For the second time in a month minority Democrats on the Cattaraugus County Legislature have taken a stand that took Republicans by surprise, this time in opposition to the proposed 1997 budget.
Lawmakers have begun their review of the 304-page document, which calls for $114 million to operate the county next year. Included is a 4.91 percent increase in the tax levy and 4.81 percent hike in the full value tax rate of $10.89 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Minority Leader Charlotte McLaughlin, D-Olean, said Democrats will be opposing any new jobs. Budget Director Donald E. Furman is recommending 12 full-time and two part-time jobs at a net cost of $212,346.
"By stopping the creation of new positions we can remove at least some of the burden of the proposed tax increase from taxpayers," Mrs. McLaughlin said.
Democrats also want "some adjustments" in the proposed job cuts in the nursing homes, projected at 29 positions. Budgets proposed for county nursing homes in Olean and Machias will be reviewed at 6:30 p.m. Monday by the Senior Services and Finance committees.
Democrats also targeted a plan to purchase 21 new vehicles at a cost of $297,692, saying it's "entirely too many vehicles." Acknowledging "some purchases may be necessary, we feel the purchases can be phased in over a three-year period," Mrs. McLaughlin said.
Democrats said they also may be proposing additional cuts during the budget process.
Majority Leader Gerard Fitzpatrick, R-Ellicottville, did not react favorably to the Democrats' proposals.
"I resent being held up on a budget no one's seen, which we will be looking at line by line. Of course we all want to make cuts. I resent her (Mrs. McLaughlin) implication: 'If you don't do this . . . ' "
On Oct. 9 eight of the nine Democrats and Republican Sandra Wyllie of Delevan took a stand supporting a new $7 million public works complex but told Republicans they'd have to agree to certain conditions before they hand over their votes.
Mrs. McLaughlin read the list, which Larry Mack, D-Humphrey, refused to sign but commended other Democrats for "trying to make changes."
The Democrats' conditions include finding a way other than the tax levy to finance the new construction. A proposal to use money for a soon-to-be imposed 25-cent mortgage tax increase will not be sufficient, Mrs. McLaughlin said.
Democrats' suggestions include cutting six jobs in the Public Works Department through attrition to bring about an $185,000 savings a year. Noting such cutting is often the case in private businesses, "it may be a necessary step in government," Mrs. McLaughlin said.
Opposition also was voiced against purchasing any new furnishings for the new office facility.
The issue has not been discussed since early October after legislators could not agree on the issue of adding a basement for storage space to solve a records storage problem that exists throughout county departments. An estimated preliminary cost of $900,000 was ruled too expensive.
Public Works Committee Chairman Richard Gowan, R-Cattaraugus, said the Democrats' stand, "came as a complete surprise to me." Gowan has been looking for support from his committee to go ahead with construction but has delayed action several weeks as he seeks ways to cut costs on the proposed basement storage area.
Last month legislators voted 14-5 to go ahead and purchase the land just outside the Village of Little Valley for the new facility at a cost of $140,000 for 99 acres.