Article Contributed by
Jamestown Gazette Staff
On Wednesday, February 24 County Executive Vince Horrigan presented his third State of the County address at 6:30 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.
He began with a very strong sense of optimism and pride in Chautauqua County, stating, “I am proud of our accomplishments and committed to working hard to continue to move our county forward. Horrigan’s address focused on three key concepts: 1.) Celebrating Our Successes, 2.) Facing Our Realities, and 3.) Piloting our future course.
In economic development and the environment, Horrigan noted a number of resounding successes, including:
- A new, structurally balanced budget (correcting repeated county income shortfalls relative to expenses) by returning the sales tax to the 8% Western New York County average rate.
- A 6% property tax cut, the largest in over a decade, creating a clear path to grow the county’s tax base.
- Reduced jail costs and overcrowding through alternatives to incarceration and use of treatment programs while protecting public safety.
- A countywide shared services arrangement across local municipal governments led to state approval of a $13 million savings plan for Chautauqua County and enabled every STAR eligible property owner to receive a primary residence property tax rebate check.
- The county Industrial Development Agency (IDA) team’s economic development initiatives are achieving business retention and expansion, new business attraction, growth of the tourism and hospitality sectors of the economy, the renewable energy industry and Empire State development awards.
- Formation of the North Chautauqua County Water District. This effort took years to accomplish and has set the stage for major economic development in the North County.
After highlighting successes, County Executive Horrigan went on to say, “While we have achieved much success over the past year, we continue to face several sobering realities which remind us that much work remains to be done. What is significant about the work now is that it extends beyond County Government into our communities and local municipalities.”
The realities and challenges to be faced in 2016 include:
- NRG repowering uncertainties
- Local municipal budget strains
- Public safety costs and strains
- Aging infrastructure
- Economic and workforce development
- Community health Challenges
- Mental health and opioid epidemic
- Chronic disease and maternal/child health
- Smaller county structural deficits
- Growth is the only suitable tool left in our toolbox.
Horrigan concluded with a “Flight Plan” for moving forward to find the right solutions.
Along with the participation of local elected officials, public and private leaders and community team members, Horrigan focused on continued strong working partnerships with state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, state Senator Catharine Young and Governor Cuomo. His detailed “Call to Action” includes forming a Regional Solutions Commission to build on past successes and
focus on three priority areas:
- Building on past successes
- Three priority areas of focus
- Public Safety
- County infrastructure
- Local municipal governments
- Lead Citizen forums to facilitate grass roots initiatives via community conversations and brainstorming
- Assistance with regional Initiative development
“I am confident, Horrigan said, “that as we journey through 2016 we will continue to celebrate even more successes and tackle our challenges. I am pleased to report that the state of Chautauqua County is clearly on the move…Success depends on all of us working together.”
More information can be found at http://www.chautauqua.ny.us including the newly released Chautauqua Proud Video at the bottom of the page and the full state of the County under the County Executive tab.