November 27, 2007

2008 County Budget

The Niagara County Legislature is preparing to approve the 2008 budget that has been presented to them by County Manager Greg Lewis. Lewis initially stated that his budget would include a tax increase not to exceed three percent. He noted that the budget calls for a reduction in the property tax levy, or the total amount to be raised by taxes, of 6.8 percent, and that county spending will be reduced by more than $9 million from current year operations.

Under the plan, the 2008 average tax rate will increase by five cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This means that the average projected County tax on a property assessed at $100,000 will increase by $5.00. This will vary based on equalization rate established for each town and city.

Approximately 200 employees from Mt. View will no longer be on the county payroll and the Social Services Department have more than 60 fewer jobs than it had in 2000.

This is all good news. As I have said before, the county appears to be addressing the label of the highest taxed county in the country, but few of the other taxing jurisdictions are doing the same. Unfortunately, when the label was placed on the county, some placed the label on the County. There is a distinct difference.

The study labeled all taxing jurisdictions combined as the highest taxed. School districts, town, city & village governments, special districts, and the County. I'm not sure why this is such a difficult concept to grasp, but as recently as November 18th, Lockport Union Sun Journal Editor Tim Marren, in his column, stated, "The last time a billboard made the news in Niagara County was when Lee Bordeleau decided to boast — or lament — the fact that Niagara County was No. 2 in taxes. All that did was lead Niagara County’s electorate to vote the same people into office again."

Tim, are you unable to comprehend the truth or do you simply choose to ignore it? Either way, when you make comments like that, you're doing a disservice to the community, and letting the other taxing jurisdictions off the hook for their portion of the tax burden.

Why not call out the school districts? Why not call out the special districts and the Town Supervisors that use the water and sewer districts as a haven for political patronage? Why not call out Frank Nerone, who retired from the Sewer District in 2001with a pension of $5,500 a month, only to be brought back as a consultant at $5,000 a month. He's getting 10,500 per month to work at the Sewer District. He, by the way, wants a raise.

What about attorney Bob Roberson, who submitted legal bills to the district with no records that the work was done. When the county auditor refused to pay the bills, Roberson sued the county.

These are but two of the abuses of tax dollars that you choose to ignore. You focus on "County" taxes because it's easy. It doesn't take any actual reporting to say that "Niagara County was No. 2 in taxes. All that did was lead Niagara County’s electorate to vote the same people into office again." It's downright pathetic.

I don't know where you got your journalism degree, apparently, Cracker Jack still has some decent prizes, but wherever you got the degree from, you should demand a refund because they didn't teach you squat about being a reporter.

As for Niagara County, keep up the cost cutting measures, and keep doing your part to address taxes. People of reasonable intellect are well aware of the misguided views of our local periodical.


Anonymous said...

It amazes me that the editor of the local "news"paper continues to infer that the County tax is the only source of taxes in Niagara County. He continues to give our schools a free pass on their budgets when they are the single largest source of our taxes. He doesn't talk about teacher salaries, pensions, perks, lifetime health insurance, tenure or antiquated work rules. Is he stupid or just plain spineless?

Nobody likes to take a critical look at those people that educate our children or protect our safety, but a discussion of taxes must include a discussion of salaries and benefits.

He also continues to refer to a "study" that lists Niagara County as 2nd highest taxes in the country when he knows that a large number of counties were excluded from the "study" and that the numbers were based on a comparison of taxes to the price of homes which skews the figures for regions with affordable housing and that the numbers include all taxes from every municipality, city, and district. Isn't it the job of our newspaper to print the news?

Anonymous said...

p.s. I don't need the local "news"paper to use bogus data and surveys to try to convince me that it sucks to live here. Just print the news and leave the sucking decisions to the people who still buy the Union Sun.

Fat Tony said...

All this stuff about levys and rates. Here is the bottom line, am I paying more or less than last year.

A bunch of these town supervisors like to carry on about cutting the town tax, but they have jacked up assessments so much tha the rate goes down while taxpayers pay more. If I'm paying more, it's a tax increase.

Virtual Unreality said...

I'm curious to see Leffler's take on this. I heard him call one Legislator stupid and a liar over the difference between tax levy and tax rate, a topic that he embarrasses himself on when he talks about it.

Since the LEVY is going down $7 million, Leffler should be doing cartwheels in the street. Unfortunately, he'll now change his tune from the levy being critical to the rate being the most important. So predictable.

Either way, he'll never acknowledge any good out of the county.

