A copy of the 2024 Tentative Executive Budget presentation is available to view here: 2024 Presentation - Tentative Budget
MAYVILLE, NY – Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel’s 2024 Tentative Executive Budget, outlined on Wednesday night, features a tax rate decrease while responding to continued unfunded Federal and State Mandates.
Wendel presented his proposed spending plan during the full County Legislature meeting in Mayville, NY, outlining his administration’s targets, goals, challenges, advantages and accomplishments in the 2024 budget.
“This 2024 budget reflects my strategy and vison,” said Wendel. “We continue to provide services and programs at the highest level possible. With our State’s tax cap limit in the current economy, this is no easy task. The County budgeting strategy allows us to attain our goals in both sales and occupancy tax. Over the last three years we have exceeded our Sales and Occupancy tax budgets. As a result, this has allowed us to continue expansion of travel and tourism initiatives.”
There are several capital investments included in the fiscal plan, including the purchase of heavy equipment, upgrades to the Department of Public Facilities Sheridan Shop, renovations to county salt sheds and continued bus upgrades for CHQ Transit.
“There will also be investments at SUNY Jamestown Community College, with upgrades and renovations to create a better learning space for students, including cost efficient LED lighting,” continued Wendel.
Information Technology updates and public safety investments, featuring the purchase of a new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) fill station at the Taylor Training Center in Jamestown, were also announced.
(Image by James Feldmann / Chautauqua County Government)
Wendel explained a large portion of the budget is beyond the county’s control. According to the New York State Association of Counties, approximately 80% of Chautauqua County’s budget goes towards state and federally mandated services and programs.
“So what are some of these unfunded mandates? Medicaid, assigned counsel pay rates, foster care pay and adoption subsidy increases, mandated medical services, New York State Retirement increases and cybersecurity requirements are just a few of the unfunded mandates that Chautauqua County has been burdened with,” explained Wendel. “Thankfully, our representatives in the state legislature, Senator George Borrello and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, understand how crippling these mandates can be for the county and are constant advocates on our behalf.”
The County Executive cited newly leased office spaces as one way his administration has reduced costs. Specifically, the newly opened Social Service Office on Lucas Avenue in Dunkirk is expected to save the county nearly $1 million dollars over the duration of its lease.
The county-wide property valuation increased approximately 16%, an overall total of $10.3 billion. Since the valuation increased more than the levy, this is good news for the tax rate.
“Recently in Chautauqua County, houses have sold above assessed prices, thus raising the assessed values of properties within our county,” said Wendel. “It is evident that what we are doing here in Chautauqua County is working. Our community members want to open businesses, purchase homes, and raise their families right here in Chautauqua County.”
As a result, Wendel’s proposed tax rate in 2024 is $6.91 — 89 cents below last year’s rate.
“This is my fourth budget as County Executive and the fourth year I am proposing a decrease in the tax rate,” Wendel explained. “Not to mention, this is also the fourth consecutive year Chautauqua County has been at or below the state mandated tax cap. I am proud to announce since my time in office, the tax rate has been reduced by $1.65.”
(Image by James Feldmann / Chautauqua County Government)
The last time Chautauqua County’s tax rate was this low, was in 1982.
“According to the 2020 U.S Census, approximately 45% of county residents were not even born the last time our tax rate was this low,” said Wendel. “Ronald Reagan was President, unleaded gasoline cost was $1.31 a gallon, a gallon of milk was a $1.79 and a dozen of eggs cost $0.67.”
The County Executive also provided an update on sales tax receipts, reporting that trends this year continued to demonstrate a strong post-pandemic recovery. Furthermore, in fiscal year 2024, Wendel budgeted just over $2 million in anticipated occupancy tax receipts.
Since tourism and the county’s natural assets go hand-in-hand, Executive Wendel announced a new initiative to fund lake maintenance.
“In 2024, I am introducing the assignment of $1 million in the general fund balance to establish funding to assist local organizations with lake maintenance,” Wendel announced. “This funding will remain available to finance lake maintenance projects throughout Chautauqua County without any fiscal year limitation. This gives us the opportunity to fund additional lake projects. I would like to emphasize that this fund is not solely dedicated to Chautauqua Lake.”
In the end, Wendel highlighted how his 2024 Tentative Budget furthers his vision, experience, and commitment to work across the aisle for the betterment of Chautauqua County.
“The financial ramifications of financial stability, bringing the right people at the right time for the right direction to guide us through the challenges and opportunities, while at the same time being ever aware of the cost to provide services to county residents,” concluded Wendel. “I am confident under this administration and the dedication of teamwork, the decision we continue to make in 2024 will significantly enhance our investment in Chautauqua County’s future for generations to come. This is my continued commitment.”
Starting next month, legislators will begin their review, meeting with department heads and determining if any additional modifications are needed.
A copy of the County Executive’s 2024 Tentative Budget Presentation, and a recording Wendel’s address, is available online at CHQGov.com/2024Budget.