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Budget proposal cuts property, sales taxes

MAYVILLE -- Chautauqua County Executive Mark Thomas proposed both property and sales tax cuts in his 2006 budget unveiled Friday.

He said an on-time state budget and implementation of the state's cap on Medicaid spending were key factors allowing for the reductions.

The proposed budget totals $195.6 million.

"Medicaid relief equals tax relief," Thomas said. "The simple fact is, without the combination of county government making tough decisions over the last three years and an on-time state budget that includes the Medicaid cap, I would not be proposing this type of a budget today."

He called the proposed budget "a cornerstone in the county's recovery from years of skyrocketing Medicaid cost increases, thanks to the Medicaid cap and the resulting controlled growth of local tax dollars required for this mandated program."

Thomas has proposed a 49-cent cut in the full-value property tax rate, which equals nearly 5 percent, as well as a quarter of a percent drop in the local sales tax rate, effective Sept. 1, 2006.

In addition, his proposed budget includes the elimination of the local sales tax on clothing and footwear as of Jan. 1, 2006. Legislation allowing this has cleared the State Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.

The proposal includes a $3 million reduction in expenditures, cutting appropriations 1.7 percent below the 2005 level.

"We have both reduced expenditures and provided taxpayers with important tax cuts," Thomas said.

In addition, Thomas said the county's fund balance will grow at the end of the 2005 fiscal year.

Thomas said costs driving the budget include increases in the price of fuel, utility costs, workers' compensation insurance, and the cost of principal and interest for the jail and court expansion projects as well as the Jamestown Community College renovation project.

The budget includes $100,000 for investments in projects to help lakes in the county as well as smaller appropriations for projects that have potential for drawing new tourism dollars. It also includes more than $11 million in capital funds targeted for improvement projects paid for by a combination of federal, state, local dollars and user fees.

The proposed budget now goes before legislative committees for review.

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