As predicted, February was a busy month for the Erie County Legislature. We took a stand against the insidious practice known as cyber-bullying by adopting a local law that makes engaging in such behavior a misdemeanor. As I indicated in last month’s column, this should not relieve the pressure on our state legislative delegation, as this matter is best addressed at the state level.
February also saw a satisfactory resolution to our first major dispute with the new county executive. You might recall that County Executive Poloncarz wanted to borrow all $7 million of a lawsuit settlement. The other Republicans and I opposed this proposal, as we felt that adding another $7 million in debt to the $3 million to which we had already agreed for the zoo’s polar bear exhibit was not in the best interests of county taxpayers. In the last few years we had paid down tens of millions of dollars in debt. Incurring $10 million in new debt in a little over a month was not a path I thought we should be going down. The county executive finally relented and agreed to pay cash for the settlement. The fact that fourth quarter sales tax receipts exceeded budgeted estimates made this option much more viable. In the end, it was a battle worth fighting. Taxpayers can take comfort in the knowledge that we resisted the urge to kick the can down the road.
I also hosted a meeting last month with library directors and board members from the Tonawandas and Grand Island. They shared their concerns with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and me regarding the Buffalo and Erie County Library System’s push to create a countywide library district. It was a productive session. The town representatives have some serious reservations and are continuing to meet.
I also made a report to the City of Tonawanda School Board concerning the impact of community college chargebacks on city taxpayers. I pointed out that City taxpayers were charged $351,372 in 2010 to cover the costs of students attending community colleges in other counties. This added 58.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to residents’ county taxes. That means that a city resident with a home assessed at $100,000 paid $58.80 in additional taxes in 2010 to cover the costs of city residents attending community colleges other than ECC. My hope is that bringing this to the attention of residents will help to bring this number down. Pending improvements to the ECC North Campus should also help.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.