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When Cattaraugus County legislators get their first look at the tentative 1997 budget Wednesday, they are expected to find a 4 1/2 percent increase in the tax levy.

Donald E. Furman, county administrator and budget director, Monday declined to comment on the budget, which he will unveil at 6:30 p.m. in the County Center. However, he has briefed several legislative leaders by phone on what to expect.

"We're looking at a 4.5 percent increase in the tax levy," said Majority Leader Gerard Fitzpatrick, R-Ellicottville. "They come in with a number, and then we chop it down."

Fitzpatrick, who said Furman plans to caucus on the budget with Republicans today, anticipates the tax increase will be less than revealed Wednesday but more than last year.

Also anticipating a lower tax increase is Chairman Richard E. Haberer, R-Franklinville.

"I want to see what the cost-of-living index is and pare it down from there. I also want to see what the committees can do (during their budget reviews)," he said.

Keeping a pledge not to raise taxes in 1996, former Legislature Chairman Don B. Winship, R-South Dayton, last year delivered a budget with no tax increase and a tax levy of $23.2 million, unchanged from 1995.

The current budget totals $107.8 million and has a tax levy of $23.2 million and full-value tax rate of $10.39 per $1,000 of assessment.

One major budgetary issue this year is the Nursing Homes Division's operations at homes in Olean and Machias. Furman has proposed 29 layoffs to curb a projected $1 million deficit in 1997. Cutting staff would reduce the deficit to $300,000, he said.

During preliminary talks on the budget, Legislator Joseph K. Eade, D-Olean, said "that without cutting the 29 jobs the tax increase would be over 5 percent (next year)."

Legislators will have several weeks to review the budget. This year, 10 of the 21 lawmakers are serving their first term and will be doing their first budget review.

The full Legislature will conduct a public hearing at 3 p.m. Nov. 26, followed by a vote to adopt the new budget.

The schedule for budget reviewing follows (All are at 6:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

Next Tuesday -- Senior Services Committee, Department of Aging budget.

Oct. 23 -- Development and Agriculture Committee, 5:30 p.m. economic development agencies.

Oct. 24 -- Senior Services and Finance committees, nursing homes budget.

Oct. 29 -- Committee of the Whole, (entire Legislature) contract agencies.

Nov. 7 -- Human Services Committee.

Nov. 12 -- Public Safety Committee.

Nov. 14 -- Public Works Committee.

Nov. 19 -- County Operations Committee.

Nov. 21 -- Finance Committee.

Copies of the budget are available from Furman beginning Thursday.

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