NRG among budget topics discussed by Administrative Services Committee

MAYVILLE – Many of the departments overseen by the legislature’s Administrative Services Committee showed a decrease in their 2014 budgets.

The committee heard from department heads and representatives from the legislature and legislative clerk, coroner, finance department, human resources, county executive, information technology department, county clerk’s office, board of elections and the county attorney.

“I’m encouraged by the numbers and by the decrease from most of the department heads,” said committee Chairman Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia. “The Administrative Services Committee, what we cover is pretty much clerical things. It’s revenues, it’s expenses. We don’t have those department heads that can be cut a half-million dollars. The numbers speak for themselves.”

Downsizing the legislature from 25 to 19 legislators resulted in a total reduction of $56,460 for base pay, FICA and Medicare. It was also noted the legislature is operating at a combined budget for 2014 of $588,368, while the budget in 1998 was $632,000. Additionally, from 2009-2014, there was a 28 percent reduction in the legislature’s budget.

The reductions are due to legislature downsizing, health insurance, legal council position and office overhead.

The Finance Office told the legislature there was a big reduction in PILOT payments this year, mainly due to NRG.

“As it stands right now, the NRG had given their notice … Their December 2014 PILOT payment will be reduced one-sixth,” said Sue Marsh, director of finance. “So, it will be roughly a $660,000 decrease in our PILOT payments that our county will receive for the 2014 budget.”

According to Jim Caflish, director of the Chautauqua County Office of Real Property Tax, the loss will have to be made up by real property taxpayers.

“If the Dunkirk facility is totally decommissioned, which would be out of probably 2015 (budget), it could result in an overall tax increase for all county taxpayers, around 3 percent,” Caflish said. “The loss in PILOT revenue is essentially a tax payment also. That money has to be made up somewhere. It’s going to fall back to the other property owners in Chautauqua County to make it up.”

County Executive Greg Edwards said he has also cut expenditures in his office, showing an overall decrease of 1.4 percent.

He said his proposed budget includes a minimum staffing level, as well as minimal costs to provide the services requested of his office.

Scudder said he had written down the bottom line of each department while its head explained expenditures and revenues, and saw that most had decreased. He said this is the fourth year he has been through the budget process, and there seem to be decreases each year.

“It seems like everyone is doing their job,” Scudder said. “It’s been an ongoing process, but I feel like we’re getting leaner and leaner. I’m impressed that we can get leaner and that (the department heads) are getting creative. They’re finding ways to not fill positions. We talk about shared services in the county, they’re doing it (between departments).”

At the end of the day, Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, made the committee’s only recommendation of the day.

Cornell recommended the Audit and Control Committee consider the feasibility for an expenditure for a marketing campaign for the County Clerk’s Office to encourage the “Renew Locally” effort, as well as the potential revenues it could possibly produce.

The Audit and Control Committee will hear budget recommendation from other committee chairs Oct. 7-9. The Administrative Services Committee will present Oct. 8 at 12:30 p.m.