Cattaraugus County tax cap meeting

Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles (right) explains implications of the state’s new property tax cap on the 2012 county budget process at a special meeting of the County Legislature’s Finance Committee in Olean Thursday.

LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers would have to cut an estimated $7.3 million from the 2012 county budget in order to meet the state’s new 2 percent property tax cap.

Most members of the County Legislature’s Finance Committee were in shock after meeting in special session with County Administrator Jack Searles Thursday to hear a report on the impact of the property tax cap recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Finance Committee Chairman Jerry E. Burrell, R-Franklinville, said committees had been preparing for the passage of the property tax cap all year. “Now it’s decision time. I don’t think anyone is going to be happy. There are some serious decisions to be made.”

Mr. Burrell said afterward: “You can’t take it all out of one jar,” indicating the county’s $16 million fund balance is only one means of dealing with the property tax cap. “You are impacting services and employment” with the cuts needed to stay under the cap. “People are going to be very upset.”

Among those decisions are likely to be job cuts and more privatization of county jobs.

Lonnie Lewis, president of the 650-member Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) General Bargaining Unit, also expressed dismay at the extent of the cuts that would need to be made to the tax levy to meet the 2 percent cap.

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