County Dems Call For $1M Tax Reduction, Axing Of PR Post
MAYVILLE — The Democrats in the Chautauqua County Legislature want to see another $1 million cut in next year’s budget and the elimination of a new public relations position.
Last week, County Executive PJ Wendel, a Republican, released his proposed 2024 budget to the legislature. In it, he is proposing reducing the real property tax rate from $7.80 per $1,000 assessed valuation to $6.91, an 89 cent reduction.
At the same time, Wendel has proposed increasing the tax levy from $69,681,835 to $71,528,027, a $1.86 million increase. The levy is the amount collected by taxes.
There are 19 members of the Chautauqua County Legislature. Of the 19, four are Democrats and the other 15 are Republicans. A party needs 10 to have a majority and at least 13 to hold a “super majority,” which is two-thirds of the legislature. Certain votes require a majority to pass, while others require a super majority.
Democratic legislators Susan Parker of Fredonia, Bob Bankoski of Dunkirk, and Tom Nelson and Billy Torres of Jamestown, sent out a news release after the budget was released saying the county executive and the majority in the legislature have overtaxed the people of Chautauqua County.
“The state comptroller recommends and is satisfied with county government having a ‘fund balance’ or ‘slush fund’ of 5% of county revenues or about $13 million. This county government has a ‘slush fund’ of about 13.9% of county revenues, or over $37 million, because of overtaxing the residents of Chautauqua County, not because of ‘conservative’ governing of the county,” Parker said. “We Democrats are committed to returning to the taxpayers at least $1 million of this huge ‘slush fund’ in the 2024 county budget.”
In addition, the Democrats are calling for the elimination of the county’s first public relations position created this year by the county executive and the legislature. “There are so many better uses of $100,000 a year than on an unneeded euphemistically titled ‘Media Information Officer,'” Bankoski said. “The Republicans have just increased the size of county government and made it more costly for the taxpayers. The media information officer position is just one example of this.”
Justin Gould was appointed the county’s media information officer by Wendel, effective June 1. The legislature approved creating the position in January. The resolution called for a salary range of $60,475 to $92,778. It passed with only Republican backing.
“The current 15-4 legislature majority have overtaxed and underperformed for the people of Chautauqua County,” Nelson said.
Parker agreed. “We can and must do better for the people of Chautauqua County,” she concluded.
All four incumbent Democratic legislators are seeking re-election. The other Democratic-endorsed candidates for the county legislature are as follows:
¯ Marcus Buchanan, District 1: city and town of Dunkirk;
¯ Nevin Eklund, District 3: village of Fredonia, town of Pomfret;
¯ Julie Jackson-Forsberg, District 10: towns of Busti, Ellicott, village of Lakewood, and city of Jamestown;
¯ Robert Whitney, District 11: city of Jamestown;
¯ Fred Larson, District 12: city of Jamestown;
¯ Kurt Gustafson, District 15: town of Ellicott and villages of Falconer and Celoron;
¯ Amy Thompson, District 16: towns of Carroll, Kiatone, and Poland;
¯ Braiden McElhany, District 19: towns of Ripley and Westfield.