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Letters to the Editor

Building a strong Chautauqua County

May 8, 2015
Westfield Republican

By Vince Horrigan

County Executive

In my February State of the County presentation I explained in detail the current financial picture of Chautauqua County and my plan to put us on a path of solvency with lower property taxes going forward. The first step in the get well plan was the successful sale of the former Chautauqua County Home, which occurred on December 31, 2014. After paying off the facility capital improvement debt, closing costs, and accounting for employee legacy costs associated with the closing of this line of county government services, we will net approximately $14 million when the County Home enterprise account is closed and moved to the general fund balance. This important first step stabilized the property tax rate for 2015, maintained our minimum fund balance to preserve our A-1 bond rating, and gave us time to address our $6 million structural deficit problem. If the sale had not occurred, the county would have been facing the ugly reality of depleted reserves and would have required a double digit property tax increase.

The second step in our financial solvency plan is our home rule request to adjust our tax revenue structure by raising the sales tax by .5% (still maintaining the clothing and residential energy exemption) with a corresponding 3% reduction in property taxes in 2016 and 2017. This important step was a key recommendation of our Deficit Reduction Commission and will be how we address our structural deficit where our reoccurring expenses are greater than our reoccurring revenues. The successful adoption of this legislation will eliminate our current $6 million structural deficit and put this county on a road to lower property taxes to retain and attract new businesses and home owners. Property taxes in Chautauqua County are the number one complaint that I hear from our residents. In fact, Chautauqua County's property tax rates are 72 cents per thousand higher than the average of our Western New York counties and 76% higher than Erie County's tax rate. Lower property taxes are a key element of growing our tax base and creating new economic development. The end result will be continued opportunities to lower property taxes through growth.

The third step in our road to financial security involves the analysis and implementation of key Deficit Reduction Commission recommendations to further reduce the cost of County Government. The specific cost reduction initiatives will be analyzed and presented to the legislature this summer to ensure that essential services and infrastructure investments are provided in the most cost effective means possible.

As your County Executive, I am committed to leading us on a path to growth through responsible financial budgeting over a five -year strategy that grows this county and lowers our property taxes for all of us who live, work, and play in Chautauqua County.

To view my 2015 State of the County address, visit .



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