Mon July 16, 2012
County executive issues mid-year budget warning
The Erie County Executive issued a mid-year budget warning Monday morning. Mark Poloncarz says his administration hase discovered more than $50 million in unanticipated costs.
Most notably, Poloncarz described the tens of millions of dollars of unbudgeted healthcare payments that must be made to the Erie County Medical Center Corporation.
Former county executive Chris Collins previously reached an agreement with ECMC, claiming the county was out of the hospital business. Poloncarz said that is not true.
"We are still in the hospital business. Anybody who says we are not in the hospital business doesn't have any idea what's going on," said Poloncarz. "We may have to pay them up to $51 million this year, and we only have $16 million in the budget (for ECMC)."
Erie County is obligated to pay ECMC $16 million each year.
"We're not out of the hospital business. We won't be out of the hospital business. My goal is try to reduce those costs," noted Poloncarz.
"We are facing significant difficulties. My goal is to ensure that we have a balanced budget every year," said Poloncarz. "The picture wasn't as rosy as Mr. Collins said and after we've been in here for five, six months now, we now know the true financial status of the county and it is much worse than even I knew as comptroller."
Now-congressional candidate Collins says he is disappointed at the way Poloncarz is blaming his predecessor for the county's fiscal situation.
Collins says any budgetary problems are the responsibility of his successor because after the election, the incoming county executive was allowed to shape this year's budget. He says Poloncarz is making bad decisions and should have continued to run the county like a business.
"He's been adding hundreds of employees, giving out raises, [and] funding organizations that I cut, and now he's saying 'oh my goodness, I'm running out of money.' That shouldn't have been a surprise," Collins responded. "Instead of rolling up his sleeves and tackling problems like we did, he's wanting to place blame where it doesn't belong. He should be looking in the mirror as to the reason we have problems."
Collins says the county is fortunate to have $85 million in surplus in a rainy day fund, money that his administration put aside and that Poloncarz criticized for not being spent.
"He should be thanking me every day for the fact that surplus is there," Collins said.
Poloncarz says the county must also dole out more than $6 million in new jail management commitments for the Holding Center.
The Erie County Legislature kicked off mid-year budget hearings Monday.