MAYVILLE - A county legislator is calling for fiscal responsibility regarding a recent surplus in the county's undesignated fund balance.
It's a message County Executive Greg Edwards has been touting since February.
Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, spoke on the $10 million in recent reconciliations during an Audit and Control Committee meeting Thursday - a day after a resolution to front $200,000 of that revenue was pitched and defeated in committee for Chautauqua Lake waterways.
Instead, lawmakers will vote next week to appropriate $30,000 to the Chautauqua Lake Association from the county's 2 percent Occupancy Tax Lakes and Waterways Emergency Fund. The revenue is contingent on matching funds from the CLA.
"I want to go on the record as to maintain as much of that money as possible to help the county," DeJoe said, noting that there has been a "feeding frenzy" for county spending during recent surpluses.
"... We're in dire straits here and we're not going to come out of it for a while," he continued. "We need to do what is right."
During a Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday, Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, pushed a resolution that sought $200,000 for the immediate and long-term maintenance for Chautauqua Lake.
Cornell said taxpayers deserved "every penny" of the surplus in regards to funding her legislation, and said her resolution was not designed to waste county funds.
When asked to comment on her resolution being called "irresponsible," Cornell said, "That's the exact opposite intention. I am working very hard to be as responsible of a legislator as possible by protecting one our community's most precious natural and economic resources. I strongly agree that we must return that $10 million dollars to the taxpayers of Chautauqua County. With 26 percent of our tax base and a large part of our tourism draw based around Chautauqua Lake, the proposed expenditure provides a strong and likely return. This is an investment we can't afford not to make."
Edwards, meanwhile, alluded to next year's projected budget shortfall of $12 million to $13 million, and said without a recurring revenue stream, the county simply cannot dip into its fund balance for non-emergent items.
"One of the things that was frustrating about Lori Cornell's resolution was that she intended to spend $200,000 of this money that is not recurring," Edwards said. "If every legislator followed Cornell, that would have been $5 million of the moneys that we need for next year."
The county executive said without gauging the financial need or impacts, resolutions that call for excessive fund balance spending simply become a "press releases."
"That's what they are, press releases," Edwards said. "They make good press but they don't help."