Wendel Proposes Large Property Tax Rate Cut, Increase In Levy

County Executive PJ Wendel is proposing a budget with a property tax rate of $6.91 per $1,000 assessed valuation. The last time the rate was this low was in 1982. P-J photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE – County Executive PJ Wendel is touting his proposed $294.1 million spending plan with the lowest property tax rate in 40 years.

On Wednesday, Wendel presented his 2024 budget to the county legislature. The proposal calls for a property tax rate of $6.91 per $1,000 assessed valuation. That is 89 cents lower than the current year’s rate of $7.80.

But even with the lower rate, the spending plan has a tax levy of $71,528,027, up from this year’s levy of $69,681,835. The levy is the amount collected by taxes. “The proposed 2024 tax levy is yet again under the New York state tax cap. While we do see an increase of 2.65% this is minimal in today’s inflationary economy where the current rate of inflation is 6.26%,” Wendel said.

In his budget proposal, Wendel designated $1 million for local organizations to use for lake maintenance for any county lake. The money is not specific to Chautauqua Lake, even though it generally gets the most complaints regarding weeds and Harmful Algal Blooms.

Other capital projects include the purchase of heavy equipment, upgrades to the Department of Public Facilities Sheridan Shop, renovations to county salt sheds and continued bus upgrades for CHQ Transit.

“There will also be investments at SUNY Jamestown Community College, with upgrades and renovations to create a better learning space for students, including cost efficient LED lighting,” continued Wendel.

He did not say if any money was being set aside for JCC’s desired upgrade at Diethrick Park. The college is seeking $7.5 million from the county so it can create a multi-purpose soccer, baseball and softball field. The entire project is expected to run around $30 million.

For next year’s county budget, Wendel said there are also Information Technology updates, and public safety investments, featuring the purchase of a new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus fill station at the Taylor Training Center in Jamestown.

This 89 cent reduction is by far the largest property tax rate cut Wendel has ever proposed. During his tenure he has proposed a tax rate cut in all four of his budget proposals. In 2020, Wendel proposed reducing the tax rate by 5 cents. In 2021, Wendel proposed cutting the tax rate by 26 cents. Last year, Wendel proposed cutting the tax rate by 30 cents.

In the end, the county legislature will have the final say in the budget. In 2020, county lawmakers raised the tax rate by 5 cents after Wendel proposed a reduction. In 2021, they were able to reduce the tax rate by 40 cents, 15 cents further than Wendel had proposed. Last year they accepted Wendel’s proposed tax rate with the 30 cent reduction, although they did make a number of changes, including eliminating $941,000 that Wendel earmarked for a new JCC soccer field.

Wendel touted how the last time Chautauqua County’s tax rate was this low was in 1982.

“According to the 2020 U.S. Census, approximately 45% of county residents were not even born the last time our tax rate was this low,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was president, unleaded gasoline cost was $1.31 a gallon, a gallon of milk was a $1.79 and a dozen of eggs cost 67 cents.”

He said the county’s occupancy tax revenue remains strong. For 2024, Wendel budgeted just over $2 million in anticipated occupancy tax receipts. That money comes from hotels, motels, bed and breakfast locations, and short-term rental properties.

Wendel said 40% of occupancy tax money will be used for lakes and waterways, and 60% will be used for promotion and tourism.

Wendel said sales tax revenue continues to remain strong as well. Still, he said he remains cautious when it comes to sales tax predictions “We could easily inflate our sales tax projections to cover budget increases, however we choose to budget conservatively,” he said.

Wendel said sales tax surpluses gives the county flexibility to fund one-time increases without raising property taxes and maintains the county’s financial stability. “In 2024, we anticipate to collect $88.9 million in sales tax revenue, of which $37.4 million will be shared with our local municipalities. Not all counties share sales tax receipts,” he said.

For the county’s fund balance, Wendel is proposing it to be at $37.76 million, which is 13.6% of the county budget. The county is recommended it to keep it between 5 and 15%.

Even with all the highlights, Wendel complained about how much is mandated. He said it is estimated that 80% of county budgets go to required state and federal programs. Examples he gave include increased Medicaid costs, increased assigned counsel rates and increased cybersecurity requirements.

The county legislature will begin reviewing the proposed budget next week. Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon said they would like to adopt the budget at their October meeting, but if they don’t, they have until Dec. 1 until a budget must be adopted.


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