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  • Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus delivered his State of the County address on April 20th at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce meeting at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

County Executive Steve Neuhaus Highlights Tourism, Economic Development in State of the County Address

GOSHEN—Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus delivered his official State of the County address on Wednesday, April 19th at the Emergency Services Center auditorium in Goshen. In his nearly hour-long presentation to county lawmakers, staff and others, Neuhaus highlighted a host of accomplishments and initiatives that included growth in economic development, jobs and tourism.


In his address he summarized the major facets of the county’s $827.2-million 2023 budget, including more than $70 million in funding earmarked for infrastructure, largely financed by federal government infrastructure monies.


Neuhaus also touted the lowest county tax rate since the 1960s and the fact that the county sales tax has dropped from 3.9% in 2014 when he first took office to 3.4% in 2022. In that same period, the county has reduced its debt by $12 million, despite building a new Government Center and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the county’s property tax rate in 2022 was 29% lower than in 2014. Last year, the county generated $381 million in sales tax revenue.


He noted that tourism is a growing industry in Orange County with film production on the rise. The County Executive said that revenue from the county’s hotel/motel tax had grown from $5.1 million in 2021 to $6.3 million in 2022.


Orange County currently has a total of 3,500 hotel rooms with another four hotel/boutique facilities under construction for an additional 160 rooms. However, the pipeline in this sector is significant—County Executive Neuhaus revealed that there are 15 hotel/boutique projects in planning that would add 1,300 rooms to the county’s stock.


During his State of the County, he proposed to the County Legislature that a total of $1 million be spent on a seasonal tourism campaign, with the first $250,000 to be spent on a campaign geared to attracting tourists to the county in the fall. Another $250,000 would be earmarked for each of three subsequent campaigns to run in the winter, spring and summer.


He also is proposing that the county convert the former Camp LaGuardia property into a county park. The cleanup and conversion of the property would be paid mostly by federal ARPA funds and when completed would have the Heritage Trail go right through the property. Neuhaus noted that his decision to forego three commercial development proposals has been the difficulty in securing local approvals to have these ventures move forward. In his address he also laid out plans for expansions of the Heritage Trail and Schunnemunk Rail Trail.


The county is also conducting a feasibility study to determine the feasibility of locating a Conference Center somewhere in Orange County.


During his State of the County address, the County Executive noted that a number of county departments were working to streamline the approval process to eventually cut the time period down to 30 days. The county government will also undertake a 10-Year Strategic Development Plan and would once again hold an Economic Development Summit later this year.


In terms of economic growth, Neuhaus rattled off a host of major projects including Amazon, Choice Films (Umbra Stage), Green Thumb’s cannabis project in Warwick and the project at the former Medline facility in Wawayanda.


He also touted the Grand Street Properties’ plan to build 80 hotel rooms in Downtown Newburgh “as the best opportunity for the City of Newburgh in 30 or 40 years,” as well as the growing craft brewing industry in Orange County.


Neuhaus also delivered the State of the County address on Thursday, April 20th at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce meeting at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.


“I was proud to highlight some of my administration’s accomplishments during the address,” Neuhaus said. “Orange County has reduced the county tax rate, grown the sales tax base, worked with the private sector to create innovative jobs, and effectively partnered with local governments on a variety of important initiatives. The State of our county is strong and I look forward to continuing to work hard for our residents.”


Chairwoman of the Orange County Legislature Katie Bonelli said in response to the State of the County address: “It has been a pleasure to partner with County Executive Neuhaus to continue to address responsible economic development, to enhance the quality of life and to expand services for residents. Orange County’s financial outlook is strong, and the lower property tax is a great benefit to residents. The Legislature and I look forward to maintaining our positive partnership with County Executive Neuhaus.”


Among the other accomplishments highlighted in the State of the County address include:


·       The county’s unaudited fund balance was $206.7 million in 2022 (an increase of $89 million). The county’s fund balance was $21.1 million in 2013.


·       Orange County shared $100 million in sales tax revenue with municipalities in 2022. Since 2014, $703 million in sales tax revenue has been shared with municipalities.


Other new initiatives announced by Neuhaus included:


·       Orange County’s Emergency Services Department will continue to promote its free CPR clinics and collaborate with interested local schools for training.


·       The County Clerk’s Office introduced a new mobile DMV for residents. All onsite DMV transactions, passport applications, and notary services are available.


·       The Health Department’s new mobile unit will travel throughout the county, offering testing, immunizations, health screenings, and outreach.


·       Four new pickleball courts are coming to Thomas Bull Memorial Park this spring.


·       Neuhaus is asking the County Legislature to approve $14 million from sales tax revenues to fund a host of initiatives including the addition of a pavilion for weddings and events at the Orange County Arboretum adjacent to Thomas Bull Memorial Park.