MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County’s Executive unveiled his 2020 tentative budget Wednesday night during the Legislature meeting, a spending plan that keeps the tax rate the same but raises the tax levy.
Executive George Borrello says the tax levy will see a 2.72 percent increase.
Borrello said the budget started with a million-dollar deficit due to new unfunded mandates passed by New York State; including the elimination of cash bail and other criminal justice reforms.
“Not only will the State’s cashless bail plan force the release of criminals onto our streets – with nothing but an appearance ticket – it will create an unnecessary burden on county government,” said Borrello. “When those accused don’t show up for their court dates, our county law enforcement officials are responsible for bringing them in for trial. Sheriff Jim Quattrone has stated that he will need a ‘warrant squad’ to accomplish that requirement.”
Borrello said in addition to cashless bail, the new rules for discovery will effect the District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department.
“According to our DA, Patrick Swanson, currently only 20% of cases require full discovery and it is typically completed over the course of months,” said Borrello. “Now, with these new mandates, 100% of cases will require discovery and it must be turned over within 15 days. This will mean hundreds of hours of additional work that must be completed in a compressed timeframe and – you guessed it – without any financial support from the State.”
Borrello said despite beginning the 2020 budget process with a 6.8 million dollar gap, he reduced the amount of undesignated fund balance needed to close the gap to only a million dollars. The funds needed fill that gap are coming from the county’s fund balance that acts like a savings account.
“As the year progressed, revenue shortfalls appeared and we made further modifications and operating cuts to the 2019 budget,” said Borrello. “As a result, we went into the 2020 budget with no surplus funds to carry over to start us off.”
He said even though the levy is going up, the county tax rate remains lower than it was 13 years ago.
“If we go back to 2006, you’ll see that we had a property tax rate of $9.49 per thousand,” said Borrello. “Also, our sales tax rate was higher than it is now at 8.25%. Also, in 2006 we did not have sales tax exemptions for clothing or home fuel like we do currently. Yet despite all of that, our tax rate today is about a $1.12 per thousand lower than it was 13 years ago.”
Borrello also touted success in the county’s CARTS bus service, EMS Fly-Car system, the cleanup of Chautauqua Lake and expansion of the county building’s parking lot.