Budget Cuts Eyed To Account For Loss Revenues

County officials are planning Phase One budget reductions to account for the loss of revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chautauqua County Legislature Audit and Control Committee on Thursday discussed a resolution to make cuts to the 2020 budget. The budget cut recommendations were made by the committee formed by county officials to re-examine the adopted 2020 budget following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kathleen Dennison, county budget director, said the proposed cuts is the outcome of several weeks of work by the COVID-19 finance response team. She said County Executive PJ Wendel had requested that all department heads make local share cuts to their budgets of 15% to 20% because of the loss of revenues, mainly sales tax.

“Changes that could be implemented are in the resolution,” Dennison said.

Dennison said the proposed budget cuts reduces the spending plan by more than $4 million. She said it’s been estimated the county will lose between $4 million to $8 million in sales tax revenues this year because of the pandemic.

“We consider this Phase One of changes (to the budget),” Dennison said. “It’s a reduction in local share of 6%. We’re not in the 15% to 20% range yet. The changes we’re implementing can be done fast and will not make for a drastic reduction in services.”

Dennison said the resolution also recognizes a drop in occupancy tax too. She said county officials have estimated occupancy tax revenues will be down 20% this year.

Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown and Audit and Control chairman, said the proposed 6% reduction in local share is not the goal that Wendel made last month.

“Our work is not done yet,” he said. “There’s been a lot of work so far and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

In other business, the committee discussed a motion calling on Congress to provide direct aid to local governments. Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point and legislature chairman, said all legislators are concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local businesses and taxpayers. He said there is also concern about the loss of revenues and the potential reduction in state aid to local municipalities.

“The impacts of this could be devastating this year and long term,” he said. “We’re requesting that the federal government assist with local financial aid to help us weather the storm.”

Chagnon said Chautauqua County’s U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, is working on a bipartisan measure to provide local municipalities financial assistance.

Nazzaro said the financial stress the pandemic has put on local governments is just starting to be understood.

“It will be sometime before we get back to normal. Whatever that normal might be,” he said.

The full legislature is slated to vote on the resolution and the motion during its regular voting session meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting can be viewed online by visiting facebook.com/chautauquacountygovernment.


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