Cattaraugus County tentative 2020 budget tops $250 million with tax rate drop

LITTLE VALLEY — A $250.6 million tentative Cattaraugus County budget was presented Wednesday with a lower tax levy and lower full value tax rate.

Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles said spending increased by about $7 million from the current budget, but that the tax levy is down more than $2 million.

“The levy is still $3.3 million below the state property tax cap,” Searles explained.

One of the forces driving the county budget this year are the increased county assessment, he noted.

Ashford is up 8.27%, Mansfield is up 6.39%, Little Valley is up 6.24%, Conewango is up 5.39% and the city of Salamanca also increased. Countywide, assessments were up $91.6 million to $4.5 billion.

Searles pointed out that about 20 municipalities are facing higher taxes because the assessors in those towns failed to keep current with assessments. Last year it was only 10 municipalities that saw a big change in their equalization rates.

Searles acknowledged increasing the amount of funds from the surplus or fund balance to reduce the tax levy. In 2019, $1.9 million in surplus was used to reduce the tax levy. This coming year, Searles is proposing to double that to $3.8 million.

The state sets the equalization rate each year based on property sales. This year, municipalities that kept their assessments current at 100% saw a 3.99% drop in their tax rate.

The greatest tax rate increase came in the city of Salamanca, where it rose 3.63% to $78.53 per $1,000 on full value. The biggest decrease was in Perrysburg, where a revaluation sparked a 9.48% drop in the tax rate to $17.65 per $1,000.

The budget calls for a $55.4 million tax levy. The full value tax rate will decrease from $12.89 per $1,000 to $12.33 per $1,000, a 51-cent drop, or 3.9 percent.

Searles said the top 10 state mandates ranging from Medicaid ($19.5 million) to community college chargebacks ($2.5 million) and the public assistance safety net ($2.4 million) are programs the county has no control over. That is about $39.5 million of the county’s tentative $55.4 million tax levy.

Searles said he proposed to spend $3.1 million in county funds to obtain $6.3 million in intergovernmental transfer (IGT) funding for the county’s two nursing homes.

The greatest pressure on appropriations for the 2020 budget are coming from public safety and policy issues, health care, and being able to better forecast revenues and expenditures.

The budget includes 16 new positions — 12 full-time and four part-time — but abolishes 12 positions, six full-time and part-time posts.

Review of the tentative county budget by County Legislature committees starts next week.

The tentative 2020 town and city tax rates and percent changes are:

Allegany — $12.33, -3.99%

Ashford — $24.66, 1.77%

Carrollton — $15.22, 1.94%

Coldspring — $12.33, -3.99%

Conewango — $22.42, -.05%

Dayton — $12.33, -3.99%

East Otto — $12.58, -2.03%

Ellicottville — $12.64, -2.51%

Farmersville — $12.33, -3.99%

Franklinville — $20.23, 0.73%

Freedom — $12.33, -3.99%

Great Valley — $12.84, -4.99%

Hinsdale — $13.55, -3.99%

Humphrey — $14.34, -1.75%

Ischua — $13.55, -3.99%

Leon — $13.55, -2.93%

Little Valley — $19.27, 2.01%

Lyndon — $12.33, -3.99%

Machias — $12.84, -2.99%

Mansfield — $12.92, 0.64%

Napoli — $13.70, -2.92%

New Albion — $20.90, 0.89%

Olean (city) — $13.12, -0.93%

Olean (town) — $17.13, -2.66%

Otto — $12.84, -2.99%

Perrysburg — $17.65, -9.48%

Persia — $17.87, 1.58%

Portville — $13.12, -5.01%

Randolph — $15.61, -3.99%

Red House — $12.33, -3.99%

Salamanca (city) — $78.53, 3.63%

Salamanca (town) — $14.17, -2.89%

South Valley — $17.12, -3.99%

Yorkshire — $83.64, 22.36%

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)