Is Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards purposefully repeating what he knows to be not true, or is he so ill-informed that he does not know what is going on?
He has for months been saying the county is forced to pay about $2 million from its general fund to local municipalities under a deal dating to 2007 when the county eliminated its tax on home-heating fuel.
But that is wrong, wrong, wrong.
The money does not come from the general fund - which in this context is meant to mean property tax money.
The truth is, it comes directly from sales taxes.
Under state law, whenever the county has permission from the state to collect more than the normal 3 percent sales tax, municipalities get a 20 percent share of that extra money.
Currently, the county's sales tax is 3.5 cents on the dollar. The municipalities get one-fifth of the half a penny extra that the county is collecting.
And by the way, this involves a lot of money. Every penny on the dollar in sales tax generates about $13 million in revenue.
The payment to municipalities is, in essence, a sharing of revenue dating to 2007. That was when the county wanted permission from the state to continue the county sales tax rate at what was supposed to have been a temporary rate of 4 cents on the dollar. At the same time, the County Legislature was moving to eliminate the sales tax on home heating fuel.
Recall that then-Assemblyman William Parment was not a fan of the regressive sales tax and he balked at shepherding legislation through the state Assembly requesting the 4-cent level. Eventually he compromised at a 3.75-cent local sales tax - three-quarters of a penny over the legally established 3 percent tax rate.
In addition, Parment included a clause in the state legislation that requires the county to share one-fifth of any extra amount over 3 cents with towns, villages and the cities.
As specified in other laws since, the sales tax for Chautauqua County dropped to 3.5 cents on the dollar last December, bringing the total sales tax, including the state's portion, to 7.5 percent for now. It is scheduled to drop back to the county rate of 3 percent and the state rate of 4 percent in December.
But instead of that tax cut, Edwards wants permission from the state to increase the county rate to 4.25 percent. He also wants the revenue sharing with the municipalities to end so the county can have all of the extra money. The County Legislature has agreed to ask the state for a county sales tax rate of 4 percent, but has declined to ask that the revenue sharing be eliminated.
But back to our point.
When Greg Edwards said in reference to the revenue-sharing, ''It's money we are no longer collecting,'' he was not being truthful.
In denying that revenue-sharing money comes from the extra sales taxes the county collects, Edwards has constructed a wily argument worthy of a slick defense lawyer representing a guilty defendant. We don't know whether he thinks the rest of us will stupidly believe him if he repeats it often enough, or whether he really does not understand.
Either way, the people of Chautauqua County deserve, and desperately need, better from their government.