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PROPOSED BUDGET REDUCES TAXES BY 8 PERCENT WHILE INCREASING SPENDING

Property taxes in Chautauqua County will drop 8 percent under a $150.5 million budget proposed Friday by County Executive Mark Thomas.

The package calls for cutting the full value tax rate from $8.97 to $8.25. At the same time, it increases spending 1.4 percent from the current year and reduces the county's operating debt by 20 percent.

"There are several factors for (the combination of tax cuts and spending increases)," Thomas said. "You have a growth in the tax base to make up some of that difference. We have aggressively gone after grant funds, and we have been aggressive in holding the line on costs."

Thomas is calling for freezing the tax levy for three years. His budget plan expects federal aid to drop slightly but calls for a large increase in state aid. Sales tax revenue is projected to climb.

In capital projects, $3.6 million is set aside for industrial park development.

"There is a capital reserve fund that had not been tapped for awhile," Thomas said. "When capital projects were completed and there was money left over, it was just left hanging out there in accounts.

"Budget Director Annette Mohawk consolidated those, and it came to $2.9 million. With the job situation here, I felt that was money we should put into developing our industrial parks. That was a big shot in the arm for this administration."

Thomas said the county's operating debt now stands at $11.8 million. It would be cut to $9.4 million next year and eliminated over five years.

"We are setting aside money from the unexpended fund balance to create a debt reserve account, and we are using that money in the budget next year as appropriate," Thomas said.

The county Legislature will hold its budget hearings Oct. 8, 9, and 10.

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