Tue October 15, 2013
Proposed Erie County budget spends more without raising taxes
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he is submitting a budget for next year with a steady property tax rate that cuts a few jobs, puts more money into the arts and library, and sets up an economic development office in Toronto.
Poloncarz told a news conference Tuesday the property tax will raise slightly more money because there is more property to be taxed. At the same time, the estimate of sales tax collections increase is down a little because this year's budget is struggling to hit the sales tax target.
The $1.39 billion budget also includes more money for roads and more workers to help improve county parks. It spends 1.1% more than in the last fiscal year.
Poloncarz says it's a good spending plan that balances the issues.
"It is a transparent, fair, and responsible budget in which the dollars and cents are balanced and reflects the common sense priorities of my administration as it pertains to addressing the economic and health and human service needs of our community," Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz says he's also borrowing a little on pension payments to be paid later because it keeps down spending this year. In a shot at Republicans in the County Legislature, he says if they don't want to hold back on the pension costs, they will have to cut spending somewhere else.
Poloncarz says labor costs are going up with new union contracts, but the state's new pension tier is easing those costs. The county executive says the local costs of Medicaid will ease a little next year with Albany picking up more, while welfare costs are expected to rise.
The budget also dips a little into reserves, something already approved by the Control Board. It goes to county legislators Tuesday afternoon, weeks before legislative seats are on the voting machines. Poloncarz says he is hoping legislators will approve the spending plan cooperatively.
County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says he won't suggest any cuts to the budget directly but will suggest them to county legislators looking for his point of view on the proposed spending plan.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Mychajliw compared Poloncarz' budget plans to those of former County Executive Joel Giambra.
"About ten years ago, we had a county executive that held the line of taxes, increased spending, and used one-shot revenues to balance the budget. It did not work out very well for Erie County government. That led to the 'red/green' budget crisis. I don't want Erie County to go down that road again," Mychajliw said.
Mychajliw says the county can't borrow its way into a balanced budget, attacking plans to take more than $5 million from reserves to balance the spending plan and borrowing from Albany to ease the cost of next year's state pension payments, calling it "kicking the can down the road."
The comptroller compared it to a family using a savings account to pay monthly bills.