Audit and Control keeps tax reduction

Chautauqua County taxpayers are likely to see a 4 cent tax reduction to a tax rate of $8.44 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the 2018 budget.

The legislative Audit and Control Committee met Thursday to hash out the details of proposed changes to the tentative budget. The committee members heard from Public Defender Ned Barone and Sheriff Joe Gerace regarding their respective concerns.

Chairman Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said the public defender made a good case regarding why the funds for an assistant public defender’s position should be reinstated, and agreed to an equivalent decrease in the assigned counsel budget. Assigned counsel is when private lawyers are assigned by the courts to handle certain cases.

“The assigned counsel costs develop when there’s a conflict between the public defenders and when there is not a public defender available to be assigned the case,” Chagnon said. “The public defender was perfectly comfortable with that offset, which I’ll give credit to Legislator (George) Borrello for bringing up that idea.”

Due to the even swap, Chagnon said there is no proposed tax rate, leaving a decrease of 4 cents from this year to next year.

Helicopter insurance included in the Sheriff’s Office’s budget was found to be not necessary. Chagnon said taking the insurance out brought an $11,000 reduction to the budget, which would impact the tax rate by “fractions of a penny.”

Changes to the budget and will be considered by the full Legislature next week on Wednesday.

In other news, a request by the county coroners for a pay increase was discussed by the committee.

Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said he believes something should be done about the situation, but thinks it needs more study. He said he would also like a recommendation from the Public Safety and Administrative Services committees on what should be done.

Chagnon said the Public Safety Committee chairman P.J. Wendel had stated the intention was that Administrative Services and Public Safety would do more research and come up with a recommendation.

“I just don’t want this to drag out forever,” Nazzaro said.

While they would have preferred to had a recommendation before the budget was approved, Nazzaro said amends can be made later.

One of the coroners said she felt the coroners had been bounced around from committee to committee and had hoped to see an increase. Chagnon said the committee appreciates the work that the coroners do and have been doing. He said he is sorry that the process has taken a little longer than anticipated, but asked for the coroners patience as the committees attempt to find a fair recommendation for both the coroners and the taxpayers.

Nazzaro said some decision should be reached by the end of the year.

A public hearing on the 2018 budget will be held at both the 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. sessions of the legislature on Wednesday. A public hearing on the resolution increasing income limits for partial real property tax exemptions for seniors will be held at 2 p.m, and a public hearing for the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts through the Hamlet of Stow for the West Side of Chautauqua Lake will be held at 6:30 p.m.

The 2 p.m. meeting will be a normal business meeting, while the 6:30 p.m. will pertain to the budget vote. The meetings will be held at the Gerace Office Building in Mayville. For more information, visit