This month I am presenting my proposed 2016 Budget to the Erie County Legislature, and I am pleased to report that the proposal contains no change in Erie County’s real property tax rate, which remains at $4.99 per thousand of assessed value – one of the lowest County property tax rates in New York State. Holding the line on taxes while providing the services that residents expect and demand has been a hallmark of my administration, and this budget once again reflects those priorities. Building a balanced, reasonable budget requires input from many sources and dialogue between branches of government, which has been ongoing throughout the year and valuable in putting together this budgetary blueprint for 2016. In addition, other positive developments in Erie County’s economic and fiscal outlooks augment the budget forecast and demonstrate the resurgence our region is undergoing.
While the fact that real property tax rates will remain the same is good news, my proposed budget also includes significant investments in the “People’s Mandates”, which are the programs and services that residents expect. Among these include prioritized funding for road and bridge maintenance and repair, building on the approximately $90 million my administration has spent on infrastructure in the past three years. My commitment to providing the best infrastructure we can remains undimmed despite a current environment in which federal funding for highway and road projects has virtually been eliminated or come to a standstill. Additionally, this year I am also proposing a $2 million investment in new heavy equipment such as dump trucks, plows and front end loaders. This equipment will be necessary and vital to our highway operations.
Elsewhere, Erie County libraries will see an enhanced commitment in the proposed budget, with an operational funding increase of over $460,000. I am proud to say that in just three years I have increased library funding by over $1.3 million, and our system is flourishing. We are also providing funds for the Fisheries Advisory Board to support sport fishery and recreational and tourism-related fishing; continuing funding for the redevelopment of industrial brownfields such as the Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna and the North Youngmann Commerce Center in Tonawanda to attract new manufacturing, light industrial and warehousing concerns and help create new jobs; and providing funds for the fourth year in a row to purchase new vans for senior citizen transportation through the “Going Places” program, among many other items.
This proposed budget invests in many areas that build a better economy and quality of life in Erie County, but this wise spending is also amplified by solid private-sector job growth over the past three years, a lower unemployment rate, stable and reasonable housing prices, and a modest rise in population, most notably among young people with college degrees who are choosing to call Western New York their home. Moreover, credit ratings agencies have noticed our expanding economy and prudent leadership and have upgraded our credit ratings to reflect our resurgence. It is an exciting time to be in Erie County and I look forward to the passage of my proposed 2016 budget.