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Though it will be three weeks before Cattaraugus County legislators get a look at the proposed 2002 budget, they are concerned that a slowed national economy will affect operating costs.

Majority Leader Mark S. Williams, R-Hinsdale, told other legislators Wednesday to begin thinking about how the budget will be affected.

"The signs of the economy contracting will be far-reaching," Williams predicted. "We need to look now at terminating programs. That will lead to layoffs, and we need to give 30-day advance notices to the unions."

As of the end of June, the county was $2.1 million in the red on this year's $140 million budget, with its self-insured health plan $1.7 million over budget and climbing.

County Administrator Donald E. Furman, who is also budget director, said he was not surprised because everyone is feeling the impact from rising health care costs.

Furman is scheduled to release the tentative budget Oct. 17.

"We could live with a zero increase," said Legislator Elliot Ellis, D-New Albion. "But 3 percent increase or less would still be all right."

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