Modified: June 11, 2020 1:38pm
Created: June 11, 2020 1:37pm
Comptroller pledges to work collaboratively with partners in government to reduce the deficit and maintain services, cites both positive and questionable recommendations
(ERIE COUNTY, NY)- Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. sent a letter to the Erie County Legislature today, responding to the Poloncarz Administration’s deficit reduction plan, as required by Charter. Comptroller Mychajliw declared a deficit on May 4th, 2020.
Two weeks later, on May 18th, 2020, the Office of Erie County Comptroller provided the Legislature with a ten-point deficit reduction plan. One month after Comptroller Mychajliw declared a deficit, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz publicly presented his deficit reduction plan on June 4th, 2020.
Now, seven days later, Comptroller Mychajliw offered comments on the Erie County Executive’s deficit reduction plan, as mandated by the Erie County Charter.
“We were very pleased to read the County Executive’s comments in his deficit reduction plan, echoing sentiments about the importance of putting partisan politics aside to work together for the common good. Our office agrees. The deficit reduction plan put forth by the administration, after our first review, appears reasonable and would reduce the deficit declared by the Office of Erie County Comptroller and acknowledged by the administration,” said Comptroller Mychajliw.
The Poloncarz administration asked all independently elected officials to cut their respective budgets by 13.1% across the board, and pledged that all departments and independently elected officials would share the brunt of those proposed cuts equally.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Erie County Executive, staff that reports directly to him, Department Heads, the Division of Management and Budget, Office of Erie County Clerk, Office of Erie County Sheriff and the Office of Erie County District Attorney. All departments and most independently elected officials worked collaboratively to establish difficult yet necessary reductions to balance the budget. I did propose to cut my own budget by 13.6%,” said Comptroller Mychajliw.
The Comptroller pointed to position adjustments as a point of concern in the Administration’s deficit reduction plan.
Those adjustments included total annual salaries, and not prorated, which could ultimately overestimate the savings from deleting a position. In addition, if someone has bumping rights, that could further reduce the actual savings outlined in the Administration’s plan.
In layman’s terms, if a higher paid position is cut, that person, because of seniority rights, would “bump” into another position. This bumping could impact the dollar amount for estimated savings.
Comptroller Mychajliw also raised questions about the closing of capital projects as a way to cut costs. Bonds had already been sold for these projects that were deemed necessary by the Erie County Legislature, and not all capital projects the County Executive recommends closing have been completed.
“If the money is already borrowed and the interest paid, the Legislature should determine if it is an infrastructure project that is no longer necessary,” said Comptroller Mychajliw.
When closing capital projects, savings are realized in the future when no longer paying interest. That means funds cannot be used to address immediate shortfalls. As such, this cost-saving recommendation by the Administration would not have the intended impact of saving money.
Comptroller Mychajliw also pointed to a recommendation by the Administration to remove union positions to create a patronage position in the Office of Personnel.
Another issue relayed to the Erie County Legislature: taking budget power away from that Honorable body, and giving it directly to the Office of Budget and Management.
“We notified the Legislature of this proposed change in policy. They in effect will hand over budget authority directly to the administration with no checks and balances. This appears to be similar to what Governor Cuomo did when he included in his budget a measure that allows him to make changes to that budget plan throughout the year without input from any lawmakers. It looks like the County Executive is doing the same thing. I wanted to make sure the Legislature knew exactly what they were getting into if the County Executive’s deficit reduction plan becomes reality,” added Comptroller Mychajliw.
Now that the Office of Erie County Comptroller and the Office of Erie County Executive offered specific suggestions and plans to eliminate the deficit, now the Legislature must decide on how to implement all or some of these recommendations.
“There are some positive suggested actions. There are some recommendations that concern me,” said Comptroller Mychajliw. Lawmakers face tough but necessary decisions to eliminate the deficit,” concluded Comptroller Mychajliw.
For pdf of letter, click HERE
For pdf of Proposed Position Cuts, click HERE