CHAUTAUQUA - A local law "to override the limit on the amount of real property taxes that may be levied by the Town of Chautauqua" was unanimously approved by the town board at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 13.
The action follows a decision by the Chautauqua County Finance Department to shift certain workmen's compensation costs from the county to local municipalities, according to Town Supervisor Don Emhardt. Thus such costs will appear on the town part of tax bills rather than, as in the past, on the county side making it appear the town budget has ballooned.
"Our (2013) budget is blown ... that's it in a nutshell," Emhardt said during a public hearing, which preceded passage of the new local law.
Emhardt estimates the cost shift will add about $140,000 to the town's tax burden. The tax levy limit would allow less than a $4,000 increase and thus became meaningless, the supervisor had noted at the board's July session.
If the county doesn't use the cost shift to raise additional money, total tax bills will remain unchanged, according to board member Dave Ward. That's because the county's part of property tax bills will reflect lower workmen's compensation costs. However, Ward noted, if the county increases other spending, tax bills will go up proportionately.
Since the cost shift leaves the county with more room to operate, it will have more leeway under the tax cap law, Ward explained. Meanwhile, it will seem to tax payers that local municipalities have greatly increased spending, he added.
Emhardt said the accounting of New York's property tax cap is still not certain and subject to frequent changes.
In other matters, the town board heard from residents of a neighborhood around Elmwood Road and Fisherman's Lane, which was alleged to be a nest of female and child abuse, drug dealing, disorderly behavior and general squalor. Residents had appeared at the board's July session telling of the various problems and the alleged failure by law enforcement and county agencies to properly address them.
At the latest board meeting, the same residents said they had met with law enforcement and county officials and now believe certain remedies are already in place or will be shortly.
Board member Jim Kurtz reported details of the first of at least three fact-finding meetings concerning a proposed new 34-acre town park, which would be on a parcel behind the old high school building. Kurtz said the meeting "was very preliminary," but participants suggested a picnic shelter, hiking trail and a dog walking area.