RENSSELAER COUNTY IS MAKING HISTORY WITH PROJECTS TO IMPROVE COUNTY FACILITIES AND SERVICES, AND SUPPORT FOR JOB CREATION, INVESTMENT AND LOWER PROPERTY TAXES, COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE MCLAUGHLIN SAYS IN 2023 STATE OF THE COUNTY
Rensselaer County government is being transformed with improvements and projects to modernize and expand access to county services, while the county continues to grow and prosper, County Executive Steve McLaughlin told residents and members of the County Legislature during the State of the County address on Thursday.
The Reimagine Rensselaer County Facilities project is updating facilities that in some cases have been not addressed for over five decades and also reduces a county reliance on expensive rented facilities. Along with the Reimagine project, the county is achieving record results for sales tax revenues and investment while county taxes have been lowered by 27 percent over the past five years via McLaughlin’s budgets.
“There has been so much accomplished in the past five years, as we look to extend our county’s legacy of service and achievement. And yes, there is so much more work and opportunity ahead for our county,” said McLaughlin.
“We are ready for a great 2023 and look forward to new success, new opportunity, new challenges and strong partnerships in our great and growing county. We have seen unprecedented success and positive change, and we are looking to strengthen our partnership moving forward,” added McLaughlin.
“During 2022 and in previous years, Rensselaer County has reached unprecedented heights and achieved great things. We dared to do – dared to take ideas and turn them into action, innovation and accomplishment,” he continued.
“We have refused to be bound by the practices of the past and have not allowed for excuses or delays to alter our goals. We work to make each day count, and to advance and improve county government at every opportunity. We set our sights high, and the results show that in Rensselaer County, we are hitting our mark, time and time again.”
The county’s work to strengthen finances and reduce property taxes help support economic development and job creation efforts in the county. The county has reduced property taxes during each of the five budgets introduced by McLaughlin, with four budgets receiving unanimous support from county lawmakers. Taxes have been reduced by a combined amount of over 27 percent.
“As we are committed to improving services, Rensselaer County is becoming recognized as a leader across New York State in reducing property taxes. That work to lower taxes continued this fall for the 2023 budget. We adopted our fifth consecutive budget with a property tax decrease, with the combined amount of the five tax reductions lowering county property taxes by 27 percent. The 2023 county budget is also our fifth consecutive budget with strong bipartisan support,” said McLaughlin.
The county is continuing to see strong performance on sales tax revenues, including leading the state in sales tax growth during 2019. The county has often seen double-digit growth and during the past two years, set a record for revenues, clearing the $100 million mark for the first time in 2021.
“The boom in our sales tax revenues show clearly that more and more are looking to Rensselaer County when it comes to shopping, dining and major purchases. The expansion of retail opportunities in North Greenbush, Brunswick and East Greenbush, a strong performance by residents shopping from home, and a growing restaurant, tavern and food delivery business across the county are all positive factors,” noted McLaughlin.
The 2023 State of the County is the first SOTC to be delivered at new county offices at 99 Troy Road in East Greenbush. The 99 Troy Road offices are part of the Reimagine Rensselaer County effort.
Along with the purchase and renovation of 99 Troy Road, the county is also renovating the County Office Building in downtown Troy and the adjacent Health Sciences Building. County human services will be relocated to the COB, including the Department of Social Services, Health, Mental Health and job training programs. The Probation Department will relocate to the Health Sciences Building. The moves will free the county from approximately $1.2 million in annual costs for rentals.
“The Reimagine Rensselaer County Facilities will be an historic achievement for our county and provide a foundation and framework for county government that will carry and provide for at least several generations. This is work for all involved to take pride in,” McLaughlin told the audience.
“The Reimagine Rensselaer County facilities effort has transformed our county facilities and ability to serve our residents. Significantly, it has also reduced a long-standing reliance on rented space, which is expensive and less reliable over the long run. Relying on rented space to house services we know we will still be responsible for providing 25 or 50 years from now makes absolutely no financial sense. I recognized the need for a better solution, and the Reimagine Rensselaer County Facilities effort was launched,” he added.
