County is making strides
This past Wednesday I delivered my 2017 tentative budget for Chautauqua County. For the third year in a row we have cut the Chautauqua County property tax rate to a point where it is now 40 cents less than the average of all 14 counties in Western New York. What is even more important is that our fiscal discipline and careful planning enables us to look out to the year 2020 and see stable low property tax rates with a solid unobligated fund balance to maintain our A+ credit rating.
Our investment priorities for 2017 are built on three tenants. First is Public Safety. In this regard we will be implementing a self-sustaining countywide paramedic emergency medical response team to augment our volunteer fire departments in order to ensure that prompt lifesaving emergency response is available to every citizen in Chautauqua County. We will also install car cameras in our sheriff vehicles and enhance staffing at our countywide 911 dispatch center.
The second tenant is to strengthen our infrastructure. We will maintain strong funding for our highways, bridges, and heavy equipment. The good weather this past summer has enabled us to complete our construction work ahead of schedule. Now we must catch up on replacing our aging heavy equipment, which is costing us excessive repair charges and out of service time.
In addition, federal and state grant money will fund more than 90 percent of the ongoing maintenance at our two airports. This will help ensure they remain important assets, especially with Jamestown’s passenger service, to support our economic development goals.
The third tenant is access to health care. We will add staffing to ensure same day access to our Mental Health outpatient clinics to counter the drug epidemic in our communities. In addition, we will ensure our veterans receive the help they need with access to PTSD peer support and transportation to area veteran health care facilities.
What is so encouraging is that the recent gains in our tax base evident by a 2.8 percent growth rate is moving us toward our goal of reducing the tax burden even further on our individual property owners. Population growth and growth in our tax base is the key to maintaining our quality of life and economic vitality.
It is now clear that the incredible work of our economic development team is delivering job growth across all sectors of our economy from tourism and hospitality to manufacturing and agriculture.
Now that we have a solid financial strategy with demonstrated results, it is time to step on the gas as we set our sights on new opportunities for our young people to achieve good jobs with a great quality of life. Breaking ground this fall on our North Chautauqua County Water District and completing the sewer district around Chautauqua Lake are top priorities on the list ahead. Chautauqua County is on the move and this is a great time to be at the wheel. Hear the buzz; spread the word; Chautauqua County is the place to be! You can view my full budget presentation on at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/186/County-Executive.
Vince Horrigan is the Chautauqua County executive.