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Cattaraugus County budget change reflected in Ashford

BY: Jessie Owen | November 21, 2012

ASHFORD — The Ashford Town Board announced, during its Nov. 14 meeting, that it planned to send a letter to Cattaraugus County, expressing concern with and opposition to a new county law that would directly affect the town’s budget.

Budget Officer Bill King told the board, in a letter, that Cattaraugus County had “moved to transfer the worker’s compensation insurance payments to the towns, for direct payment to the county self-insurance plan.”

According to Town Clerk Patricia Dashnaw, the county had historically covered the cost of this insurance. Ashford was then informed about how much its portion of the coverage had been. “When they were collecting taxes, they made sure they collected enough to cover it,” she said, of Cattaraugus County’s prior practice.

During the county’s attempt to stay below the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap, it was decided that the county needed to focus its funding in other places, so the responsibility for this insurance was passed on to the municipalities.

Ashford was recently sent a bill greater than $63,000 for its share of the insurance, due Jan. 31. “For a town the size of Ashford, that’s a huge chunk,” Dashnaw said, and King told the board that its preliminary budget would need to be amended, to include this charge. “We did not have this covered in the preliminary budget,” he added.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with this, if [Cattaraugus County] would lower county taxes by an equal amount,” Town Supervisor Chris Gerwitz said. Dashnaw agreed, adding, “Either way, the taxpayers are paying for this. But if the county isn’t going to be paying this anymore, the board thinks our county taxes should go down by that amount. The taxpayers shouldn’t see it at all.”

Board Member Charlie Davis said that this county-wide change would affect a lot of smaller towns, many of which would find it difficult to stay below the 2 percent tax levy cap. “I think it’s a bunch of baloney,” he added.

The board approved sending a letter to each of its Cattaraugus County legislators, appealing to them to keep constituents’ taxes from increasing to reflect this change. Dashnaw recommended that taxpayers do the same and contact their government officials, about the issue.

“We cannot operate efficiently if we are blind-sided by [their] mandates,” Gerwitz said.

“This just isn’t right. It’s crazy, what’s going on,” he added. “We are working to make sure we’re using our money wisely. We pinch pennies and then we get this type of stuff, [that] we have no control over.”

Legislator Donna Vickman may be reached at 676-3209 or donnvi@aol.com. Legislator William Weller is available at 676-3889 or whweller@cattco.org. Legislator Gary Felton may be reached at 353-8292 or gmfelton@cattco.org.

In other board matters:
– The town’s dog control officer submitted an official resignation and Dashnaw was authorized to advertise for a replacement.

– According to board members, the federal budget amount designated for the West Valley Demonstration was “$20 million too low. West Valley is the biggest of the small closure sites,” Gerwitz said. “We need to get in front of Washington, on this.”

The next Ashford Town Board meeting will be held Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

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