Control Board Cites Reasonable, Balanced Adjustments to Original 2012 Plan
Adjustments, “Gap Closers” Suggested to Close More Than $8 Million Budget Holes Caused by Erie County Legislature In 2013-2016
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz announced that the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority (“ECFSA”) has approved the revised Four Year Financial Plan (the “Plan”) submitted to them on February 7, 2013. The Plan amends the original Plan ECFSA approved in October 2012. The new plan identifies an $8.7million budget gap in 2013 and at least $8 million gaps in 2014-2016 as a result Legislature adopted the 2013 Budget removing $8.5 million in property tax revenue along with $200,000 in additional spending while making cuts on paper that do nothing to reduce reoccurring expenses.
“I am glad that ECFSA has voted to approve this revised four year plan, agreeing with my administration that it presents a realistic look at the hard decisions that need to be made in order to bridge the budget gaps left by the Legislature,” said Poloncarz. “The need to fill that $8.7 million hole this year and subsequent budget holes in future years is inescapable, and if the Legislature does not possess the political will to seriously consider revenue enhancements, further large-scale cuts will be necessary in the future to structurally and realistically balance budgets over the next several years. Despite claims from some of my colleagues in County government, this is not a threat; it is just facing the fiscal reality of the situation. The gap closers included in this plan are simply a menu of possible actions, which could be used in a variety of combinations and ways.”
In support of his position about the need for real budget solutions and not gimmicks, the County Executive highlighted ECFSA’s written analysis of the Plan, which it issued today. In its analysis, the control board expressed its similar concerns about the real out year gaps in the Plan created by the Legislature’s December 2012 budget amendments. The ECFSA report concluded that Poloncarz’s Plan and forecasts are reasonable and the gaps can be addressed, but only if the Legislature and other County leaders work cooperatively with the administration to implement realistic and implementable gap closers.
There are a number of potential “gap closers” available to the County to close the projected gaps in 2013 -2016 identified in the approved Plan, including:
- Reducing Discretionary Spending on arts and cultural organizations, Visit Buffalo Niagara, Soil & Water Conservation, Operation Primetime, and Cornell Cooperative Extension;
- Reductions in Personal Services including non-mandated programs such as Sheriff road patrols, highways, and parks;
- Reducing spending in the Road Fund/Interfund Transfer from the General Fund;
- Reducing the Property Tax Levy and Appropriation for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and shifting the revenue to County purposes;
- Issuing Refunding Bonds;
- Additional Use of Appropriated Fund Balance; and,
- Utilizing the Existing Pension Amortization Process through the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Poloncarz continued, “As I’ve said many times, governing is about choices, but those choices come with consequences. After working to cut twenty million dollars of expense, my 2013 Budget presented a balanced plan that hinged on the difficult choice of cutting an additional $8 million from the programs and services we worked so hard to restore, or propose a modest $0.18 property tax increase. Unfortunately, the final budget approved by the Legislature tried to have it both ways by including the services and making illusory cuts to other budgetary lines that we are required to fund. As we see, difficult choices are once again before us, and will be again in the future unless significant change is achieved through leadership at all levels.”
The revised Plan also includes amended financial assumptions that are realistic based on current data. These assumptions include:
- 1% Property Tax Assessment Growth in 2014, rising to 2% in 2015 and 2016;
- No new Property tax Revenue in 2014-2016 from a change in the Levy Rate;
- Modified assumptions for lower sales tax revenues in 2014-2016;
- Use of $5 million in Appropriated Fund balance in 2014, $2 million in 2015 and zero in 2016;
- Adjusted Personal Services expense to include the costs for Teamsters and CSEA Correction Officers Unit contracts but no other increases in Personal Services Expense other than Step Increments;
- Reduction of 25 full-time positions per year through attrition;
- The return to a reasonable Turnover Account level in 2014, 2015, and 2016; and,
- Reduced annual capital Borrowings for construction projects.
Click here to read the County's Revised Four Year Plan
Click here to read the ECFSA review of the County's Revised Four Year Plan