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January 2017 Column - My Views on the 2017 Erie County Budget


Amherst and Clarence bear sightings drew a great deal of attention from both the media and the community

During last Thursday’s session, Erie County Legislator Ed Rath recognized Majors Tom and Kathy Applin as the Legislature’s Citizens of the Month.

Additional summer funding to assist these organizations that serve children and the community
The Swormville Fire Company has offered years of dedication to serving and protecting the Amherst, Clarence and surrounding communities
Ed Rath wrapped up a three-week series of volunteering for Junior Achievement of Western New York

oneilj - Posted on 03 January 2017

Another year has passed and without much fanfare so did the 2017 Erie County Budget. In early December, the Legislature approved a $1.7 billion budget that for the third consecutive year reduced the county tax rate. This is an achievement to be proud of, but not one to linger on. The goal is always to try and return as much of your tax dollars to you as possible. Some years are easier than others. County employee costs continue to rise, our sales tax revenue continues to fall and the federal government and New York state refuses to remove costly mandates that make up over ninety-percent of our budget.


            As you can expect in a budget, everyone comes forward asking for money for their organization or project. It isn’t always easy. You never want to disappoint anyone, but often many worthy causes go unfunded because the money just isn’t there. This year was exceptionally tricky. It was important to prioritize what we needed, as opposed to what we wanted. We’ve chosen to take on some very costly but necessary fights that could affect us in future budget years.


            This year we’ve committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to address the opioid crisis that has hit Erie County hard. It continues to take away family and friends in our community. As of early December over 230 deaths have been reported in Erie County in 2016, with 94 more cases suspected. Nobody has a silver bullet for this problem and it won’t be money alone that fixes it.


            The Legislature also invested $500,000 to continue the fight against poverty. Even though portions of Western New York are seeing development and growth, we still have communities where people are being left behind. We need to continue our efforts to promote safe neighborhoods, increase wages for workers by creating conditions for higher paying jobs and investing in the education of our children.


            The Legislature also continued our investments in our library system, all three of our community college campuses, cultural institutions, our infrastructure and public safety. We were happy to renew our commitment to all of these things especially those close to home such as the Clarence Museum, the Newstead Historical Society, the Akron Community Band, Hearts and Hands and Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village. However there are major challenges ahead.


Costs to the county continue to rise and eventually tough decisions will need to be made. We can’t kick the can down the road using fiscal gimmicks. We need focused, creative solutions from government. Solutions that don’t require anymore from you, the taxpayer, and that don’t just place the burden on our children.


I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and has a great New Year. I’m truly honored to be your representative in county government and promise to always be honest and straightforward regarding issues Erie County faces, as always should you have any questions or concerns on this or any other topic, contact my office at (716) 858-8676 or at edward.rath@erie.gov.