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BUDGET PROPOSAL INCLUDES 8% RATE HIKE

Cattaraugus County taxpayers can expect to pay up to 8 percent more in property taxes next year under a proposed $117 million budget released Wednesday.

The tax rate would increase 8.9 percent in the City of Olean and 8.3 percent in the City of Salamanca.

Some legislators including Majority Leader Mark S. Williams, R-Hinsdale, are already the tax rate hike is too high and must come down. Legislators will get their first chance to make cuts beginning Wednesday with the Department of Aging budget.

In explaining the budget, Donald E. Furman, county administrator and budget director, told legislators that a tax levy of $26 million will be needed next year, up 7.9 percent from $24.1 million.

"Generally what happens to the tax levy, happens to the taxes of the folks at home," he said.

He described the proposed budget as having a "very stable tax base and very little growth."

Furman used $2.1 million in surplus money to hold down the tax increase, which is $1 million less than used last year. That will leave only $500,000 in the surplus account, he said, along with any money left over early next year when the books are closed on 1997.

Furman noted the $500,000 surplus is a considerable reduction from surplus amounts the county has recorded in recent years, some as high as $8 million.

The proposed budget of $116,673,000 contains five new jobs: a data processing operator; planner for the Economic Development, Planning and Tourism Department; Youth Bureau assistant; nursing homes accountant; and a Public Works Department engineer.

Furman set aside $224,000 for new vehicles under a continuing program that includes the Public Works Department. Also $489,000 is budgeted for heavy equipment. Last year some legislators objected to purchasing new equipment through bonding.

The budget proposes to divide the Public Works Department into three areas: administration, fleet management and the Onoville Marina; refuse; and transportation.

Hiring another engineer will eliminate the continued costs for engineers for each project, Furman said, and save money.

New in the budget is $50,000 for a strategic planning process to be overseen by Deputy Administrator Jack Searles.

A three-to-four-year project is proposed to begin next year with $100,000 to modernize tax mapping by adding digital tax maps. The Economic Development Department will oversee the process.

Also the operations of the county nursing homes would be reorganized, advancing the two administrators to department head status, transferring supervision of the comptroller to Furman's office and hiring an accountant.

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