County Legislature Approves Budget, Adds $250K To Office For The Aging

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County 2014 budget has been passed, with a .6 percent tax levy increase over the 2013 budget.

County Executive 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. The tax rate in the tentative budget was $9.39 per 1,000 of assessed value.

Following two weeks of budget hearings, the tentative budget from the Audit and Control Committee reflected a tax levy of $62,276,004, or a .2 percent increase over the 2013 budget. Legislators had also lowered the tax rate to $9.09.

Wednesday, legislators met to discuss the budget, making a series of amendments. In the end, legislators were able to agree on a budget with a tax levy of $62,526,004, and a tax rate of $9.13.

IGT FUNDING

The first amendment legislators discussed was restoring $1.05 million in Intergovernmental Transfer Funding to the Chautauqua County Home, which was suggested by Tim Hoyer, D-Jamestown.

“The home needs the money,” Hoyer said. “As we’ve been told on the Human Services Committee … It could use newer (machines). With this money, we could also expand services.”

Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, pointed out – and Kitty Crow, budget director, confirmed – that putting the $1.05 million back in the budget would bring the tax rate to $9.27.

After much discussion regarding the amendment, it failed to pass the legislature in an 17-6 vote. Bob Duff, R-Sheridan, and Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown, were absent from the meeting.

Voting in favor of adding the $1.05 million back into the budget were Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Hoyer; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.

Voting against the amendment were Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; George Borrello, R-Irving; Rod Rogers, G-Forestville; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Victoria James, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood; Jay Gould, R-Ashville; Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; and John Hemmer, R-Westfield.

Later in the meeting, Ahlstrom suggested amending the IGT funding to $250,000, instead of the full amount. Doing so would have brought the tax rate to $9.17 if passed. However, it failed 16-7.

Voting in favor of funding the IGT $250,000 were Ahlstrom, Cornell, Coughlin, DeJoe, Heenan, Hoyer and Scudder.

Opposing were Borrello, Rogers, Runkle, Stewart, Erlandson, Barmore, Tarbrake, James, DeJoy, Nazzaro, Horrigan, Wendel, Gould, Croscut, Himelein and Hemmer.

OFFICE FOR THE AGING FUNDING

Edwards’ tentative budget originally added $500,000 into the budget for the Office For the Aging. The 2013 amended budget for the OFA was $770,074. Edwards’ tentative budget showed a total of $1,530,461 in local share. The amount was taken out of the OFA budget completely by the Audit and Control Committee.

During the budget discussion, Horrigan recommended increasing the OFA budget by $250,000, half of the recommended amount.

Following discussion, Coughlin recommended increasing the OFA budget by the full recommended amount.

“Why are we cutting this to $250,000?” Coughlin asked. “Why aren’t we funding the $500,000 that the county executive and Dr. (Mary Ann) Spanos (OFA director) recommended? If this is going to help seniors, if this is going to help to keep people out of nursing homes, if it’s going to help to keep people in their homes, and we’re going to see a total benefit for those that are a part of this, I don’t see why we don’t just stay with the $500,000 that the county executive and Mrs. Spanos recommended.”

Nazzaro recommended offsetting the amount by decreasing the Medicaid spending, however the recommendation was not pursued.

“The taxpayers in Chautauqua County are looking for a break,” Stewart said. “We do have an aging population … If we keep ramming tax increases down their throats, we won’t have anybody left to pay the bills in 20 years or 10 years.”

The recommendation to add $500,000 back into the OFA budget failed 19-4. Voting in favor of the increase were Cornell, Coughlin, DeJoe and Hoyer.

Opposing the increase were Ahlstrom, Borrello, Rogers, Runkle, Scudder, Stewart, Erlandson, Barmore, Tarbrake, James, DeJoy, Nazzaro, Heenan, Horrigan, Wendel, Gould, Croscut, Himelein and Hemmer.

The legislature then voted on adding $250,000 to the OFA budget, which passed 13-10. Voting in favor of the addition were Barmore, Cornell, Croscut, DeJoe, Erlandson, Hemmer, Horrigan, Hoyer, James, Scudder, Tarbrake, Wendel and Gould.

Opposing the increase were Ahlstrom, Borrello, Rogers, Runkle, Stewart, DeJoy, Nazzaro, Heenan, Coughlin and Himelein.

With the addition to the budget, the tax levy was updated to $62,526,004, and the tax rate $9.13.

THE FINAL VOTE

Following amendment discussions, the legislature voted on the amended budget, which included the $250,000 increase to OFA.

The final budget passed the Chautauqua County Legislature in a 16-7 vote.

Approving the budget were Borrello, Runkle, Erlandson, Barmore, Tarbrake, James, Cornell, DeJoy, Nazzaro, Horrigan, Wendel, Gould, Croscut, Himelein, Hemmer and Scudder.

Opposing the final budget were Ahlstrom, Coughlin, DeJoe, Heenan, Hoyer, Rogers and Stewart.

Gould said he was happy with the budget turnout.

“Many times, I’ve gone home unhappy from up here,” Gould said. “It’s a compromise, and it’s what’s best for the public. I was pretty happy with the way things went tonight, other than maybe too much discussion on the same thing. … We started at 6:30 and we got a budget done by 8 p.m. That’s not bad.”

Next on the legislature’s agenda is a vote on whether to sell the County Home to VestraCare, who is offering $16.5 million. The purchase agreement with VestraCare includes property, including all of the land, buildings, gas well, personal property, and intangible property, which includes net accounts receivable of $1,299,424.78.

The vote will take place during a special meeting of the legislature Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m.