MAYVILLE - County taxpayers have reached their tipping point, Todd Tranum told lawmakers Wednesday evening.
In specific, Tranum spoke on behalf of businesses and manufacturers in his comments to the legislature. Tranum is president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier.
With the tentative 2012 budget having gone online Monday afternoon, Tranum and others were able to address the details of the proposal before County Executive Greg Edwards had proposed the spending plan to the legislature.
"I'm here just to say, point blank, we can't afford any increase in property taxes," Tranum said. "We are opposed to the tax cap override and we hope that it either stay stabled or does not come back up for discussion."
Edwards has proposed a 12.67 percent tax increase from 2011 in the tentative 2012 budget. Under the 2 percent tax cap, the county is only allowed to increase the local levy a total of $2,219,676 - putting the proposal a total of $5,384,038 over the allowable increase.
In order to raise the levy by a total of $7,603,714, the legislature would have to approve an override of the state's 2 percent tax cap. To do that will require 15 votes from the lawmakers.
County lawmakers listen to a member of the public during their regular September business meeting.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
A 12.67 percent increase translates to a tax hike of $1.13 per thousand, which would take the county's property tax rate to $10.03.
"We understand your dilemma," Tranum said Wednesday. "I think we all understand that these are very, very difficult and challenging times for the county, and it's going to take a combination of cuts and some significant changes in Albany to get through this."
Tranum continued on to say that the situation the county's currently in wasn't brought on by just one individual or administration or political party.
"I think we all recognize that this is an accumulation of years and years and years of not taking on some of the challenges we needed to when we had the opportunity to. We're in this together. And please, don't believe that's lost on us. The challenges you have, and we do appreciate the time you spend here and the work you do to try and resolve these issues. But we're at a tipping point. This is it. We can no longer put tax increases and increased revenue to the county coffers on the shoulders of county taxpayers."
Also in his comments, Tranum spoke of the county needing to make significant changes. He spoke of consolidating school districts and consolidating municipalities and the role which the county can take in facilitating those discussions. He also spoke of needing to have" the hard discussions" with local municipalities.
"This body also needs to have a serious conversation with the municipalities around the sales tax revenue," Tranum said. "Think about the last 40 years, what the county has taken on its shoulders - Department of Social Services, countywide law enforcement, landfills, airports, roads and bridges. That's cost a lot of money. Did the county get compensated for that? I don't think so."
On the issue of Medicaid, Tranum said the Chamber and the Manufacturers Association stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the county leaders on the idea of not sending the state its weekly check.
"Think of what we could be doing with that money for the people of Chautauqua County and the taxpayers of Chautauqua County," Tranum said. "It's time we take a stand. We're here as a business community to support you in that stand. But it's time. We've got to stand up and make our case."