For the fourth year in a row, Erie County ended the year with a budget surplus, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz. He announced the county's $1.7 billion budget ended 2015 with a positive variance of more than $18 million and an increase in the county’s general fund of $7.64 million.
“This budget surplus is the result of balanced decisions and careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Poloncarz.
He said the 2015 fiscal results came as the county's largest revenue source - sales tax - dropped by $8.4 million under budget, driven in part by fewer Canadian guests shopping in Erie County and lower fuel costs and lower than expected expenses in certain programs such as Medicaid. With the surplus, Poloncarz said the county’s general fund balance totaled $99.86 million at the end of 2015, which is more than $55 million required by the county charter.
With authorization from the Erie County Legislature, the county designated and rolled over $11 million of the 2015 positive variance into the 2016 budget to help pay for new 2016 programs, including fighting the opioid crisis, strengthening lead paint poisoning prevention programs, conducting new road work, purchasing heavy highway repair vehicles and providing a supplemental appropriation to Erie Community College for an early retirement incentive.
Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said he "found the County Executive’s statement to be rather disingenuous." Lorigo said it was the Legislature that actually "put the brakes on" Poloncarz's "excessive spending." He said the county would be looking at an extremely small surplus, if any, had it approved the County Executive's spending proposals.
" Without Legislative action, money returned to fund balance at the end of 2015 would have been the lowest since the red/green budget,” Lorigo said.