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County Legislature proposes no changes to DA’s budget

MAYVILLE — No changes were made to the proposed 2020 budget for the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office during a Chautauqua County Legislature Public Safety Committee meeting.

On Wednesday, Patrick Swanson, Chautauqua County district attorney, discussed the reasons why he needs an additional one and half employees in next year’s budget. Last week, Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, during an Audit and Control Committee budget meeting proposed cutting the DA’s office employees by half a position.

Swanson said the new part-time narcotics investigator proposed in the 2020 DA’s budget will especially be needed next year because of the new cashless bail reform passed by the state Legislature. He said because people charged with drug offenses will be given an appearance ticket and released — instead of going to jail and possibly going through drug court — there will be more offenders on the street than in the past. He also said the investigator will also assist assistant district attorney’s with the new 15-day discovery law that starts next year.

“It will be a real benefit to keep that position in the budget,” Swanson said.

The proposed DA’s budget also includes funding for an additional assistant district attorney. Swanson said the office’s caseload dictates the need for additional staff.

“We really need these positions,” he said.

Robert Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, said additional staff seems needed because of the new criminal justice reform laws starting at the beginning of 2020.

The legislature is scheduled to vote on the 2020 proposed budget at its voting session Wednesday. Prior to the vote, legislators can still propose changes to the budget.

The proposed tax levy in the tentative budget is $64,228,957, an increase of $2,317,810, or 3.7%. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finances, the tax levy is the amount raised through property taxes.

The proposed tax rate will increase 8 cents, or 1%, to $8.46 per $1,000 assessed property value. According to the state Department of Taxation and Finances, the tax rate is determined by dividing the tax levy by the total taxable assessed value of all property in a jurisdiction.

In other business, the committee approved the contract agreement reached with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Employees’ Association. Jessica Wisniewski, county human resources director, said the union is for corrections officers, full- and part-time. She said 128 employees are in the bargaining group. She added the last contract with the union expired at the end of 2017.

Wisniewski said the new contract includes a payment for each full-time employee of $900 and $400 for part-time workers for 2018. She said there will be a 2% retroactive pay increase for 2019. For 2020-2023, each employee will receive a 3% pay increase each year.

Changes in employee health insurance included adjusting to a high deductible plan that will save the county between $342,000 to $405,000 in the years 2021-2023, Wisniewski said. For the first year of the new contract in 2020, employees will not have to contribute to the health insurance premium. In 2021-2023, union members will pay 10% of the health insurance premium.

Wisniewski also said that part-time employees will no longer be part of the health insurance plan. She said in past contracts, part-time employees who worked 1,040 hours or more could be included in the plan.

Kitty Crow, county finance director, said the expected increase in sales tax revenues for this year will cover the additional cost associated with the new contract in the 2020 budget.

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