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Mayor stresses working together

As she begins the second year of her first term as head of the city, Mayor Linda Witte said she will continue her theme of working together, which led to many accomplishments last year.

During her first speech of 2011 addressing the City Council and others Monday, Witte said her theme includes transparency. She does not believe the proposed state tax cap will be helpful; supporting the position taken by the State Council of Mayors, instead suggesting the state first handle pension reform.

One of her first actions will be to seek support from the Cattaraugus County Legislature for a resolution to the state to pursue that reform. Working together, Witte said, "means we must cut costs and expand shared services."

The possibility of forming a sewer authority could bring fair treatment to all entities covered by the city's wastewater treatment plan, she said.

The mayor said, "2011 will be a challenge as we anticipate unknown actions of the State Legislature and government officials. The city's 2011-12 budget needs to reflect potential negative impacts handed down by the state."

The city's bond rating last year was upgraded to A2 as the city ended the year with a surplus of $4.8 million, the highest amount in eight years, which will help the city to face future financial problems.

Listing 2010 accomplishments, Witte identified services for youth including a softball tournament and hockey competition, and services for seniors who have access to lunches at the Senior Center. Also, tourism attractions such as the Taste of Olean and Santa Claus Lane brought visitors into the city.

Listing outside benefits, Witte said the state provided $300,000 to resurface Main Street, more than $1 million was received to repave West State Street and another $300,000 for Woodview Avenue, with the city paying only one-third of the cost.

The Community Development Department has begun work to update the zoning process. Witte said the public bus transportation routes have increased through partnerships with St. Bonaventure University and the Rehabilitation Center in Allegany.

Efforts continue to expand the city's tax base in the northern industrial corridor, Witte said, with the receipt of $360,000 from the state in planning the Brownfield Opportunity Area Program.

Under way is the completion of a 40-year master plan for all the city's critical wastewater and storm-water infrastructure.

Witte said the assessor notes the city's total value is $745,843,897 for 6,556 parcels. Of that total, 64 percent, or $489 million, is taxable. Exempt from taxation are 32 percent of the properties with a value of $239.5 million.

"While the city continues to lose population, and our assessed property value has diminished, the city is trying to improve our neighborhoods and upgrade the housing stock for the future," Witte said.

Residents should join in the goal to make the city stronger, Witte proposed, working toward practical, commonsense solutions to increase revenues and decrease taxes. She also encouraged public involvement, support for local businesses and community organizations and volunteerism.

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