MAYVILLE - The County Legislature on Wednesday, Oct. 24 passed its 2013 budget. The spending plan reflects a minor increase in the county tax levy, but a decrease in the county tax rate.
"We won some, we lost some," said legislature Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, after the three-hour budget meeting in Mayville.
Added Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown: "I'm the proud the legislature came together to offer a tax cut to taxpayers of Chautauqua County."
Numerous amendments were proposed during Wednesday night's meeting, most of which sought an increase in anticipated revenue next year.
Legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, called for a $250,000 reduction in the amount the county would fund toward the Chautauqua County Home. County Executive Greg Edwards had placed $1.3 million in county funding in next year's budget for the home. The local share is matched dollar-for-dollar by the federal government.
"More significant savings could be realized," Runkle said, pointing to a Center for Governmental Research report done on the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility. The financial viability report outlined savings upward of $506,000.
"We have flexibility here," said Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, noting the reduction in funding would lower the tax rate. "... We're implementing savings and we're passing that onto (the taxpayers)."
The legislature eventually approved Runkle's proposal.
An amendment was presented to offer county employees the option of a high-deductible insurance plan. According to Kitty Crow, county budget director, around 84 county workers have elected to go with the high-deductible plan. The motion failed, however, due to uncertainty surrounding how much savings could be realized.
A motion to include $660,000 in additional revenue from sales tax also was defeated, with several lawmakers again pointing out it was too premature to include the additional income. The legislature did approve increasing revenue from sales tax by $320,000.
Federal aid through the county Department of Social Services also was amended to increase its revenue. Post-retirement benefits were decreased by $1 million.
After the amendments were finalized, the legislature voted to approve the 2013 budget by a vote of 19 to 4. Those opposing were Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; and PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood.
"I'm happy how it went," legislature chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, said after the meeting. "We had a lot to do here today, so I'm happy it's over."
Increasing the revenue accounts will lower the county tax rate next year to $9.14 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The tax rate currently is at $9.22. The tax levy, meanwhile, will go from $61.647 million this year to $62.136 next year.
By comparison, the county executive in his 2013 tentative budget had a tax rate of $9.25 and tax levy of $62.947 million. Edwards did include revenue from the sale of the County Home in his spending plan; the legislature's Audit and Control Committee, however, removed the revenue.
If the sale of the home were to go through, the budget would be revised. The county executive is currently negotiating a contract of sale for the 216-bed nursing facility.
Edwards, who was not present at the budget meeting Wednesday, could not be reached for comment.