That's what Leffler, Marren, Christy & Confer have in common: blind hatred for county government, when none of them, with the exception of Confer, have even remotely begun to understand what makes government tick.

You hit the nail on the head when you said its easier for Marren to blame county government. It doesn't take any actual investigation to write idiotic, blatantly wrong statements.

Anonymous said...

SA, sometimes I wonder if you are a former reporter. Do you have a background in journalism?

johnny walker said...

I would like to see an audit of the water and sewer districts by an outside agency. Moreover, I would love to see an expose of those districts by GNN or the Buffalo News. The patronage and waste which would be uncovered would be astounding.

Those who despise "The Machine" would claim that their behind it all, and have done so on this blog, but the reality is that the county GOP has zero control over the sewer and water disticts.

Someone on here last wek said the GOP uses the W&S districts for patronage. That is completely inaccurate. The Town Supervisors use the districts for patronage.

If anyone thinks that the county GOP and the Supervisors are intertwined, ask Wright Ellis and the Supervisors who wrote the letter against Wojtyaszek and the GOP how tight they are.

Sail Away said...

I do not have a background in journalism. I did take a Journalism course sophomore or junior year in high school, but I got a "D".

Larry S said...

SA, apparently not having having a background in journalism makes you an excellent candidate to be the next editor at the US&J.

Anonymous said...

Okay let’s see if I get this. Since our tax levy went down by 9 Million Dollars our Tax rate only went up 5 Cents per $1,000. I like the way you think SA. To do away or save 9 Million dollars in services it only cost and additional 5 Cents per $1,000. Boy, maybe I could give my boss 5 cents a paycheck and he could cut my salary by $100.

And as far as school budgets go, they keep going up because you morons keep approving them, oh but that’s right Niagara County likes the status quo.

I’m sorry, but I want a Tax levy decrease that equates to a Tax rate decrease.

Maybe next year we can cut 18 Million Dollars from our budget for only a mere 10 Cent increase per $1,000.

clemenza said...

Here's my point of view:

* The county is pretty well managed, judging by the decrease in some budget areas and essentially a flat line in tax increases

* It's bizarre that people zero in on the county when it's school and special district taxes that drive your bill.

* Someone once said the way to get people active is to not allow escrows to pay taxes. Make people cut the checks themselves and soon you'll have a riot on your hands.

Pete M said...

I love the post 2 above - it absolutely has to be Leffler. Just as someone else said, he is now changing his tune as to the overwhelming importance of the levy to the importance of the rate.

For months, Leffler has said "its the levy! It's the levy!!!" Now that the levy is going down by millions, his rant will be "its the rate. It's the rate!!!"

What a two-faced, contradicting tool.

Anonymous said...

what do you expect from a guy that drives around town smoking hippie lettuce and dropping pizza pies

pirate's code said...

"Smoking hippie lettuce...?" I've heard cannibus referred to as many things, but that may be the funniest.

Folks, please understand why so much attention is focused on county government. It's easy.

It's easier to cover one legislative body that potentially affects every county resident and business than it is to cover 10 school boards, 12 town boards, or 8 city/village boards.

A paper can convince people it is on top of government issues by focusing on the one, and often largely ignoring the other.

Also, poking your finger at taxes, as Marren did, is easy. Doesn't matter what the relative impact of a particular tax might be -- it's a tax and therefore it must be too high.

Adding depth to your news coverage is hard. Adding perspective, a sense of scope and scale, is hard. Seeking out comment and opinion to balance your own is hard. Helping readers or viewers understand what is behind the headline is hard, because it requires the writer or commentator to actually understand it first.

The product put out by GNN is a reflection of its financial condition, I think. When you can only afford an editorial staff barely old enough to put out a high school paper, that is the sole perspective you will get.

I write this not as a defense of county government because, quite frankly, I would like to pay less taxes. The county has done better than other local governments in controlling costs but, let's face it, the bar has been set fairly low in that regard.

It is clear, however, that most mainstream local media has targeted county government as everyone's boogeyman -- in both Niagara and Erie.

Until we have some consolidation and a more regional approach to government, that simply isn't fair.

Anonymous said...

PC, great post. An excellent synopsis.

pirate's code said...

Anon -- Thanks. Must have been the hippie lettuce on my BLT.

Appeal Your Property Taxes said...

Its often said only two things are assured - death and more taxes
One more example of valid proof of these points - especially in relation to property taxes
Appeal your property taxes - if possible .