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County Still Financially Facing Challenges

Even though it appears Chautauqua County has finished up 2020 in the black, there are still plenty of financial challenges in this upcoming year.

During Wednesday’s legislature meeting, County Executive PJ Wendel shared that preliminary reports show the county finished 2020 with $4.5 million over budget.

At the end of the meeting Legislator Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, warned fellow legislators not to become too complacent. “As we head into 2021, there are some things we need to keep a very watchful eye on, such as our property tax collections. The sales tax revenue was within only a half a million dollars of the original budget, but that was due to internet sales, so I am concerned about that flattening,” he said.

Other concerns Nazzaro expressed had to do with revenue from the federal government for housing inmates at the county jail, Medicaid costs, deficits from the fly-car program used by emergency services, increase in county employee health insurance and what impact the state budget will be. “Yes, the county executive’s report is good news, and I agree with the good news, but I just want to be cautiously optimistic as we move into 2021, to keep a pulse on these items that can quickly change,” he said.

In other business:

¯ The legislature tabled a resolution which would have given the Clarion in Dunkirk credit for real property taxes. The Clarion has had a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement with the city of Dunkirk for 35 years. Legislators said they want to investigate this PILOT before giving the property tax credit, because usually PILOT agreements do not last that long and this agreement only requires the Clarion pay the city of Dunkirk and not Chautauqua County.

¯ The legislature approved a $269,350 extra payment to Jamestown Community College, as part of its new “floor/ceiling” agreement. Previously the county paid JCC based on the number of full time students. This new agreement has a minimum and a maximum payment the college will receive from the county, regardless of the number of enrolled full-time students. This is $100,792 higher than was what budgeted for. The additional money will come out of sales tax revenue.

¯ A Commendation was issued to John Griffith, director of emergency services, who recently announced his retirement from the position.

¯ Five letters were received from members of Labors’ Local 621, expressing their support for the South Ripley solar project.

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