With blasts at Albany for ever-more unfunded mandates, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said he still managed to keep the tax rate steady in the budget for next year he presented to the County Legislature Wednesday night.
The county executive said costs are going up because of Albany changing the rules of criminal justice, raising the costs of the Board of Elections and lowering what is paid to ease the budget effect of the closing of the NRG power plant in Dunkirk.
He did propose dipping into reserves for $1 million, but Borrello said taxpayers will like the end result. He said while the tax rate stays steady, the amount the property tax will raise is slated to go up as values rise.
"My proposed budget holds the line on the tax rate, at $8.37 per $1,000, for 2020," Borrello said. "As you can also see from the chart, the tax levy will grow by 2.72%. The levy is based on the total increase in property valuation countywide. It stems from factors like property value appreciation and new construction. It's a modest, but significant growth in property valuation."
There are some increased programs, like more economic development spending, expansion of the Fly Car EMS system and one every vehcile owner knows well.
"Keeping our county roads safe to travel on during the winter requires a tremendous amount of road salt. Each year, we estimate how much is needed and budget accordingly," he said. "This season, the cost of road salt is estimated to increase from $68 to $76 per ton, which is a 12% increase. That will have a significant impact on next year's budget for road salt, especially. So we have estimated as realistically lean as we can in this budget."
Borrello's biggest blast at Albany revolved around casino cash, which has stopped flowing to local munipalities from state government because of New York's dispute with the Seneca Nation.
"Even though the dispute is ongoing, those payments are the state's obligation to municipalities and should not be affected by negotiations between the state and the Seneca Nation," said the Republican. "To date, the state is in arrears to Chautauqua County to the tune of about $2.2 million. That will increase to about $3 million next year. So, after three years of delays and broken promises, we have chosen not to budget for this funding in the coming year."
Borrello may have a different angle on these issues in the not distant future, since he is running for the State Senate seat vacated when Kathy Young resigned to take a job with Cornell University. If he is elected, someone else will govern based on Borrello's proposed budget and what the County Legislature does with it.