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April 2014 Column - Creating additional taxing district not the answer


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Erie County Legislator Edward Rath submitted the following letter to the editor concerning a serious issue in the Village of Akron:

Today Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs and Legislator Edward Rath proposed a Local Law that would direct any and all excess revenues generated by the Erie County Auto Bureau into the dedicated “Erie County Road Fund.” Currently, Auto...

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oneilj - Posted on 03 April 2014

The proposal of a special taxing district for the Buffalo and Erie County Library System has been discussed for several years. Library administrators and trustees are still pushing to have the measure go to public vote this November.  However, as we learned at this past Community Enrichment Meeting, it appears the library is not close to being ready to present its proposal and numerous, important questions unanswered.

 

The taxing district, which has been proposed for several years, has a great deal of opposition. I do not support creating another taxing district, another layer of government in Erie County. I join a bipartisan group of elected officials who have come out against the library taxing district as it is a bad deal for taxpayers. Municipalities at all levels have various taxing districts, such as sewer, lighting, water, etc. I don't believe that adding our library system into that category is the funding or restructuring answer.

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently brought negative attention to Erie County. He highlighted the fact that we have the most local governments in all of New York State. This unfavorable distinction equates to 1,044 total governments (taxing districts), representing an annual tax levy of $1.6 billion. The governor came out against any new taxing districts, because it adds another layer of government, and inevitably more cost onto the taxpayers. I believe Erie County clearly has too much government and bureaucracy, and adding on a library taxing district is a step in the wrong direction.

 

I want to be clear that I support our library system. Each budget that I have worked on provided funding to support hours and programming. As is the case in any budget process, the library system may not have received exactly what was requested, but compromises must be made. The library receives $26 million dollars each year with increased funding of almost $3 million the past few years. The library director stated during the committee that having a consistent and stable funding source was the reason for pushing for the special taxing district. We can continue to accomplish that goal without adding another layer of government.

 

Currently, the comptroller is auditing the library at the request of the Chairman of the Legislature. I am looking forward to reviewing the results so we have a clear understanding of how the library has been spending its budget and what improvements can be made.

 

Also concerning, is the fact that the Erie County library leadership has been unable to provide the Legislature with its proposed resolution calling for the creation of the taxing district, yet the plan is to try and push this unnecessary proposal forward within the next few months.

 

I look forward to discussing county issues with you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office at 858-8676 or email edward.rath@erie.gov