Mon October 15, 2012
Poloncarz budget includes 3.4% property tax hike
Property owners in Erie County may be paying higher taxes in the coming year. The 2013 budget proposed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz boosts spending by 2.1 percent and increases taxes by 3.4 percent.
Poloncarz told reporters Monday the county is facing a perfect storm of increased costs and declining revenues.
"This is happening because many of the county's largest property tax owners -- national chains, big box retailers, developers, not residential property owners -- are challenging their assessments, and many local assessors are not regularly or accurately assessing properties," Poloncarz said.
The executive says his spending plan closes a $30 million budget gap while maintaining and enhancing programs in a responsible manner.
"This budget makes good on my promise to safeguard our public library system," Poloncarz said. "This budget will remove the politics and ensure stable funding levels without fear of arbitrary cuts."
Poloncarz says his spending plan will protect the services that residents demand, including rodent control and the Sheriff's Road Patrol.
According to numbers provided by the administration, the 2013 Proposed Budget:
- Makes good on a promise to safeguard our Public Library System from politics and ensure stable funding levels by increasing the System’s tax levy beyond the pre-Collins-cut level to $22.172 million;
- Provides $5.570 million in cultural funding ($148,000 increase over 2012 Legislature restorations) through a new, revitalized process based on need and merit;
- Maintains 2012 funding levels for two of the County’s most popular programs—rodent control and the summer youth education and anti-crime program, Operation PrimeTime;
- Maintains vital public safety services like the Sheriff’s road patrol; and,
- Fully invests in our aging infrastructure by (1) increasing the pay-as-you-go Road Fund by $700,000 and (2) increasing the Capital Budget to $39 million to address our deteriorating roads, bridges and parks.
The almost $1.385 billion General Fund in the Proposed Budget represents a 2.1 percent ($30 million) increase in spending over FY-2012 due, almost exclusively, to increases in State-mandated costs, including:
- A $17 million increase in fringe benefit costs, which is driven by an 8% increase in health insurance expenses, an 11.3% increase in pension payments, and an increase in workers compensation expenses;
- An $8 million increase (to $219.7 million total) in the County’s Medicaid share, which actually exceeds the phased-in growth cap implemented by the State by $4.1 million because of an additional mandated payment this coming year; and,
- About $3 million for the 45 new sworn deputy and correction officer and 3 civilian positions mandated by the NYS Commission of Correction in their report released earlier this year (first 15 positions created in July).
If approved by the county legislature, taxes on an average $100,000 home would increase about $18 a year.
The Legislature has until December 4 to adopt or change the plan.
Conservative County Legislator Joseph Lorigo says the budget is 900 pages long and County Executive Poloncarz has three months to prepare it, but he sees a problem right off the top. Lorigo says a property tax increase is a no-go.
"[It] is unacceptable. I won't support any tax increase on the already-overburdened taxpayers of Erie County," Lorigo told WBFO News.
Lorigo says because the budget is so complicated and so lengthy it will take some time to figure out where to cut spending to prevent that tax hike.
Lorigo admits Albany isn't helping with the rising costs of Medicaid.
"State-mandated Medicaid cost are a huge, huge burden, and are killing us. But we need to be creative. I believe I was elected to find ways to make government more efficient, lower taxes, and reduce spending," Lorigo said.