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The Chautauqua County Legislature's finance committee is reviewing spending figures in a proposed 1998 budget, but the political battle lines are drawn.

The Legislature's Democratic minority Monday said it is committing its 12 votes to a tax cut plan outlined by their candidate for county executive, Mark Thomas. Thomas called for cutting the tax rate by 12 percent next year, freezing the tax levy, and reducing the county's debt load.

Minority Leader Nancy Bargar, D-Lakewood, said the county has an opportunity once a year to do something about high property taxes.

"We want, once and for all, to address the agenda of the County Business Council and a recent statement by our own economic development director that the biggest impediment to business growth is high property taxes," Ms. Bargar said.

She said the best use of the estimated $12 million surplus to be left at the end of this year is tax cuts.

"The surplus belongs to the taxpayers," she said. "We need to have a little rainy day fund, but our auditors have said that increasing the fund balance every year will not give us a better credit rating. The only thing that will improve our credit rating is job creation."

Ms. Bargar urged the public to get involved in the process. Public hearings on the spending plan are set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 22.

County Executive Andrew Goodell continued Monday to dispute Thomas's budget figures, and he again called the dramatic cuts "irresponsible."

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