulster County, he has steadily reduced staffing levels since taking office. He has worked to do this with compassion by using retirement incentives and attrition to minimize layoffs. During his first two years as County Executive, the total workforce has been reduced by 155 positions or 8%. To lead by example, County Executive Hein reduced his own staff by the same percentage, in addition to freezing the salaries of all Ulster County managers for the entirety of his term of office.