We give a lot of credit to all those who have stuck to their guns and made this turn around possible, from The Edwards administration on through the present Horrigan administration, as well as the Legislature shift and those in support at that level.
Though there are many factors, two major ones were the maneuver with the county home and with the sales tax rate, both of which we have vehemently supported!
September 27, 2015 Post-Journal
Chautauqua County’s budget has come a long way in one year.
County Executive Vince Horrigan spent his budget address one year ago laying out a plan to eliminate the county’s $7 million structural deficit. Recurring revenues falling short of recurring expenses, Horrigan said, limited the county’s ability to provide property tax relief and invest in infrastructure. The sale of the Chautauqua County Home allowed the county to use a chunk of its fund balance to close the deficit for one year and give the county time to work on alternatives to projected double-digit tax increases in 2016 and 2017.
Fast forward a year.
The structural deficit is gone for at least one year thanks to a state-approved increase in the county’s sales tax and a 1.2 percent decrease in spending. Spending in the budget decreases 1.2 percent from $259,289,454 to $256,292,867, by transferring contractual expenses, including WIC and family planning to other providers and making further reductions in the Health and Human Services budget. Horrigan’s 2016 budget uses none of the county’s surplus while cutting the tax levy by 3 percent and the tax rate by 4.6 percent thanks to a 1.7 percent increase in the county’s taxable assessment. That’s what happens when you cut spending and grow the county economy at the same time.
All of that hard work means the county can budget to address some of its needs. The county’s 2016 budget includes more money for roads and bridges, reduces criminal justice costs by investing in two additional probation officers, which Horrigan said will increase supervision and better identify Release Under Supervision candidates; and contracts for assigned counsel with Cattaraugus County. The county also plans to add a full-time emergency services coordinator, a position needed as the county navigates challenges in the way volunteer fire departments handle EMS services.
Horrigan and his team should be proud of the work they have done in the past year, and they acknowledge there is still work to be done.
The north county water district and sewers around Chautauqua Lake are worthwhile projects that will consume a lot of time. Much of this recovery is predicated on tenuous status, thanks to a lawsuit by a competing energy company, of the NRG Dunkirk repowering. The county still needs more jobs, as evidenced by August labor statistics that show the county has lost 5,900 jobs since the start of the last recession (though, to be fair, the county has added 3,200 non-farm jobs since Jan. 1). There is still work to be done on the county’s drug problem and far too many people who need more job skills so they can be part of the labor force.
Chautauqua County has come a long way in the past year. We all know there is still a long way to go.