MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County executive George Borrello released his 2020 county budget proposal Wednesday night to the Chautauqua County Legislature and it includes no increase in the property tax rate, despite several challenges.
According to Borrello, the estimated $257 million budget includes a $1.7 million increase to the tax levy, which is up 2.7% from this year. However, the actual tax rate that county property owners pay would remain unchanged at $8.37 per thousand assessed value. Borrello also noted that the budget would also rely on using up to $1 million from the county’s undesignated fund balance.
“Even though the use of funds from that fund balance is minimal in this large budget, and fund balance will still be above the minimum required by the county’s financial management policy, it would not have been needed if the State had simply met its obligation and paid the money owed to us,” Borrello noted.
The county executive added that he started working on next year’s budget staring at a $6.8 million shortfall but was able to roll that down to avoid implementing any tax increase, despite several challenges facing the county, which all primarily come from what he says are unfunded mandates from Albany.
Those mandates include reforms to the criminal justice system that will stretch our the county District attorney and public defenders office, as well as the probation department.
“Both our District Attorney and Sheriff have outlined the challenges facing county government with these new unfunded mandates in the coming year. But the State’s lack of guidance, training and funding for this new reality will create unpredictable situations and outcomes. Therefore, we must be prepared for the inevitable fallout from both a public safety standpoint and a budgetary standpoint,” Borrello said.
The board of elections also will see increased costs because of early voting reforms. In addition, Borrello said the state still has not given the county nearly $750,000 in Seneca casino revenue that it was promised – although that’s primarily due to the Seneca’s not turning there agreed portion of revenue over to the state.
The budget proposal also includes an increase of 20 new full-time jobs, but just 1.25 of them would be paid for by the local share and the rest are funded by other sources. A fourth mobile fly car is also included in the budget in order to continue to address an increased demand in EMS calls being fielded by the county.
The buget will now got to the legislature for its consideration and individual committees will begin holding budget hearings next week in Mayville.
Lawmakers have until Dec. 1 to finalize and approve next year’s budget. In recent years that have been able to get that accomplished well in advance of the deadline, typically during the October voting session.