The Chautauqua County Legislature unanimously passed the 2022 budget with a property tax and tax levy decrease.
The new property tax rate will be $8.10 per $1,000 assessed value, which is 40-cents lower than the current rate. The real property tax levy will be $66,912,293, which is $271,102 dollars lower than the current levy.
Audit and Control Chair Legislator Chuck Nazzaro thanked everyone involved in the budget process, saying County Executive PJ Wendel had presented a structurally sound budget back in September, “This budget provides property tax relief, there’s no use of undesignated fund balance, it creates a contingency account for those unexpected expenses, and meets our five-year plan.”
Legislator Terry Niebel said he supports the budget but urged some caution, “We did create 42 new positions this year. And I realize that many of these positions are 100% funded either by the state or federal government, but look, two or three years from now we’re going to have to decide how we’re going to fund these positions or if we’re going to fund these positions at all.”
The Legislature also approved via block vote 13 resolutions related to spending American Rescue Plan funds. A resolution on a new handgun project was pulled. Projects that were approved for funding included the $4.68 million to purchase a crane, two dump/plow trucks, a snow blower, and long-arm excavator. The use of $1.4 million to purchase property to turn them into shovel-ready sites as approved. The Frank W. Bratt Ag Building will receive $1.1 million for building upgrades. And over $2 million dollars will go toward economic development initiatives such as bolstering the bed tax fund, providing marketing assistance, workforce development initiatives, and funding the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth.
A resolution to spend $72,000 in ARP fund to do a study of the Jamestown Airport on bringing back Essential Air Service failed by a vote of 4 to 15.
Legislator Elisabeth Rankin voted no, saying so much work has already been done on the airport, “I am totally in favor of any infrastructure investment that will help the county. And I’ve been the beneficiary of years of flying in and out of Jamestown Airport. However, I do believe we’ve given it its chance and I think its time has come and gone. And I’m not in favor of a study, of spending money on a study that I don’t think is going to get us anywhere.”
Legislators Chuck Nazzaro, Jay Gould, and Bill Ward also voiced their opposition to spending money on another study of the airport.
Legislators did unanimously approve a contract with the the County Sheriff’s Supervisor’s Association. The contract agreement runs from January 1st, 2022 through December 31st, 2025. It includes modifications to longevity, employer and employee cost share of the health plan, the retiree cash-out benefit, the addition of a cell phone stipend of $50 per month, an increase to the clothing allowance, and a change from a three to a four step salary schedule.