The Democratic candidate for Chautauqua County executive Monday called for the County Legislature to make even more substantial tax cuts than outlined by Republican incumbent Andrew Goodell.
Mark Thomas pointed out the county has a $9.3 million surplus already, and that is projected to climb to $12.3 million by the end of the year. Because of that, Thomas said the county could commit another $1 million to reducing the tax levy, to cut the property tax rate by 12 percent instead of the 2 percent proposed by Goodell.
"He has only appropriated a little over $3 million of that $12.3 million surplus towards projects for 1998," Thomas said. "So he is sitting on about $9 million, if his own numbers are correct, and he also has a $6.1 million tax stabilization fund."
Thomas also pointed out that while Goodell claims to have cut the tax rate for six years in a row, the tax levy has increased. That figure is up by $9.5 million since 1990, when Goodell first took office.
In addition, Thomas wants the county to undertake a $5 million debt reduction program and to freeze the tax levy for the next three years.
"Since our business community has asked us to seriously look at taxes, and since we have an opportunity, we should seize it, right now," Thomas said. "We need to set goals here, and I believe this is very doable."
Goodell consulted with his directors of finance and real property taxes and then labeled Thomas' proposal "irresponsible."
"Assuming that the tax rate was cut by an additional 10 percent, and that we spend $5 million on debt reduction, his proposal would virtually eliminate the entire county fund balance in one year," Goodell said. "That would drop the fund balance down to about $300,000, which is totally inappropriate."
Goodell's proposed 1998 budget would cut spending by $6 million, to $149 million. It would reduce the full value tax rate by 17 cents and would cut the tax levy by $232,000.
The County Legislature will begin its budget review next Monday.