MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards will not be vetoing any changes made to his 2013 tentative county budget, which saw a flurry of amendments approved last week by the legislature.
As a result, the spending plan will take effect next year.
The county executive contemplated nixing the removal of $250,000 of local aid to the Chautauqua County Home, which would have been matched by the federal government. Edwards eventually decided to go with the spending plan overwhelmingly approved by the legislature.
"Any veto would result in another month long series of committee meetings, and another legislature meeting where a vote of 17 legislators would override the veto," Edwards said in a letter to legislators Friday evening. "Therefore, my veto of this action is not a valuable use of time or energy."
Although presented as a break for taxpayers by several legislators, the county executive said no actual cuts were made to his $230 million tentative budget.
"I think the most revealing thing to note, and the legislature confirmed it, is that my budget was an excellent budget," Edwards said. "Because after a month of working on it, they didn't cut a single thing."
"These are difficult decisions," he continued. "I was encouraged by the work during the analysis phase and the presentations by my department leaders. In the critical reviews, I thought the work up to that point was very good. Unfortunately a lot of that good work was changed at the last second."
Edwards said he is still "working through" amendments passed last week that lowered the county tax rate next year. The changes include increasing projected revenue from sales tax and reimbursements to the county Department of Social Services.
If projections come in lower than anticipated, the county would make up the difference from its fund balance, said Susan Marsh, county finance director.
The county executive said he consulted with state officials when developing projections for sales tax revenue. Lawmakers, however, felt those projections were too modest. The legislature approved an amendment increasing revenue from sales tax $320,000 more than in Edwards' spending plan.
Increasing the revenue accounts will lower the county tax rate next year to $9.14 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The tax rate currently is at $9.22. The tax levy, meanwhile, will go from $61.647 million this year to $62.136 million next year.
By comparison, the county executive in his 2013 tentative budget had a tax rate of $9.25 and tax levy of $62.947 million.
"It's all projected revenue," Edwards said. "I believe what transpired (in the legislature last week) demonstrates that my budget work was rock-solid and was dead on."
Meanwhile, the sale of the Chautauqua County Home and its $6.5 million income was not included in next year's budget, as was proposed by Edwards in his tentative budget. To make up its revenue, lawmakers agreed to take out more from the county fund balance - a move that was cautioned by budget officials.
"They didn't cut anything. I don't know what their thoughts were," Marsh said recently. "I'm not sure where the money is coming from, but it's not how I would have done it."
In related news, the county executive said contract negotiations for the sale of the County Home have been going "very well."
The legislature earlier this month approved legislation allowing Edwards to begin formal talks with Altitude Health Services Inc. regarding a potential sale, which will require a two-thirds, supermajority vote by legislators for passage.
"It's been going very well," Edwards said. "I'm very pleased where we are at the moment."
Lawmakers may have the opportunity to vote on the contract next month, although it's unlikely, Edwards said. "It's possible, but December looks more likely for review," he said.
According to Kitty Crow, county budget director, any revenue from the sale of the County Home would most likely be recorded as a surplus in the budget. If the contract with Altitude Health is approved, the legislature would simply amend the budget to include the income; the tax levy would not be affected, Crow said.