Erie County is striving to bring smart business practices to county government. This allows for services to be provided more efficiently and delivered without raising taxes. By implementing procedures that streamline county business, we have been able to identify cost savings and provide better services with the taxes currently collected.
Earlier this month, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced an agreement with M&T Bank to handle all of the county's banking operations. Prior to this agreement,Erie County had not put its banking services out to bid in eight years and had been working with six different banks, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees. This new agreement will save the county approximately $500,000 each year.
This is one example of a simple solution that delivers considerable savings without any negative impact on county residents. In another financial matter, Erie County will soon be going to market for its annual revenue anticipation note to cover short-term expenditures while waiting on sales tax revenue. The county has two options when conducting this borrowing: (1) go to market on its own through the comptroller’s office, or (2) use the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority, commonly known as the “Control Board.” The Control Board has a much higher bond rating and has been able to borrow at a lower rate every year. If that continues to be the case this year, it would save taxpayers money.
I am sure you join me in saying that the Control Board should borrow if that is the cheaper option. For reasons I do not understand, the county executive has continually come out in support of borrowing through the county, despite hard evidence that the Control Board can save taxpayers money. As chairman of the Finance & Management Committee, I cannot support any borrowing method that would result in additional cost. Before the Legislature votes on this item, we will have the final figures comparing the two borrowing options. I am confident that my colleagues will join me in choosing the option that best serves you. It’s not just smart business, it’s common sense.
The administration recently announced its plan for spending the $5 million that the Legislature transferred from fund balance to this year’s operating budget for immediate road repair. I was pleased to see the plan called for countywide patchwork to fill the potholes created by this harsh winter. My colleagues and I in the majority caucus worked diligently to allocate this much-needed money to repair our deteriorating roadways.
While I was pleased to see the work proposed, the plan also included hiring 10 new full-time, permanent employees. The problem is that the $5 million is a one-time revenue source and the new permanent employees would be a recurring expense. We cannot responsibly add employees to the budget without a steady funding source. Recognizing this issue, I put forward an amendment to eliminate the jobs at the end of 2014 when the $5 million expires.
If the administration wants to add permanent jobs, it needs to do so during the budget process and must have a responsible funding source attached.