MAYVILLE - The sale of the Chautauqua County Home, and its $6.3 million in revenue, is out of the 2013 tentative budget. Beyond that, not much has changed after a week's worth of budget sessions in Mayville.
The legislature's Audit and Control Committee, which oversees all budget negotiations, approved three changes to County Executive Greg Edwards' spending plan.
Aside from removing the sale of the 216-bed Dunkirk nursing home, the committee approved a $50,000 grant for the county Department of Health and OK'd $230,000 in spending for new equipment in the public facilities department.
All other spending in next year's $229.7 million budget currently remains intact.
"I believe after a week's worth of legislators working on it, it shows my budget was very tight and lean," Edwards told the OBSERVER last week. "Like I've been saying, I do these budgets every year with my finance team (in advance) so I knew what we were looking at."
Several legislators said after a few years of cuts to county departments, not much is left to reduce.
"I've only been around for a few years, but I don't recall where there wasn't much cut in the budget," said Audit and Control Chairman John Runkle, R-Stockton. "I will say, Edwards did submit a very good budget."
"I can recall it being like this maybe four or five years ago. We went through the committees and not much happened," added legislature chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville:
Gould, who said as chairman he tries "not to get too involved" in budget review sessions, noted there isn't much left in next year's spending plan to trim.
"We would have to do away with some programs, and we really don't want to do that," Gould said. "But I was surprised not a lot was cut this year. I thought more would be cut."
The biggest change in the tentative budget came last week, when the Audit and Control Committee unanimously voted to take out revenue from the sale of the County Home.
To make up the $6.3 million in revenue from the sale, the committee approved raising property taxes by $1 million. The tax rate, if left unchanged, would increase 18 cents to $9.40 per $1,000 assessed value.
According to Susan Marsh, county finance director, the increase in property taxes pushes the county up to its 2 percent tax cap. The balance of the gap - $5.2 million - would come from the county fund balance.
In the meantime, more cuts to the budget may come once on the legislature floor.
"I will caution that political positions may come up when they vote on this," Edwards said. "I've seen it before. I am encouraged by the results (of the budget sessions) but the politics haven't happened yet. You can quote me on that."
The county executive on Tuesday noted that savings from the sale of the County Home would continue after its initial sale. In his Monday Morning Memo, released Tuesday due to the holiday, Edwards referenced a July special meeting of the legislature, where Mark Myers of the marketing firm Marcus and Millichap outlined two offers on the home.
"Some people are worried that the sale of the County Home will only result in a one-time savings for the county," Edwards said. "But this is untrue."
Edwards said the sale of the County Home would save the county upward of $50 million to $60 million over the next 10 years. The savings come from placing the facility "back on the tax rolls."
The county executive said the county could see a $300,000 annual property tax payment if the County Home were sold to Altitude Health Services Inc., which offered $16.5 million in cash for the facility.
"For many of us it is hard to adapt to something new when we have grown so used to and comfortable with current operations," Edwards said.
"If the County Home does sell, our County Home residents and employees will be put in the position to adapt, but the services to our elderly will still continue and even strengthen and expand."