Numbers, please

Numbers, please

And now the baseball scores: 5-2, 4-3, and a 2-0 shutout!

It’s an old joke, which is not to make light of Ulster Count executive Pat Ryan’s first official budget presentation, Thursday at the Maritime Museum, only to say, you gotta tell ‘em what the budget is.

Ryan did give his hand-picked audience of about 200 the most important news for most upfront, that the county tax levy for 2020 would drop a minuscule .25 percent. Based on the 2019 tax levy, that comes to about $190,000.

What Ryan omitted in a 40-minute presentation was the actual cost of the proposed budget itself, a whopping $342.3 million, up some $13 million from the budget he inherited from former county exec Mike Hein. Hein, who left for a state job in Albany last winter, handed his successor a $34 million fund balance of which Ryan will use only $13 million to balance his. The county, it would seem, is on firm financial footing.

The Ryan budget tweaks more than it transforms; there will be time enough for that if Ryan wins a full four-year term on Nov. 5. The spending plan calls for full employment, good news for county workers, and adds 27 positions. Most of the newbies, to include seven assistant public defenders, “to level the playing field” (with well-funded prosecutors), will be paid for through federal and state grants, Ryan said.

Ryan, who usually refers to the former executive as “my predecessor,” mentioned Hein only once, that in praise for establishing the Restorative Justice Community Empowerment Center on Broadway in Kingston shortly before he resigned.

Afterward, during a brief exchange with reporters, Ryan thanked his predecessor, acknowledging that, “I inherited a county in a great position (financially). And for that I credit Mike and the legislature.”

Clearly, this is a forward-looking administration. But they may need to do a better job of reporting scores.

NOTES – Hein will be guest of honor at county Democrats’ annual dinner at Wiltwyck Country Club (where Hein is a member) on Oct. 24, beginning with cocktails at 5:30. Tickets for this “party of the people” event will range from $90 to $1,000. Early reservations are advised.

Unlike Hein, Ryan made himself available to reporters after his address. He talks about openness and transparency. Facing reporters after the fact was a good start, though it would have been better to have the budget in-hand before its formal presentation.

The crowd, many of them holdovers from the decade-long Hein era, wasn’t quite as responsive as days of yore where every pause in an executive speech seemed to elicit rapturous applause. Confident and self-assured with a self-deprecating sense of humor, Ryan doesn’t seem to need that kind of sycophancy.

While the (literally) big man at the podium got most of the attention, it was 10-week-old Theo Ryan, snuggled in his mother Rebecca’s s arms, who captured hearts and minds. Like his father, the little guy was well-behaved, causing a brief fuss only for another slug of formula.

At one point near the end of his presentation Ryan thanked the crowd for coming out in cold, rainy weather. Unbeknownst to those indoors, it had gotten a lot colder and rainier during the exec’s speech.