As Erie County gets ready to close the books on fiscal year 2015 I am pleased to report that we are expecting a positive variance, or surplus, of approximately $18 million that can be re-invested in critical infrastructure and health services that will benefit all county residents. While the amount of the surplus may seem large, it is important to remember that in 2015 the total Erie County budget was approximately $1.7 billion, so the positive amount we are realizing is only about one percent of our total spending.
Every year, budget balancing amendments are necessary to close the county’s books. Any homeowner understands the necessity of making a budget to try and predict income throughout the year and balance expenses against it, allocating resources prudently and holding the line on spending. Other than the size of the budget, this process is the same for the county and requires accurate forecasting to finish the year as close to even as possible. My administration has done that every year I have been in office, and we’ve finished each year with a small surplus. Last week I submitted a resolution to the Erie County legislature requesting that these funds be used for programs that county residents are demanding.
Because our county’s “piggy bank” is already at a fiscally sound amount, we are prepared to direct an additional $5 million in 2016 to the Public Works Department for road work and the purchase of new heavy equipment. In the past four years my administration has spent approximately $100 million on maintaining and improving our roads, and this $5 million will go a long way towards creating a better road system in addition to the work we already planned to do in 2016. As we all know, our local weather is tough on our roads and despite a relatively mild winter they are in need of work, so this additional funding will help to maximize our efforts.
Additionally, we propose investing $375,000 to fund a 24-hour hotline and two health department staff dedicated to fighting the opioid crisis in Erie County. These allocations will provide solid and significant steps forward in protecting public health and should be funded immediately. Funding for the opioid hotline and related staff would create a central number for residents who need treatment, counseling, or other supports and would also supply staff whose sole function is handling this crisis. The mortality rate for opioid addiction in Erie County is too high to delay action on this resolution and funding is critical.
We will also invest $750,000 to expand our lead poisoning prevention services. Our area’s old, pre-1978 housing stock still contains lead contamination that affects growing children, so we are proposing an aggressive approach to the problem that provides more resources for treatment and remediation. We cannot afford to sit idly by while lead contamination exists in any community in Erie County. Now is the time to do the right thing and invest in the health of our residents.