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It’s time to level the playing field

March 12, 2015
Westfield Republican

Dear Editor,

As I travel Chautauqua County and talk to home and business owners the number one complaint I hear is about high property taxes. In an effort to do our part relating to the County portion of property tax, I turned to the findings and recommendations compiled by my independent deficit reduction commission. It was interesting to see that over the past ten years Chautauqua County taxpayers saw only a 1.7% increase when looking at property and sales tax revenues combined over the past decade. So what has happened??

A closer examination of the two sources of revenue clearly paints the picture. While the average sales tax rate of our neighboring Western New York Counties has held at 8%, New York State imposed a targeted reduction of Chautauqua County's sales tax rate to 7.5%. The control of the sales tax rate was removed from our local Government elected officials who were then left with only two ways to maintain basic services due to the loss of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues. The first was to increase the property tax component to the current level where it has risen to 72 cents per thousand higher than our neighboring Counties. The second was to keep drawing down our savings reserves from $29M down to our current level of $13M. So now what?

This month I will sponsor a resolution to seek permission from NYS to allow our local elected representatives to set our County sales tax rate up to 8% (4% local share) which is the average rate that our neighboring Counties currently have. Once approved, this request will accomplish three very important outcomes that will benefit Chautauqua County residents.

First, an 8% sales tax rate will achieve a structurally balanced County budget where basic services and roads and bridges infrastructure will be maintained. Second, we will be able to lower, that's right lower, our County property tax levy between $1-2M and move toward a more competitive rate with our neighbors in WNY, with the goal of keeping and attracting current and new homeowners and businesses. Third, we will be able to maintain a minimum of 5% reserves to preserve our favorable bond rating and have sufficient funds on hand for unexpected emergencies. Just to be clear, my proposal will keep the $105 sales tax exemption in place as well as zero sales tax on residential energy.

It is time for Chautauqua County to operate on a level playing field with our neighboring Counties. It is time for real property tax relief. It is time for our residents to get a break and have our non-residents help out with funding for the costs of roads and bridges and public safety. We must do this now and preserve the basic services that our residents need and deserve. The time is now and NYS needs to give Chautauqua County local control.

Vince Horrigan, Chautauqua County Executive

 
 
 

 

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