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Chautauqua County executive proposes 24-cent tax rate increase

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards presented his tentative 2014 county budget to the Legislature Wednesday at its meeting in the Gerace Office Building.

Edwards said his proposal will come in below the state’s property tax cap and still show two major areas of increased funding: $500,000 for the Office for the Aging and $300,000 for road and bridge repair.

The $64 million spending plan is up about $2 million from the current budget.

Edwards proposes a 24-cent increase in the tax rate, from $9.15 in 2013 to $9.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

He said the proposed funding for senior citizens would bring more home services like Meals on Wheels to the elderly of Chautauqua County. The more home services that are provided to the elderly, he said, the less chance there is that they will require nursing home placement.

Edwards said he believes that funding the services will provide a savings in Medicaid costs for senior citizens. “It keeps seniors in their homes, and that is where they want to be,” he said.

He said the additional funds are based on reports provided at recent Human Services Committee meetings.

Overall, Edwards said department heads have reported that their spending is up about 0.5 percent. “I am proud of the department heads and their spending,” he said.

He said the county has fewer employees now than in 2006 and is providing more services.

Edwards said the budget still contains funding for the Chautauqua County Home.

He said an offer has been made to buy the home, but he expects that the process to sell the home could take several months.

In addition to needing legislative approval, the sale would require State Health Department approval in the form of a certificate of need.

Edwards said the sale of the home would result in a net profit of $7 million to the county. He said those funds could be put in the undesignated fund balance, which is now at about 3 percent. “The additional funds from the sale could boost the fund balance to 11 percent,” he said.

“This is a rock solid budget, and I look forward to the process of presenting it to committees,” Edwards said. He said each of the legislators was provided with more than 100 pages of line-by-line budgetary plans. He said he will attend any committee meetings with the lawmakers to continue discussions until a budget is approved for next year.

“I have even told them where they could cut, if they wanted to,” said Edwards, who pointed to the extra funding in the aging office and in public works for infrastructure.

“They could also draw off the remaining fund balance if they wanted to,” he added.

Edwards said the proposed tax increase would be less than $24 for a home assessed for $100,000.

In another matter, the legislators approved emergency funding for work on the dam at Findley Lake. A total of $5,000 was appropriated from the Occupancy Tax Fund.