Fighting A County Tax Hike

MAYVILLE – County Executive Greg Edwards has presented his eighth and final county budget.

Since the 2007 budget, legislators have managed to find more than $9 million in cuts to the tax levy in Edwards’ budgets. Already this year, for the 2014 budget, legislators have recommended cutting $1,169,999 from the budget, although the cuts are not yet final.

Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards unveiled his tentative $230.8 million budget to legislators Sept. 25. His budget reflected a 3.4 percent increase to the tax levy, bringing it from $62,135,666 in 2013 to $64,263,004 in 2014. Should legislators approve the recommended changes, the tax levy would increase roughly $957,338, or 1.3 percent, from the 2013 amount.

Edwards presented his first budget in 2006, for the 2007 fiscal year. The total local tax levy in Edwards’ tentative budget was $56,087,038, which legislators brought down to $55,107,110 through cuts. Between the 2007 adopted budget and the 2014 tentative budget, there is a 16.6 percent increase in the tax levy.

Meanwhile, between the 2007 adopted budget and the 2014 tentative budget, there is an increase of 11.1 percent in the total value of assessed taxable land in the county.

BUDGETS BY YEAR

For the 2007 budget, legislators cut 1.7 percent out of the property tax levy between the tentative and adopted budget.

The 2008 budget saw fewer cuts between Edwards’ tentative budget and the legislature’s adopted budget. The levy in the tentative budget was $57,014,120, which legislators reduced by $552,500 to $56,461,620, or nearly 1 percent. Despite the reduction between the tentative and adopted budget, the tax levy increased 2.5 percent between 2007 and 2008.

The legislature made $1,558,507 in cuts to the tax levy between the 2009 tentative budget and the adopted budget, one of the largest differences in Edwards’ tenure. His 2009 tentative budget placed the tax levy at $56,451,859, more than $9,700 less than the 2008 adopted budget. However, legislators found more to trim, bringing the levy down to $54,893,352. The tax levy in the 2009 adopted budget was 2.8 percent less than it had been in 2008.

The tax levy was decreased even more in 2010. Again, Edwards’ tentative budget proposed a lower tax levy than was passed the previous year. The legislature brought the tentative tax levy of $54,885,222 down .5 percent to $54,598,392. The levy also reflected a .5 percent decrease from the adopted county budget in 2009.

The tax levy jumped up to $59,596,962 in Edwards’ tentative 2011 budget, though. Again, legislators were able to cut the levy by $163,831, or .3 percent, to $59,433,131. The tax levy reflected an increase of 8.9 percent between the 2010 and 2011 adopted budgets.

The largest jump in the levy between adopted budgets and Edwards’ tentative budgets occurred in the 2012 budget cycle. It also reflected the largest amount of cuts between the tentative and adopted budget.

In 2012, the tax levy in Edwards’ tentative budget jumped 12.8 percent from the 2011 adopted budget, to $67,036,845. Legislators were able to find $5,389,768 in cuts to make, bringing the levy in the adopted budget to $61,647,077. The tax levy in 2012 was 3.7 percent higher than 2011.

Once again, the tax levy rose for Edwards’ 2013 tentative budget. Edwards had proposed a tax levy of $62,947,077 for 2013, which the legislators chopped $811,411, to $62,135,666. The tax levy increased .8 percent between 2012 and 2013.

2014 BUDGET

To avoid a 3.4 percent hike in the tax levy, legislators have been working for the past week to recommend cuts where they can.

Monday, committees recommended removing all Intergovernmental Transfer Funding from the Chautauqua County Home, which Edwards had as $2.1 million in his tentative budget, or $1.05 million local share. With the IGT funding intact, the budget had shown revenues for the County Home to be $19,484,593, and expenditures to be $20,032,911.

Edwards had also placed an additional $500,000 in the budget for the Office for the Aging. The Human Services Committee recommended bringing the amount down to $250,000 in additional revenue to the OFA. The 2013 amended budget for the OFA was $770,074. Edwards’ tentative budget showed a total of $1,530,461 in local share.

The Human Services Committee also recommended adding two officers to probation. Kitty Crow, budget director, predicted each officer would cost between $55,000-$65,000, including benefits. The Probation Office budget for 2013 was $1,649,770. Edwards’ tentative budget had increased to $1,670,599, without the addition of the officers.

On Tuesday, the Public Safety Committee had made the recommendation to add a .49 full-time-equivalent position for an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s Office also saw an increase between its 2013 amended budget, which was $1,236,041, and Edwards’ tentative budget, which was $1,295,406.

The Administrative Services Committee made one recommendation of its own Wednesday, however it did not tie a dollar amount to its recommendation.

Legislator Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, recommended the Audit and Control Committee consider the feasibility for an expenditure for a marketing campaign for the County Clerk’s Office to encourage the “Renew Locally” effort, as well as the potential revenues it could possibly produce. The 2013 amended budget for the County Clerk’s Office was $188,567. The 2014 tentative budget had showed a decrease to $121,907 for local share.

The Audit and Control Committee will take into consideration recommendations from other committees and possibly recommend additional changes when it meets Oct. 7-9. County Charter requires a budget to be adopted by Nov. 10.