On a day when Gov. Andrew Cuomo will explain how he will deal with a $6 billion, Erie County is looking at a small surplus for 2019.
Fiscal numbers exist in a somewhat parallel universe because of the lag between the calendar and when the figures are released. The county's Budget Monitoring Report for the first 10 months of the year was sent to the county legislature Dec. 10. That means it will be well into 2020 before numbers are relatively complete for last year.
Still, Budget Director Robert Keating is predicting a surplus of around $8 million, a "positive budget variance." That's on a budget around $1.5 billion. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says it is not an exact science.
"We are two months behind because of New York State and their reporting of sales tax revenue, and that's why it is very difficult to predict future budgets and plans because of the fact that, number one, sales tax is volatile," he said. It could change month-to-month and there's also a very significant lagging of two months in when New York State reports the numbers to us."
Mychajliw has another concern because of Albany.
"I do see some warning signs down the road, mostly with New York State, with a $6 billion deficit, he said. "I hope they will not shove more unfunded mandates down our throat and make us counties pick up the bill for their recklessness."
Mychajliw said he has done "numerous proactive things" to help the county remain on solid financial ground. That includes saving $600,000 by not borrowing short-term for cash management and picking up more than $1 million by buying federal T-Bills with available cash rather than just keeping it in low-interest accounts.