MAYVILLE The potential sale of the Chautauqua County Home is beginning to take over 2013 county budget discussions.
The legislature's Adminis-trative Services Committee on Tuesday reviewed how a potential $6.3 million profit from selling the home would affect next year's $13 million budget gap.
County Executive Greg Edwards included the sale to balance his tentative budget, and has charged lawmakers with going along with the privatization or find other means to balance the gap.
OBSERVER Photo by Eric Tichy
County Executive Greg Edwards discusses his department’s budget Tuesday during a review session of the legislature’s Administrative Services Committee.
"I wouldn't have submitted my budget in the format it was if it wasn't the best thing I thought we could do for the taxpayers of Chautauqua County," Edwards said. "... I welcome whatever suggestions you have."
Legislator Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said he was in favor of selling the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility, but against using all of its profits in next year's budget.
"I just don't want to blow through that money," Nazzaro said, adding that he would prefer a portion of the money be placed in a reserve account.
Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, meanwhile, pointed out that using the $6.3 million profit in the 2013 budget would leave a $6.3 million budget gap the following year.
The county executive conceded that using the profits from the sale in one shot would leave the county with an overall $14.2 million gap in 2014.
When pressed by Cornell on future budget gaps, Edwards defended placing the sale of the home in his tentative budget.
"If you choose not to sell the County Home you can raise taxes or use the fund balance," Edwards said.
Susan Marsh, county finance director, broke down the county's unreserved undesignated fund balance.
She said if the legislature opted to use county coffers to cover the entire $6.3 million budget gap, the fund balance would be cut to $7.5 million, below the state comptroller's recommended level.
The state recommends a minimum fund balance of 5 percent of revenues, which for Chautauqua County would be $10.8 million in 2013.
The committee reviewed the county coroner's budget, projected at approximately $238,000 next year. Since 2011, the coroner's budget, which includes a local share for insurance costs, has increased over $56,000.
Legislator Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, questioned why the four part-time workers had options to a single-coverage insurance plan, although not all of them opt in.
"Well we're looking to cut anywhere we can," DeJoe said.
Legislature Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, pointed out that the county has a "hard time" finding coroners, and said providing an insurance option a portion of which is covered by the county helps recruit and retain the coroners.
However, DeJoe said the $13,000 line item adds up. "Nickels adds up to dimes, and dimes adds up to dollars," he said.
No recommendations regarding the corner's budget was forwarded to the legislature's Audit and Control Committee, which will meet Friday to discuss the budget.
Marsh said roughly two dozen bungalow owners have registered their cottages and cabins this year, many of whom came forward after the legislature in July passed an exemption period.
The local law amendment allows bungalow owners who rent out their property for 29 days or less until Dec. 31, 2013 to register without owing back payments of the county's 5 percent occupancy tax. Income from the tax is used for lake-use and tourism in the county.
Marsh said 23 residents have registered this year with the county finance department, and as a result, the county raised its occupancy tax income expectations by $25,000.
"A lot more people will register now," Marsh said of the exemption period.