MAYVILLE - County Executive Greg Edwards on Monday teased portions of his 2013 tentative budget, which includes at least $3.8 million in increased spending.
The county executive said his spending plan, if unchanged by the legislature, will have property taxes lower than its 8.25 percent 2006 rate; funding to repair roads and bridges will be restored; and the county fund balance will remain intact at its recommended level.
Beyond that, however, Edwards disclosed very little in his Monday Morning Memo regarding his budget, set to be unveiled to the legislature Wednesday evening in Mayville.
"Here in Chautauqua County we have always had a budget that was produced, debated, many times amended, but ultimately passed and implemented," Edwards said, noting the lack of a federal budget for three consecutive years.
"Due to the fact that we do multi-year budget analysis, the challenges should not be a surprise, but as a brief recap and update the budget from 2012 to 2013 was estimated a year ago to be approximately $14 million."
Early estimates had employee wages and benefits costing the county $2 million more next year, while Medicaid and retirement payments added another $1.5 million.
After vetting early drafts of the budget, Edwards said those projects are holding up.
The breakdown: Wage increases (guaranteed step increases even without a new labor contract in place) of $572,383; health insurance increases of approximately $1.35 million; and Medicare, FICA and other benefits totaling $426,316.
The county also will see its payment to the state retirement program increase as well as its Medicaid payment. All told, the county will see a $3.8 million increase in its budget next year - just over previous estimates.
"These three areas are a dramatic example of our requirement to spend almost $4 million more dollars in 2013 than in the current year," Edwards said in his memo. "These are just the tip of the iceberg when looking at areas in our county budget that are controlled by Albany."
The county executive said 90 percent of the county budget - upward of $260 million - is required by New York state.
"I really have no idea what to expect with this budget," said Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, when reached for comment. "We don't really know what we are going to have to deal with until we see it."
Barmore noted recent reconciliations and deferred revenue adjustments in this year's county budget, which netted just over $10 million. "We weren't anticipating that money so we do have that," he said.
Legislature Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, said "fiscal improvement" cannot happen overnight, and said cutting the cost of government means consolidating where necessary.
"I dread that we'll go through yet another ugly budget season, beating our chests over pennies on the dollar, and blaming Albany every step of the way when the real answer to our local budget woes is within our own control," Cornell said.
"We need a longer-term vision. Grow the tax base (and) cut the waste."
Meanwhile, Edwards is spurring residents to study his budget come Wednesday.
"... I encourage everyone to take a look a the proposed budget very carefully," he said. "Careful analysis will be an encouragement to taxpayers since I will set forth some clear opportunities for legislators as they consider their typical efforts to change my proposed spending plan."