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Democrats air proposal to cut taxes

MAYVILLE -- Chautauqua County Legislature Democrats have released an alternative budget plan that cuts both property and sales taxes.

Members of the Majority Caucus on Wednesday afternoon laid out their 27-point plan during a news conference in Mayville.

Legislature Chairman Keith Ahlstrom said they decided to offer the amendments to Republican County Executive Greg Edwards' spending plan as a "starting point" for what he hopes are "meaningful" discussions with Edwards and the legislature's GOP minority.

"We understand that our changes will have an effect on county government," Ahlstrom said. "But we strongly believe that that effect will not be as great as increasing the tax levy by $2.2 million and overall spending by almost $10 million."

Ahlstrom said Democrats are proposing to keep the tax levy flat. That's a $2.2 million reduction in that figure. He said that would reduce the full-value tax rate by another 35 cents to 74 cents per $1,000.

The main savings would be in eliminating Edwards' proposed $1.5 million payback to the county Home in Dunkirk, and paying the $2.2 million health insurance debt over five years. Majority Leader Chuck Cornell added that their proposal would trim four jobs from county government.

"We're looking to remove the addition of an airport manager, the addition of a GIS technician, and two positions in the Department of Social Services that had the greatest local share," he said. "Again, we were trying to strike a balance."

Cornell said their plan also "freezes" the salaries of several new hires by Edwards because they were hired at "unusually high salaries."

Democrats also want to cut the sales tax from 8 percent to 7.75 percent in 2007.

Edwards was present to hear what Legislature Democrats had to say Wednesday, and said their proposed changes are "worth taking a look at."

But he said he is concerned that the changes being proposed would produce a deficit going into the 2008 budget.

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