Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel said the county is “on the precipice of greatness” in his State of the County address.
Wendel said the 2022 contribution to the general fund balance was $19.4 million, “This contribution is created in part by holding our teams to fiscally responsible budgets, an increase in the tax foreclosure auction, an overdue settlement of the tribal compact, as well as continued success in our sales tax revenue. With the work of our fiscal team and my guidance, we’ve been able to provide a tax rate reduction for the last two years, totaling 71-cents per thousand while maintaining the ability to provide contributions to the fund balance.”
Wendel said the fund balance contributions over the last three years have met and exceeded recommended levels under the five-year financial management plan.
He said there were record investments in the county in 2022, “The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency reported 50 approved projects with a combined total of $501 million of committed investments. The committed investments will create nearly 300 new jobs, retain an additional 774 existing jobs, and create construction projects and construction jobs throughout our county.”
Wendel also cited the restructuring of the Department of Mental Hygiene with the Department of Social Services, that included the separating of the Department of Health out as a separate department. He also recognized the Sheriff Department‘s new Unsolved Cases Teams that has resulted in new leads on homicides and missing persons cases.
Securing state and federal funds for the phase two expansion of the West Side South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District, was another highlight for Wendel, “I remain committed to improving our water and sewer infrastructure around Chautauqua Lake. And this phase two will divert an estimated 62 million gallons of wastewater a year to the proper wastewater treatment facilities.”
Wendel said he’s continuing to advocate for healthcare in the north county, including contacting Governor Kathy Hochul‘s office to push for funding to be released for the Brooks Memorial Hospital project.
He also said the county and Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency are working on creating a 150 acre shovel ready industrial site in the western part of the county.
Wendel cited record inflation, unfunded state mandates like Medical Assistance Treatment at the County Jail, as well as the possible clawback of over $4 million in Enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages in the proposed state budget as challenges facing Chautauqua County.