County’s general fund millions below budgeted number

The 2018 Chautauqua County government general fund was more than $3.5 million below what was budgeted.

During a recent meeting, Chautauqua County Legislator and Audit and Control Committee Chairman Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, provided a 2018 finance report to the full legislature that didn’t paint a rosy picture. Chagnon talked about the different areas in last year’s budget where large shortfalls occurred. One shortfall was in the Health & Human Services Department where revenues were short of budget by $2,163,000 due to reimbursement rates being below budget.

“We are awaiting a comprehensive report from the department,” Chagnon said.

Chagnon said another shortfall of $1,188,000 happened in the Real Property Taxes Department due to the reclassification of delinquent taxes declared as unavailable.

“Finance is still pursuing an answer,” he said.

Another area of concern was that New York state aid was short by $725,000 as a result of the Tribal Compact revenue not being received.

“Concern remains for the 2019 Budget,” he said.

There was a second property shortfall by $668,000 due to net loss on the property tax auction, $340,000, and lower than expected interest and penalty income, $328,000.

“At this point we already anticipate $100,000 net loss on 2019 property tax auction due to a large bankruptcy involving many properties,” he said.

Chagnon informed the legislature that interfund transfer revenue was zero with a budget of $269,000 as a result of the energy plant not generating a profit.

“This will not be an issue in the 2019 budget due to the initiation of the Renewable Natural Gas project,” he said.

For the Sheriff’s Office, Chagnon said most of the revenue shortfall was related to grant revenues not received, which were offset by expenses not being incurred.

“Revenue from Stop DWI, fines and pistol permit fees were all short due to an overly optimistic budget, but 2019 budget is more realistic,” he said. “Overall, the grand total local share for the sheriff was only $85,000, or .4 percent, over budget.”

Chagnon said emergency services, excluding the Fly-Car program, revenue shortfall was related to grant revenue not received, which was offset by expenses not being incurred.

“The Fly-Car program results are progressing as anticipated in the 2019 budget, with call volume exceeding expectations, but the launch of the ambulance was delayed, with an ambulance was finally purchased last week,” he said.

The revenue shortfalls were offset by reduced expenditures and revenues above budget in areas such as sales tax and interest earnings, Chagnon said.

“We have a lot of work to do. I have set up a meeting … with the County Executive (George Borrello) and Finance Department staff to develop our action plan to address the 2018 results plus the implications for 2019,” he said.