OCounty Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, returning from a military assignment in Europe, delivered his State of the County 2022 address in which he seeks economic growth without raising taxes on county residents.
Neuhaus had been on active duty since mid-March with the US Navy in Europe.
“I was honored to serve my country in support of the U.S. military’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Neuhaus said. “I would like to thank everyone who sent me their best wishes during my deployment. Most importantly, I ask the public to join me in keeping all troops around the world, as well as the people of Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers. »
Neuhaus served with the United States Navy’s Sixth Fleet in response to the crisis in Ukraine. The Sixth Fleet is tasked with covering the waters around Europe and Africa.
Neuhaus serves in the United States Navy Reserves as a lieutenant commander and is normally assigned to the Pacific Fleet. He was previously absent from Orange County on active duty from November 2018 to June 2019. During that time, Neuhaus was deployed to various locations across Iraq to support the campaign against ISIS.
He delivered this year’s county state address to an in-person audience at the county emergency services center auditorium in Goshen.
In the address, Neuhaus spoke of a proposal to clean up the former Camp LaGuardia in the towns of Chester and Blooming Grove and turn it into a county park. It is a 258 acre property with several abandoned buildings. At one time, the property had been used as a homeless shelter by the City of New York.
“County finances are strong and one of my primary goals continues to be to maintain and improve property values, a major barometer of our local economic strength,” Neuhaus said. “We do this by improving our county’s manufacturing, tourism and transportation sectors. Strengthening these areas, along with supporting our strong local schools and quality health care, will help maintain and even increase property values in Orange County.
Neuhaus said he plans to continue focusing on economic development and tourism, public safety, as well as working to strengthen the county’s infrastructure.
In his speech, Neuhaus pointed out that the county’s tax rate has fallen for the past six consecutive years and has been reduced by 11.5% since 2014. He said the county’s unaudited fund balance was $118.7 million in 2021, while in 2013 it was just $21.1. million.
Neuhaus said the county collected $5.1 million in hotel and motel taxes in 2021. He said since 2014 the county’s debt has been reduced by $12 million despite spending $75 million. $20 million for the Government Center and $20 million for the public safety communications upgrade. The county has saved $12.3 million by refinancing the bonds since 2015, taking advantage of low interest rates.
Neuhaus said the Heritage Trail has been extended another mile from Palmer Avenue in the city of Middletown to East Main Street and now runs approximately 19.5 miles from Harriman to Middletown. Only about nine miles of the trail had been completed as of 2014.
He said the county has successfully launched the sale of unused county property in the town of Newburgh and plans include building a hotel and retail establishment on the site. Neuhaus also pointed out that the county had supported the repurposing of the Newburgh Mall by introducing a Resorts World casino.
Among the new initiatives Neuhaus announced during his speech was the construction of a new state-of-the-art 18,175 square foot county medical examiner’s office. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. At least $17 million in funding for the project will be federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Neuhaus said the county will spend $1 million to promote tourism over the next 12 months and the county will work even more closely with the business community by providing education and training opportunities to help businesses grow. keep up to date with what they need to know about government approvals and permits.
Neuhaus said that in the fall, the county executive’s economic summit will be held, bringing together elected officials, community leaders and the business community to discuss issues such as tourism, labor and infrastructure and open spaces, trends and the future of economic growth. .