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BUDGET CUTS TAXES, HELPS TECH TRAINING

Chautauqua County Executive Mark Thomas will unveil a proposed 2001 budget this morning that will feature a property-tax rate that is the lowest since 1983.

The budget calls for a 5.4 percent drop in the full-value tax rate -- from $8.14 per $1,000 assessed value to $7.70 per $1,000. The actual rates in the 27 towns and two cities in the county will depend on the equalization ratios of the municipalities.

"While I am pleased that we met the Legislature's goal of a cut in the tax rate, we are still seeing mandated health-care costs rise at a level far exceeding any other area of the county budget," Thomas said.

The budget holds the real property tax levy at $37.4 million in the third year of Thomas' previously pledged three-year freeze in the tax levy.

Overall spending in the proposed budget would total $165.5 million, up 8.8 percent from the 2000 spending plan.

Thomas said that higher interest and earnings income, a modest increase in state and federal aid, a slight increase in local sales tax revenues and the application of the county's tobacco settlement monies to projected expenditure increases allowed the local property tax levy to remain frozen and the full-value tax rate to be cut.

The majority of the spending increase came from $4 million in state-mandated increases in Medicaid, $3.4 million in federal highway requirements and a $500,000 in local highway funding.

"We are looking at a 3.6 percent increase in general spending after Medicaid and the highway money are taken into consideration," Thomas concluded.

Another vital component of the budget is an allocation of $177,000 to help county schools develop training curriculums to address the technological needs of the workplace.

The appropriation was requested last month by the Chautauqua County Legislature. The funding will be used to let county school districts redesign and expand middle school technology training curriculums.

Districts involved are Westfield, Brocton, Panama, Ripley, Jamestown, Falconer, Southwestern, Maple Grove, Frewsburg and Clymer. Also involved in the program are Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Jamestown Community College and the Private Industry Council.

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