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County executive proposes cut in property tax rate

OBSERVER Photo by Gregory Bacon County Executive PJ Wendel presents his tentative budget to the full county legislature.

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel is again proposing a reduction in the property tax rate.

During the county legislature meeting Wednesday, Wendel officially presented his budget for 2022. In it, he is calling for a property tax rate of $8.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The current rate is $8.51.

“We intended to make our comeback stronger than our setback and we did,” Wendel said during the presentation.

The overall spending is up. According to Wendel, the county’s levy, which is the amount raised through property taxes, is about $955,000 higher than this year. Although the levy is up, Wendel said it is around $766,000 less than what the state tax cap permits.

Wendel said he is able to cut the tax rate even with a higher levy because of more money collected in sales tax, occupancy tax, as well as other funds, including savings from 2020.

Wendel believes this budget will help set up the county for the next few years. “Because we thought outside of the box (in 2020), now we can re-imagine county government, discussing the delivery of services, use of our workforce and facilities, revenue sources, a three-to-five year budget plan, a 2022 budget that’s part of our multi-year plan,” he said.

Wendel said his proposed budget does not use fund balance, “in other words, we’re not using our savings account.”

Wendel is calling for an increase in county staff employment. His proposed budget calls for a workforce of 1,210.78 full time equivalent people, up 41.75 people, from the general fund. Some of the new employees will work for the county’s health and human services, mental hygiene and the public defender’s office. “Other positions were also added due to an increase workload in public health administration, road maintenance and our district attorney’s office,” he added.

Wendel said he is proud the accomplishments the county has been able to achieve, especially during a pandemic. “This budget expands our services and programs without using unassigned fund balance,” he said.

According to Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon, county lawmakers will begin reviewing the budget during the first week in October. Any changes made during the review process will be forwarded to the legislative committees and the full legislature will likely be able to adopt the budget next month. If county lawmakers aren’t in agreement, they can delay adopting the budget until their November meeting if necessary.

In 2020, Wendel proposed a budget with a 5 cent property tax rate reduction, but the county legislature overruled his proposal and increased property taxes 5 cents per thousand to the current rate of $8.51 per $1,000 assessed value.

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