MAYVILLE - Larry Barmore doesn't want to live in a county where services for seniors, youth and veterans aren't provided.
Early on in the County Legislature's budget discussions Wednesday, the Gerry Republican spoke about such services as being worth their cost.
In his comments, Barmore pointed out that for all the county provides, it's not the biggest percentage on a property owner's tax bill.
"We keep hearing about streamlining services in the county and getting a bigger bang for the buck," Barmore said. "But you know what? I look back and that's exactly what we've been doing for years.
Specifically, Barmore cited the county having taken over the Jamestown and Dunkirk airports, the landfill, maintenance of bridges, 911 services and Jamestown transit, which is now CARTS.
"Our departments are getting leaner and leaner," Barmore said. "We've consolidated departments and department heads. We've consolidated responsibilities over the years and we've just about got to the point where there's not a whole lot more consolidating to do. I realize people want to see their taxes lowered, but they're barking up the wrong tree when they look at the county.
"I pulled out my tax bill the other day," Barmore continued, "and I was surprised to find that just a shade over 50 percent of my property taxes went to support my school. Over 20 percent went to my town. ... Only 11.56 percent went to the county for everything that we do, all the services that we provide for all the people in this county.
Following up on his comments, Barmore said on Thursday that he wasn't picking on schools - he was simply pointing out where his tax dollars go.
"All the different services the county has taken over from localities over the years," Barmore said. "We've added those expenses, but we continue to streamline the government with fewer employees for fewer dollars. So even though we are forced to raise taxes this year, 50 cents of that tax rate is directly attributable to Bill Parment taking our .25 percent of sales tax away.
After hours of input from the public and department heads, as well as discussion by individual legislators, a 2011 budget was approved by the legislature Wednesday. The spending plan includes a 72 cent increase to the county's property tax rate, which will take the rate from $8.18 on every thousand dollars of taxable property to $8.90. The county tax levy will increase by $4,834,739 to a total of $54,598,392.
"Unfortunately, New York state's put all these unfunded mandates on us," Barmore said Thursday. "And if you go back and average the last five years, taxes are lower now than they were in 2006, even though they did have to go up this year.
Barmore then went on to reiterate his point that he does not want to live in a county in which services for the elderly, the young and veterans are not provided.
Similarly, during the Wednesday night meeting, Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, said that though he considers himself fiscally conservative, there are some services which people deserve.
"I feel that longtime residents of the county who have paid their dues, worked hard and defended our country (deserve certain services)," Heenan said. "However, what I do want to say though, is that there is going to come a time when I'm not sure where the money is going to come from anymore. People are not leaving Chautauqua County because their taxes are going down. We need to find solutions.
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