11/09/12: Bee News - Budget proposal ensures quality of life services residents have demanded

November 9, 2012

In October, I formally presented my 2013 Erie County Proposed Budget and I would like to take a moment to explain what’s included in it. 

Unfortunately, 2013 will be the County’s most challenging budget year since the “Red-Green” fiscal crisis due to a “perfect storm” of more than $30 million of new State-mandated expenses and significant multi-million dollar declines in anticipated revenue.

However, when I was elected last November, I heard the message loud and clear: you demanded certain quality of life programs and services to be funded.  And, as such, I have presented a Proposed Budget that will maintain these services in a responsible way, while acknowledging the hard fiscal realities facing us.

Specifically, the Budget:

  • Makes good on a promise to safeguard our Public Library System from politics and ensure stable funding levels by increasing the System’s tax levy beyond the pre-Collins-cut level to $22.172 million;
  • Provides more than $5.5 million in cultural funding through a new, revitalized process based on need and merit;
  • Maintains 2012 funding levels for two of the County’s most popular programs—rodent control and the summer youth education and anti-crime program, Operation PrimeTime;
  • Maintains vital public safety services like the Sheriff’s road patrol; and
  • Fully invests in our aging infrastructure by (1) increasing the pay-as-you-go Road Fund by $700,000 and (2) increasing the Capital Budget to $39 million to address our deteriorating roads, bridges and parks.

In order to balance the budget without sacrificing these quality of life programs, we implemented an “all of the above” approach that calls for (1) an across the board reduction in departmental spending that includes eliminating an additional 63 positions in County government, (2) the use of $5.4 million in Fund Balance, and (3) a modest property tax increase for the first time since Chris Collins raised them in 2009.

The Proposed Budget increases the property tax rate per thousand from $5.03 to $5.21—a $0.18 increase. For the average Erie County homeowner with a house assessed at $100,000, this means their County property taxes will increase $18 a year, or $1.50 per month, which is still among the lowest tax rates in New York State.

Think about it, for less than $1.50 per month we can ensure a responsible budget that meets the financial challenges presented to us while continuing to provide the quality of life programs that you have demanded from your County government.

You elected me County Executive to make not just tough decisions but smart ones as it pertains to the future of our community; this budget not only meets but exceeds that standard.

In addition to the Legislature’s budget process, I will also be hosting two public meetings to give residents the opportunity to comment or ask any questions they may have.  Meetings will be held from 7:00-8:00 pm on November 13th at the ECC South Campus Lecture Hall and on November 15th at the ECC City Campus Minnie Gillette Auditorium.