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THOMAS LAUDS ACCOMPLISHMENTS, FUTURE PLANS

Chautauqua County is on a solid foundation and well-prepared for the future, County Executive Mark W. Thomas said Wednesday during his third State of the County address.

Speaking to lawmakers, Thomas cited a long list of accomplishments over the past year, including the elimination of debt, reduction of the county tax levy and the lowest true-value tax rates "in nearly 20 years." He was quick to praise the efforts of the county's longtime finance director.

"If not for 14 years of solid financial planning by Robert Beckman, we would not be here today," said Thomas. "We have achieved these positive results even in the face of onerous state mandates that continue to burden county property-tax payers."

Throughout his 25-minute address, he also commended lawmakers for working in a bipartisan manner on several projects:

Construction of a new storage cell at the county landfill in Ellery;

Authorizing the $13.1 million business and industrial parks infrastructure investments program;

Reduction of the county's welfare rolls by 465 in the past two years, and reducing the average family's stay on public assistance by 11 percent;

Painting lines to improve safety on 455 miles of county roads, an initiative that came out of the county's 1999 community summits.

While pointing out the accomplishments, Thomas cautioned that "the clouds of recession are all around us."

He also said that, over the past three years, state and federal mandates have increased by 9 percent, meaning that 89 percent of spending in the county budgets is nondiscretionary.

On another matter, lawmakers failed to muster the necessary 13 votes to approve a project labor agreement for the $15.7 million renovation of the Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk.

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