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April 2016 Column - New initiatives create priority discussion


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

After nine months of advocacy, these hard-working men and women have finally been recognized by the administration
Last week, Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo visited Eden Heights of West Seneca Assisted Living and Memory Care to hand out flowers ahead of Mother’s Day
Often times, the leadership of the new majority, moves items to placate political interests, not necessarily those of taxpayers.
Recognizes the severity of Lyme disease and aims to raise awareness of its symptoms as well as preventative measures individuals can take to protect themselves
Legislator Lorigo held three sessions to teach students about various topics, including: how people spend money, taxes and communication

As we close the first quarter of 2016, Erie County is at a crossroads. The County Executive has put forward a costly agenda in his second term, requesting dozens of new jobs, millions of dollars in additional spending, and utilizing surplus funds to create long-term costs. We also have reports of declining sales tax revenue to the tune of $9 million under budget for 2015.  Quite frankly, the budget surplus is not the positive picture that the County Executive is painting.  It isn’t added cash, it’s simply money meant to be spent in 2015 that wasn’t spent.  

 

 I believe government has a responsibility to provide quality services in an efficient manner to the people we serve that also respects their tax dollars. In the span of a 45 minute State of the County Address, the County Executive compiled a list of 10 initiatives, most of which cost additional taxpayer money. After years in office with no movement on these issues, he is demanding his proposals be approved almost immediately upon arrival. The Legislature is an equal and independent level of county government, and is not a rubber stamp for the County Executive.   

 

Despite repeated calls from the Legislature to do so, the County Executive has failed to appropriately use the budget process to advance his priorities. The additional spending he has pushed into the Legislature should have been addressed for the 2016 budget year or in the upcoming 2017 budget.  Currently, the Executive is attempting to use a budgetary surplus created from a series of one shot revenue sources and vacancy control to fund the creation of perpetual expenses in the form new jobs.  It is akin to accepting a free month of cell phone usage in exchange for a long-term contract without knowing whether you can afford the monthly payments.  These problems address in the initiatives are not new - they have been plaguing the residents of our county for decades, and should have been prioritized in the 2016 budget if the County Executive deemed them this important.

 

The way I see it, the County Executive is setting us up for a very difficult 2017 budget. The dozens and dozens of jobs he is looking to add will not disappear at the end of 2016.  Up to this point, there has been no prioritization from the County Executive; he merely develops new ways to add costs to taxpayers each year.  I believe that it is time to prioritize.  It is time to have more respect for the tax dollars we have been elected to steward.  I am willing to work with the administration on a plan that fulfills our obligations, but also respects taxpayers.  To this point, an honest dialogue with the administration has been difficult.  I hope that can change.

 

If you have any comments on the county’s budget or other issues, please contact me at 858-8922 or email joseph.lorigo@erie.gov. Your input is critical to the process and our efforts to best serve you.