Year in review news stories highlight both successes and tragedies. We are reminded that the past year was as much a struggle as it was a testament of achievements. In Erie County it was much of the same. I had the honor of recognizing many outstanding citizens who have gone above and beyond. We saw local heroes respond to various emergencies. Good deeds weren’t hard to find as churches, Boy and Girl Scouts, schools, fire departments, police departments, businesses and many others responded to both local and national calls for help and offered assistance through volunteering, funds and collection of goods. And although we also dealt with devastating loss, tragic accidents and disappointment, I wanted to thank those who work daily to make our community better.
In Erie County, 2012 was a year of ups and downs, fortunately ending with many “up” moments. One of the biggest accomplishments was the Legislature successfully eliminating the county executive’s proposed tax increase and adopting a budget that held the line on property taxes. As we look forward in 2013, I know that those savings are anything by minimal and were necessary for the residents of Erie County.
The end of the year also saw additional savings through the ratifying of two expired union contracts that I believe is fair for both the taxpayers and employees. Cost savings will be realized through various modifications, including changes to the health insurance clause that now requires employees to pay toward their coverage. The final weeks of 2012 also included the refinancing of some of the county’s existing bonds with an estimated savings of $2.6 million over the course of 12 years. I first backed this plan in the summer, pushing for the county to take advantage of low interest rates and capitalize on these potential savings. Having initially brought this proposal to the forefront, I strongly support this effort and point to it as a great example of creative ways the county can save taxpayers money. We must continue to do more of the same.
By identifying savings, we can pay for the necessary services. Throughout my district there are many looming infrastructure concerns that need immediate repair. I believe by addressing some of these concerns now, we not only improve quality of life for motorists, but we will avoid extensive repairs down the road. One of the projects that I urge the County Executive to move forward on immediately is completing repairs to Bloomingdale Road and John Street in the Village of Akron. Once those repairs are complete, the county and village can finalize the transfer of both roadways to the village, which will save the county future maintenance costs.
Not only must we take advantage of cost savings, we must build our tax base and focus on economic development. This past year, Industrial Development Agencies were often the center of debate. I think this matter needs to be put to rest in 2013 and any attempts to impede on the work of the local IDAs be stopped. I believe we must allow the local IDAs to oversee growth in their community and when the board deems a project worthy of receiving incentives that it is allowed to do so in the town, village or city’s best interest.
With 2013 just beginning, it is impossible to know what will be said when looking back a year from now, but I hope we can report much of the same good news and continue to deliver savings for taxpayers.