MAYVILLE – Outgoing Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan presented his final budget proposal Wednesday to the Chautauqua County Legislature, which included a 2 percent increase in property taxes, the first increase in property taxes in the last three years.
As presented, total county spending for 2018 would be $236.4 million, up 3.3 percent from the $228.8 million budget for the current year. Horrigan attributes the spending increase to a number of factors, including increasing the number of social service, county jail, and district attorney and public defender positions. In all, 21 new positions would be added in 2018 under Horrigan’s proposal.
Horrigan said that the state’s Office of Child and Family Services also hit the county with an unexpected steep increase in costs for juvenile detention. In addition to the cost escalating from $340,000 to $1.2 million dollars, the office is also calling on the county to pay an additional $715,000 in retroactive payment for the year 2015.
To offset the additional costs, Horrigan is proposing the county use $1.4 million of its unrestricted fund balance, in addition to increasing property taxes by 2 percent – going from $8.48/thousand to $8.58 per thousand. Put another way, it would be a $10 increase for property assessed at $100,000.
Horrigan told WRFA following his presentation that while he didn’t want to call for a tax increase, he also wanted to ensure that he is leaving the county on sound financial footing.
“When I leave as county executive, I don’t want to leave a cliff. I don’t want something that will look good while I step out the door, I want something long term,” Horrigan said. “The legislature can reduce this, there’s different way they can do it. But, in my judgement, this is the best budget for Chautauqua County.”
Horrigan has opted not to run for reelection, with Republican Legislator George Borrello of Hanover and Democratic Businessman Mike Ferguson of Fredonia running for the office in this year’s election.
The spending plan now goes before the County Legislature for its consideration and members on both sides of the aisle say they will take a close look and see if they can’t bring some of the spending down.
“Our work now begins,” explained Jamestown Democrat and Audit and Control Committee Member Chuck Nazzaro. “We’ll be here four days next week meeting with each department manager going through the budget. I don’t want to micromanage the budget because we have a great team. But I think we need to look at the overall picture and see where that spending increase comes from.”
The legislature will have to finalize the spending plan by Dec. 1, 2017.