Mark Poloncarz

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Erie County's new fiscal watchdog says the county is facing a cash crunch. Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says he quickly realized there is not enough funding in place to cover a $15 million ECMC payment owed to the state next week.

Under the terms of the Buffalo Bills new lease, improvements to Ralph Wilson Stadium are set to begin in 2013, but the agreement also includes the possibility of replacing the stadium in Orchard Park.  

Over $700 million in funding was awarded to the state's ten Regional Economic Development Councils today.  The Western New York council is receiving $52.8 million for 58 projects.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote on the budget, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is calling on the legislature to reject amendments being put forth by the minority caucus.

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Again this year, the annual public hearing on the proposed Erie County budget was dominated by cultural agencies and the library system.

The budget proposed by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz would increase taxes by 3.4 percent, but critics say any tax increase is unacceptable. It's not too late for taxpayers to weigh in.

WBFO File Photo / WBFO News

County Executive Mark Poloncarz has proposed his 2013 budget and now the public will get a turn to weigh in on the subject.

A public hearing on the $1.38 billion budget is scheduled for Monday evening at 5.

The public is invited into the legislative chambers on the 4th floor in Old County Hall.

Photo provided by - Republican Caucus Erie County | Legislative Branch

Erie County Legislature Republicans are asking taxpayers to suggest where to cut discretionary spending to prevent a property tax increase. 

Developers looking to build a year-round,multi-sport facility and football stadium on Buffalo's waterfront presented their plans to city lawmakers Tuesday afternoon.

Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex Vice President George Hasiotis says the $1.4 billion project will integrate the waterfront with downtown Buffalo and increase the value of the Central Business District and other sports venues downtown. 

wbfo file photo / WBFO News

A member of the Erie County Fiscal Authority is pushing to eliminate a proposed property tax hike in the county budget.

Finance committee chairman Brian Lipke is requesting that County Executive Mark Poloncarz review the budget to identify any discretionary spending that could be reduced. Poloncarz's budget includes a 3.4 percent hike in property taxes.

Lipke asserts that residents are overtaxed already and he is hoping the tax hike can be avoided.

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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.

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The Erie County Executive's proposed 2012 budget will look to cut jobs and increase taxes.

The Buffalo News reports that County Executive Mark Poloncarz will release a spending plan today that will boost property taxes by 3.4 percent.

Overall spending will jump 2.1 percent, while laying off ten workers and eliminating 53 vacant positions.

The County Legislature must approve the budget plan.

The Poloncarz plan will add $300,000 to the depleted county library budget, an amount that is considerably lower than the level sought by library supporters.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

For Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the Democratic National Convention offers more than discussions in party politics.

The convention presents a chance to meet face-to-face with "state officials about what the state can contribute to the reconstruction of Ralph Wilson Stadium," Poloncarz said in a live interview on WBFO and AM970.

It's believed the Buffalo Bills are seeking over $200 million in improvements for their home stadium, a price tag the cash-strapped county is unlikely to afford on its own.

"We're still talking."

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County Executive Mark Poloncarz has named Erie County Deputy Comptroller Michael Szukala to lead a new county anti-fraud task force.

As a Medicaid inspector, Szukala and a three member team will investigate potential fraud perpetrated by pharmacists and other professionals connected with the aid program. The effort will be funded by the state Department of Health and the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

Szukala begins his new post on Tuesday.

Interviews will be held to fill his former seat.

The largest union representing Erie County government workers has voted down a new contract proposal with the county.

The deal included 11 percent raises over the next five years, as well as employee contributions toward health insurance and reductions in paid leave.

Joan Bender, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 815, reports the vote was 2,144 to 706, an approximately three-to-one margin.

The union has been working under terms of a contract which expired in 2006. The new proposal would have covered the years 2007 through 2016.

County Executive Poloncarz is heating up the fight with the County Control Board over a planned short-term borrowing next month.

The county executive is under pressure to continue borrowing through the control board rather than doing it directly through Comptroller David Shenk.

That was the practice before county finances fell apart a decade ago and the control board wound up with a better fiscal rating and did the borrowing.

Board members and Republican county legislators want that to continue, saying it will save money.

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The county and county government's largest union have reached a tentative deal on a new contract.

Members of the Civil Services Employees Association, Local 815, were given their first look at the proposal on Friday. The deal would gradually raise wages over five years while also making employees responsible for an increasingly larger portion of their health care expenses among other concessions.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz would not reveal details of the proposal until union members have a chance to vote on it.

