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10/17/12: County Executive’s Office Responds to False Legislator Comments on County Jobs


Alleged Charges of Increasing County Workforce by 200 Positions Are Without Merit

Fails to Acknowledge True Cause of Increases is State-Mandated Costs Amid Declining Revenues

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, the office of Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz responded to Legislator Kevin Hardwick’s (R-Tonawanda) charge that increases to the size of the County’s workforce are the cause of the more than $30 million budget gap noted by Poloncarz in presenting his 2013 Erie County Proposed Budget.

Specifically, in a WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) story, a reporter noted that “Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick says the County executive has added about 200 jobs and restored programs that helped create this deficit.”[1]

“Unfortunately, Legislator Hardwick’s comments couldn’t be further from the truth,” said the County Executive’s spokesman, Peter Anderson. “If Legislator Hardwick looked at the actual number of jobs in County government today as opposed to Chris Collins’ last day in office, he’d see a net decrease of nearly 150 positions. In addition, County Executive Poloncarz’s Proposed Budget cuts an additional 63 positions next year. It is disappointing that instead of taking the time to actually read through the 2013 Budget, Mr. Hardwick immediately leveled false charges based on bad math. Mr. Hardwick is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.”

On December 31, 2011 (former County Executive Collins’ last day in office) there were a total of 5,820 positions across all funds of Erie County government, while there were a total of 5,676 positions as of October 15, 2012, for a net decrease of 144 positions. On January 1, 2013, pending approval of the proposed budget, there will be 5,644 positions across all funds of County government.

The 2013 Erie County Proposed Budget calls for the elimination of 63 additional positions. However, it includes 35 new sworn officer and related positions associated with the Sheriff’s Division of Jail Management as mandated by the New York State Commission of Correction (“CoC”) and the US Department of Justice.

Contrary to Legislator Hardwick’s claim that County Executive Poloncarz has created 200 new positions in 2012, the County has added only 29 net positions, which include:

  • 15 new sworn officers for jail management, as mandated by the CoC;
  • 2 new Sheriff deputies, funded by State reimbursement;
  • 3 new Medicaid anti-fraud positions, funded by the State; and
  • 3 new Probation officers, funded by the State.

Anderson added, “Moreover, Legislator Hardwick also fails to acknowledge that most of the jobs and    programs he is criticizing were restored by the Legislature and included in the 2012 Erie County Adopted Budget---which he (and 3 other Republican legislators) voted in favor of.”

The Legislature’s Amendment to the 2012 Erie County Adopted Budget (which Legislator Hardwick voted in favor of) included the restoration of 67 positions in six departments (a net increase of only 41 positions) and $1.7 million in programmatic funding originally cut by then-County Executive Collins’ 2012 Proposed Budget.

Lastly, the 2.1% increase in spending (approximately $30 million) included in the 2013 Erie County Proposed Budget for the General fund is due to increases in State and other 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; and
  • About $3 million for the 45 new sworn deputy and correction officer and 3 civilian positions mandated by the CoC in their report released earlier this year (first 15 positions created in July).

Coupled with these increased costs, substantial decreases in revenues are projected, including, for the first time in more than a decade, negative property assessment growth resulting in $5.1 million in lost property tax revenues originally anticipated for 2013. The County will also lose millions of dollars in grant funding and reimbursements for services like probation, foster care, the County’s crime lab, homeland security, and public health due to State and Federal aid cuts.

Anderson concluded, “The more than $30 million budget gap presented to this administration was entirely caused by increases in mandated costs, coupled with a significant decline in property tax revenues from negative assessment growth. If Legislator Hardwick had actually read the Proposed 2013 Budget before he made his statements he would have known the true causes for the growth in the operating budget. To blame it on the restoration of quality of life programs that the people of Erie County have demanded is simply not accurate.”

 

[1] (October 15, 2012) “Erie County Budget: Poloncarz Proposes Tax Hike.” WGRZ-TV. Accessed at

http://www.wgrz.com/news/article/185612/1/Erie-County-Budget-Poloncarz-to-Propose-Tax-Hike