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Committee Proposes To Cut Property Tax, Levy

MAYVILLE — If all goes as planned, Chautauqua County property owners will be getting a tax break next year while also giving the county’s 4-H program a financial boost.

Chuck Nazzaro, the chairman of the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee, said that after a four and a half hour meeting Thursday, the committee is proposing to cut taxes further in the proposed 2022 budget. A vote by the full county Legislature is set for Wednesday.

Nazzaro noted that the county recently received two good news items: Medicaid expenses are going down and sales tax revenue is up.

“We received a letter from the New York State Department of Social Services that told us our weekly payment we make to Medicaid went down $61,042,” he said during a phone call after the meeting.

The county had been making weekly payments of $537,909. For the next 13 weeks, the county’s payments will be $476,867. That means the county will save nearly $800,000 in Medicaid payments.

Nazzaro noted that the state’s fiscal year begins April 1, and New York may return Chautauqua County to make the higher payment, so the Audit and Control Committee is only budgeting for the lower payment for the first three months of 2022. The lower payment, he said, has to do with continuing pandemic funding relief as well as an adjustment by the federal government’s formula used to determine weekly payments.

The second piece of good news, the higher sales tax revenue collected, has been a trend all year. Before this month, Chautauqua County was trending $5 million higher for its sales tax collection than it has budgeted for. Nazzaro said this month when the county got its sales tax payment from the state, it moved the trend to $6.5 million.

The sales tax collection has been tough to predict for county officials, not knowing if this is a one-year trend or something longer. Because of this uncertainty, Nazzaro said they wanted to “pass additional revenue funding that we received back to taxpayer,” but also budget conservatively, should sales tax revenue drop off in the near future.

The current property tax rate in Chautauqua County is around $8.50 per $1,000 assessed property value. In County Executive PJ Wendel’s proposed budget, which was set before the newly announced lower Medicaid payment and higher sales revenue, he called for a 2022 budget with a property tax rate of $8.25 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Nazzaro said the Audit and Control Committee is recommending a budget with a property tax rate of about $8.10 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Nazzaro said not only is the committee calling for a lower property tax rate, but they’re also proposing a cut in the tax levy. The levy, which is the amount collected by property taxes, is currently around $67.1 million. Nazzaro said the new proposed levy is $66,912,793, a $271,102 reduction.

When asked when the was the last time the legislature cut the levy, Nazzaro wasn’t sure. “This is the first time in several years,” he said. “We’ve cut the tax rate before, but never the levy.”

The committee is also proposing an additional $50,000 in new funding to the county’s 4-H program. Nazzaro said for a long time, the county helped fund 4-H, but had been cutting back their funding in recent years, due to budget challenges. 4-H had been relying on a Ralph Wilson grant, but this is the last year for that grant so they were facing major challenges. “We feel this program is very important to the youth of this county,” he added.

The full legislature must approve the Audit and Control’s proposed budget in order for it to take effect. Should the full legislature approve it Wednesday, it will go back to the county executive for him to either approve or veto.

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