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County Executive Mark Poloncarz has selected law firm Hiscock & Barclay as county bond counsel, overseeing county financing transactions.

After making that choice, Poloncarz learned that the firm and one of its lawyers had contributed a combined $25,000 to his war chest. Poloncarz has returned those donations, describing the action as a means of allaying any concerns of impropriety.

Poloncarz has accepted donations from other law firms that do have business interests with the county.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced that he has reached a tentative labor agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association. 

The CSEA is the county’s largest labor union. The union has been without a contract since it expired in 2006.  

Both sides agreed not to disclose terms of the deal until members learn its details. 

Poloncarz thanked CSEA leadership for bargaining in good faith.  

Chris Caya/WBFO News

Members of the Erie County Legislature's Minority Caucus are pushing a plan they claim will save millions of dollars. 

County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a mid-year budget warning Monday, saying the county faces more than $50 million in unanticipated costs.  GOP lawmakers are calling on Poloncarz to borrow and refinance through the county Control Board. 

Legislator Ed Rath says that will save taxpayers nearly $3 million.  

Bills lease talks moving slowly

Jul 18, 2012

Lease negotiations between Erie County and the Buffalo Bills aren't moving along as planned.

According to the Buffalo News, County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the parties are behind his timeline, including the hope that a memorandum of understanding would have been accomplished by the start of training camp on July 26th.

Though the Bills are asking for over $200 million in improvements at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Poloncarz believes a new lease will be signed by the end of the year.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

In issuing a mid-year budget warning, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz indicated that everything will need to be on the table as the county faces more than $50-million in unanticipated costs.

"We are facing siginfican difficulties," said Poloncarz.

Poloncarz is concerned about property assessments and a potential  drop in sales tax revenues.  But will taxpayers see a future property tax hike...

"So I'm leaving everything on the table.  I'm not saying there will be a tax increase, but  I think everything has to be left on the table," said Poloncarz.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

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.

Bills block NFL's new blackout policy

Jul 13, 2012

The Buffalo Bills will buck a new league trend by continuing to mandate that Ralph Wilson Stadium be sold out before allowing the region to watch broadcasts of home games.

The NFL is now allowing its franchises to follow an eased blackout policy requiring at least 85 percent of stadium seats to be sold to lift the blackout. But the Bills say the change doesn't make financial sense for the small-market team.

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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has announced the creation of a Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force. 

Poloncarz says Medicaid continues to represent the single largest cost to the county -- $211 million already this year.  He says the new task force will root out "provider-level" waste, fraud, and abuse from doctors, dentists, transportation services and pharmacists.

Poloncarz says the task force will go after "the types of entities that overbill the system." He cited a Monroe County pharmacist that fraudulently billed for prescriptions that were never filled.

The Poloncarz Administration is taking a long look at the future direction of ECC as an outgrowth of the fight over a new $30 million building.

Originally, that building was to be on the North Campus where its aging buildings are prompting  students to attend Niagara County Community College. An ensuing dispute emerged as downtown proponents argued the new building should go on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to train future health care workers.

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe says the new building is vital to the future of ECC.

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Lease negotiations between the Buffalo Bills and the County of Erie appear to making headway.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz believes that the most significant issues could be ironed out be the end of July and the deal could be signed by the end of the year.

Stadium renovations, estimated at more than $200 million, are among the issues to be addressed.

File Photo / WBFO/AM 970 News

Lease negotiations between Erie County and the Buffalo Bills regarding the use of Ralph Wilson Stadium are progressing.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz anticipates that the framework for a deal can be in place by the end of next month. One aspect of the talks is the issue of stadium renovations that will carry a $200 million price tag. The current deal expires in July.

A memorandum of understanding needs to be reached between the parties before an actual lease can be hammered out.

File Photo / WBFO, AM 970 News

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is facing questions regarding a fundraiser he held last week in Albany.

The Albany region is a rich resource for statewide politicians, but reasons for the local official to tap into that audience remain unanswered. The News reports that a spokesperson for Poloncarz has also refused to divulge who attended and how much money was raised. Those questions, though, will be answered during the mandatory reporting period in July.

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More than 50 billboards are up across Erie County encouraging people to join their local volunteer fire department.  It's part of a statewide recruitment drive in conjunction with "National Volunteer Week," which includes an open house at many departments this weekend.