The comptroller is the independent fiscal watchdog, elected by the residents of Erie County. The comptroller does not report to either the county executive or Legislature. However, the comptroller does provide an independent source of financial information to all branches of government and the public.
The Office of the Comptroller is currently staffed by 35 employees, of which only 27 are included in the 2011 Budget. Prior to the County’s 2005 budget crisis, the Office of Comptroller had about 60 employees. During the crisis, the Comptroller’s office lost over 50% of its positions. In April 2007, pursuant to changes to the Erie County Charter approved by voters in public referendum in November 2006, 10 employees formerly in the County’s Office of Real Property Tax Services transferred to this Office. In the County’s 2008 Budget, the Legislature granted funding to hire several new auditors in our Division of Audit.
In preparing the 2011 Budget, the county executive proposed deleting 15 positions in the office, including 6 of 7 civil service auditors, all members of the comptroller’s Tax Collection Unit, the sole associate deputy comptroller and the secretary to the comptroller. Although the Legislature restored these positions to their amended budget, the county executive vetoed these additions, and the Legislature was unable to override his veto. As a result, all 15 positions were eliminated from the operating budget.
The Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority strenuously objected to these reductions and restored 8 of the 15 positions, including all auditors and 2 tax collectors.
The Office of Comptroller is comprised of 3 divisions: Administration, Accounting, and Audit and Control.
The Administration Division includes the comptroller, two deputy comptrollers and an associate deputy.
The Accounting Division, currently staffed by 26 individuals, includes all the office’s accountants, accounting analysts, SAP enterprise resource planning specialists, accounts payable and receivable, and revenue recovery staff. This division is responsible for all accounting and financial statements, including the County’s compliance with accounting standards, its annual financial reports, its cash and investment (banking) management, all borrowings, payroll processing, the payment of all bills to vendors, management of court and bail orders, and trust checks. Additionally, staff work to secure revenue and taxes owed to the County, including by persons on probation.
The Audit and Control Division consists of the deputy comptroller-Audit and 6 auditor positions (reduced from 20 staffers in the late 1980s). This Inspector General-style division is responsible for all county audits and performance and management reviews. Additionally, the division reviews allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse of County property and resources.