LITTLE VALLEY — A tentative $243.3 million Cattaraugus County budget for 2019 was introduced by County Administrator Jack Searles Wednesday.

It represents an $11.3 million increase over the current budget.

The budget carries a 1.5 percent full value tax increases and complies with the state’s 2 percent tax cap, Searles told a special meeting of the County Legislature.

He proposed using $1.9 million of the county’s surplus to reduce the tax levy, $640,000 less than in the 2018 budget.

The tentative budget includes a 2.3 percent increase in the tax levy — the amount to be raised by property taxes — to $56.6 million. The full value tax rate will increase 18 cents to $12.84 per $1,000.

The City of Olean tentative tax rate would drop from the current $14.22 per $1,000 to $13.24 per $1,000.

The budget includes 15 new positions with a net county cost of $828,000, while at the same time abolishing 20 positions with a net county cost of $529,000. There are no layoffs, Searles said.

The county administrator cited three quarters of higher-than-anticipated sales tax revenues as reason for increasing the anticipated sales tax for 2019 by $1.8 million. The county anticipates almost $27 million in sales tax revenue next year.

Searles said sizeable increases in the county’s self-insured health insurance program including medical claims and prescription drugs are driving a $2.2 million increase in 2019. County employees pay a portion of the health insurance premiums.

In order to take advantage of $6.6 million in Intergovernmental Transfer payments to the county’s two nursing homes, Searles said he was budgeting $3.3 million to come from the nursing homes’ fund balances.

Searles again lamented that $39.3 million in state mandates represent nearly 70 percent of the county’s tax levy.

The county administrator said for the second year he did not include any funding for the casino-based tax immune proceeds — the state and “our neighbors, the Seneca Nation” continue to disagree on the Senecas’ obligations under the Gaming Compact.

A three-member arbitration panel is expected to hear from both sides in the matter.

Searles issued a budget schedule that includes the first committees review of departments spending today. Additional review is set for Tuesday, leading to Finance Committee review on Nov. 15. A public hearing on the budget will be held Nov. 20 at 4 p.m.

The budget’s commitment to maintaining public infrastructure includes a $21.7 million capital program. Searles said the proposed 2019 capital program includes $13.3 million for roads, bridges and culverts and $8.3 million for buildings and grounds.

An accompanying draft five-year capital program released to the Public Works Committee shows an investment increasing from $13.7 million to $15 million.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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