Legislators Eye More Work On Budget Plan
County legislators are still working on potential changes to the 2020 tentative budget.
On Friday, the Chautauqua County Legislature Audit and Control Committee met to discuss possible changes to the proposed spending plan after attending budget hearings held by the five other county committees — Public Facilities; Administrative Services; Public Safety; Human Services; and Planning and Economic Development — throughout the week.
After hearing from department officials in the Social Services and Office of the Aging departments and discussing potential changes to lower the local share in the proposed budget, Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, proposed using no fund balance in the tentative budget.
Last month, George Borrello, county executive, had proposed using around $1 million in fund balance, or savings, in next year’s spending plan. After proposals by Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point and committee chairman, to reduce the tax levy by more than $275,000 following the week of budget hearings, to lower the amount of fund balance used to around around $740,000, Nazzaro proposed increasing the tax levy to an amount that wouldn’t put the budget above the state tax cap.
Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, said the proposed tentative budget, which uses around $1 million in fund balance, leaves the savings account at 5.3% of the total budget. The county finance policy recommends that the fund balance remain above 5% of the total annual budget.
Niebel said looking at the financial forecast of the fund balance, he said the savings account doesn’t dip below 5% percent until 2024 when it could lower to 4.9%. He said he would like to keep the tax rate flat because the county’s high rate is one of the main reasons people, an estimated 900 a year, are leaving the county.
Chagnon proposed Friday that the committee table further discussion until next week when the members can have a more in-depth discussion.
It was decided the committee would reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The proposed changes Chagnon had made to the tentative budget, prior to the discussion on the use of fund balance, included lowering the amount of overtime in the budget for the nursing, jail clinic and insurance department by $20,500; reduce the amount of full-time employees being added to the Public Works Department from five to three, which is an estimated savings of $100,000; and to increase the projected revenue from the Chautauqua County Tax Foreclosure Sale by $175,000.
Borrello’s proposed tentative budget had no increase in the tax rate, which would remain at $8.38 per $1,000 assessed property value. The tax levy in the tentative budget had a proposed 2.7% increase to a total of $1,682,013.