Government Reduction Initiative Approved

HR Director- Jessica L. Wisniewski was confirmed as new human resources director at Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. County Executive Vince Horrigan said Wisniewski was a “good choice” for the position. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

MAYVILLE — The framework to a Government Reduction Initiative gained the County Legislature’s approval during Wednesday’s meeting in Mayville.

Eighteen legislators voted in favor of the proposal allowing the county to allocate a village or town’s sales tax money after a successful dissolution or merger. Bob Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, was the only legislator to vote against.

For village dissolutions, the new entity upon request can receive funds based on the total sales tax payment received in the year preceding the dissolution. As for town consolidation, the newly-formed town can obtain funding equal to the sum of sales tax payments made to each municipality in the year preceding the consolidation.

Allocation of funding for either scenario wouldn’t exceed $50,000.

Despite its passage, the proposal didn’t go without criticism. Before legislators gave their approval, Bonnie Peters, CSEA Region 6 secretary and Local 807 president, took to the podium to voice her disagreement. While she applauded the county’s attempt to save tax money, Peters said dissolution doesn’t always mean lower taxes. In addition, she said the result of a dissolution is a reduction in services that residents rely on.

“You should know that as of now, at least 63 dissolutions have failed in New York state,” Peters said. “This shows us that voters believe in the layer of government that’s closest to them and that they have continually rejected attempts to take away or reduce the locally-provided services on which they rely. The last thing we need is the County Legislature telling residents of Silver Creek, of Lakewood and Fredonia just to name a few what’s best for them.”

Peters concluded her argument by telling legislators to look at waste in the county Industrial Development Agency before encouraging municipalities to strip away vital services.

“Look no further than recent incidents of the directors of the IDA authorizing the cancellation of $1 million to Jamestown MVP Plastics,” she said.

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, sponsored the proposal. He said funds will go to support unanticipated expenses when a dissolution or consolidation occurs.

“If we can reduce taxes, I think we can keep more of our people here,” he said. “I’m also hopeful this will spur economic development.”

Contrary to Peters’ statements, legislator George Borrello, R-Hanover, said providing residents with the right information led to successful dissolutions in the area. In the case of Forestville, he said unbiased information was provided to residents so they could make an informed decision.

“It was the choice of those folks in the village to determine how they wish to be governed,” Borrello said. “We’re not encouraging or promoting anyone to do anything. What we’re doing is providing good information from a third-party organization like the Center for Governmental Research.”

In his vote against the proposal, Bankoski said Peters made some good points.

“(For) myself, who’s come from a union background for over 26 years, there is a couple snafus in there that Mrs. Peters has brought to our attention,” he said. “I feel I have to vote no on this.”

In other matters, legislators unanimously approved resolutions requesting state passage of bills to continue a 5 percent occupancy tax and an 8 percent sales tax. Last month, legislators approved a request to the state Legislature to establish bills for their requests.

County Executive Vince Horrigan said he expects the state Legislature to approve both requests. He said an 8 percent sales tax is in line with the state average. More importantly, he said it helps keep property taxes down.

“Twenty percent of the sales tax is paid by out-of-county residents,” he said. “We are seeing an increase in hospitality and tourism, so more and more out-of-county people are helping us.”

The legislature also approved the appointment of Jessica L. Wisniewski as the next county human resources director. The Fredonia resident was unanimously approved after a search committee picked her to be the successor to outgoing director Joseph Porpiglia.

“I’ve been very welcomed thus far and I really look forward to working with the employees of Chautauqua County and the Human Resources Department,” she said. “I’m very excited to be here.”

Legislators Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, and Paul Whitford, D-Jamestown, co-chaired the search committee. The two legislators said Wisniewski is more than qualified and capable to do the job.