“The new offices and renovated facilities will expand access, convenience and efficiency. County offices and facilities will be located on county-owned property to a greater degree than at any time in county history and provide for us a stable platform and foundation to ensure important and needed services are provided and maintained,” McLaughlin said.
Another aspect of the ambitious Reimagine Rensselaer County Facilities effort is the development of a new Troy senior center in downtown at City Station. The new senior center will replace the long-standing senior center on Third Street, located in a former Masonic lodge but sold to an IT company. The new senior center will open a new chapter in how Rensselaer County provides service to those who helped build and support our county.
McLaughlin noted the county is unique in that the county directly provides senior services, instead of contracting out the service. The Troy senior center is one of five senior centers operated by the county Department for the Aging.
“The Troy senior center will be a reflection of that commitment, and include state of the art equipment and technology, a bright space that is convenient and accessible, a look that is inviting and modern, and located near the heart of downtown. We are nearing completion of this new senior center in the coming days and look forward to welcoming you all for the grand opening,” said McLaughlin.
“We believe it will be the finest senior center in upstate New York. It will give us renewed pride in the services we provide to our seniors,” he said.
In January, the county opened a new Emergency Services Training Complex, with the ESTC fulfilling a promise made by McLaughlin to construct a new complex. Located on the same site as the previous training center in North Greenbush, the ESTC features modern, flexible and state-of-the-art training and equipment.
“The new training complex will allow our emergency services to train in various conditions and scenarios, to welcome multiple units at the same time, provide state of the art exercises that help our fire, police and ambulance teams be prepared and ready. Our emergency services take a back seat to no one when it comes to service and dedication, and our new training complex will ensure they are also second to none when it comes to being ready to respond,” said McLaughlin.
Just weeks after the opening of the new training complex, the county also was one of the first in the county to approve a property tax exemption for volunteer fire and ambulance companies.
“We are also proud Rensselaer County was one of the first in the state to vote to provide a property tax exemption to qualified fire and ambulance volunteers. The property tax exemption for fire and ambulance volunteers will demonstrate our respect and appreciation for the brave men and women who protect and serve our county and also help with recruitment and retention. It is Rensselaer County’s plan for this exemption to take effect in 2024. I was proud to introduce this local law and thank members of the County Legislature for their support for this legislation in February, along with members of the emergency services community who advocated for this exemption,” said McLaughlin.
The county also recently concluded an independent vaccination clinic operated at Hudson Valley Community College. Tens of thousands of vaccinations and tests were provided by the county during the pandemic, and McLaughlin said the response is a reason for pride by the county.
“Rensselaer County saw one of our finest hours with the response to the pandemic by so many in county government. We still hear from residents who praise our response and the opportunity to receive a vaccine at one of the clinics operated by our Health Department. Late last month, our mission of providing vaccines concluded at Hudson Valley Community College. Our county started our own, independent vaccination clinic in January 2021 at Hudson Valley and at county offices, along some off-site clinics, and during 361 clinics administered 42,396 vaccines. While the Hudson Valley clinics have concluded, the county will continue to make vaccines available - for those who want them - at the county offices in downtown Troy.
The county continues to make maintenance and improvement of county roads a priority along with investing in new highway equipment, McLaughlin noted.
“We continue to set records for the paving of road miles, with over 200 miles of roads paved during the past five years. That means that in just five years, nearly two-thirds of the county’s 300 plus miles of roads have been maintained or improved. We are particularly proud of this accomplishment, including the 70 miles paved in 2021 following 50 miles of roads paved in 2020. It should be noted these roads were improved following major storms that created damage and destruction in our county, and during a pandemic that caused many other areas to roll back important paving and public works projects. Thank you again to our outstanding county Highway Department team led by County Engineer Joe Teliska, Road Superintendent Dave Anthony and our paving partners,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin also noted a productive partnership with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who through redistricting, now represents the majority of Rensselaer County. Congresswoman Stefanik opened a district office in the new county offices at 99 Troy Road, the first congressional office in the county in 20 years.