MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said Intergovernmental Transfer funds for the County Home will put the county in a better position when it comes to the budget process for 2014-15.
Horrigan presented the Audit and Control Committee with preliminary budget projections Thursday morning, and said the county will soon receive a federal match of $3,057,565 in IGT funding from fiscal year 2013.
A county share was not included in the 2013 budget, as it would have caused a raise in property taxes, Horrigan said. Now, a 50 percent share will result in a total of $6 million in returns to the county.
"Now that we have our sale firm, we're using our reserve fund to do the match and get the money back," Horrigan said. "This ultimately will be a net gain. Now that we have it sold, the IGT funding is strictly an investment vehicle, and it ultimately will benefit the fund balance and put us in a stronger position. That's what we indicate."
The IGT funding requires a county share of $3,057,565, but is viewed as an investment, as it yields a doubled return to the nursing facility, which will return to the county budget after the sale is closed.
Additionally, Horrigan said IGT funds will be available for the 2015-16 fiscal year, as the closing of the County Home sale will not likely finalize for the remainder of fiscal year 2014.
According to a study performed by the Center for Government Research, IGT amounts available to a county are typically announced well before they are actually released, so that there are some years where no payments have flowed. These payment delays make fiscal planning challenging.
In terms of other 2015 budget numbers, Horrigan expects to maintain 2014's level of services and a sales tax growth of 1.5 percent.
As for the tax rate and levy, Horrigan said he will do anything he can to stay as close to the lower end as possible.
Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, commended Horrigan for preparing budget projections early.
"We've enjoyed years of no increases in property taxes, but eventually, and I want to say this carefully, it's going to be very difficult to maintain a zero percent property tax rate/levy, unless all of a sudden we have a lot of new development and increase our tax base," he said. "As a resident, I want to look forward and make projections."
John Runkle, R-Stockton, proposed that a special meeting be held in the coming months in order to prepare for the ensuing budget process.
"What we're going to do is present to you what we will call detailed local share breakdowns," Horrigan said. "Starting in June, every legislator will receive a book. What we need to do is work through a process where legislators have time to look into specific areas where they may want to dive deeper and get more information."
Committee members thanked Horrigan for his advanced awareness.
"We've long sought after this continuing budget process rather than going into September and having it dropped in our laps," Runkle said.
Susan Marsh, director of finance, presented the committee with a summary of significant general fund variances from 2013.
Health and Human Services is the largest part of the budget, with $4.68 million budgeted in 2013. Expenses for Social Services administration were less than budgeted, with wages and benefits making up $1.2 million of the budget.
Other areas that need to be monitored in the coming year were revenues for the County Sheriff's budget, which was $1,360,000 in 2013. However, revenues are down from what was budgeted because of fewer federal inmates.
On the bright side, revenues for police communication exceeded the allocated amount by $50,000, while expenses were less than the budget by $150,000. The local share was decreased by $200,000 in the 2014 budget.
"I want us to take a look at the local share piece," Horrigan said. "I know that's what I'll be doing."