7/18/14: Mid Year Budget Hearings Show County on Strong Fiscal Footing

Modified: January 23, 2015 3:01pm

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Erie County Experiencing $4.8 Million Positive Variance at Mid-Year 

Administration’s Success in Managing 2014 Budget Evidenced by Historically Short Meetings, Lack of Criticism by Majority Caucus and Comptroller

ERIE COUNTY, NY— As the Erie County Legislature completed its fourth and final day of annual mid-year budget hearings, the County administration reported that at mid-year 2014 the County has a positive variance totaling $4.8 million with a stable outlook.

During the budget hearings, the Division of Budget and Management testified and reported that the latest monthly budget monitoring report shows the County has a strong financial outlook due to the Poloncarz Administration’s cost-containment and management measures including vacancy control. In addition, in several respects, such as Medicaid expense, the County has benefitted from the State’s decision to provide fiscal relief.

“Erie County continues to experience strong fiscal results in 2014. The mid-year budget hearings demonstrate that the County is in a solid and stable position and headed down the right track,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “This data indicates that we have prudently budgeted and efficiently managed the County’s finances while simultaneously benefiting from State actions.”

Among the key factors creating the positive variance are:

•          Vacancy control measures by the administration have led to $1.5 million in County share savings;

•          Fringe benefit expense, due to savings related to vacancy control and a State methodology change has generated $2.3 million in lower than expected costs;

•          Medicaid-MMIS savings due to the 2014-2015 State Budget totaling $1.1 million year-to-date.

The news about the positive variance at mid-year 2014 follows a report from independent credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on July 14th that noted the Poloncarz Administration’s “continued prudent financial practices, including strong oversight of expenses” and the County’s “conservative budgeting and cost cutting measures.” Fitch also stated that the County has a “manageable” debt burden “characterized by modest future borrowing needs, above-average debt amortization, and reasonable pension costs.”

The administration did sound a cautionary note, reporting that several potential looming issues, including State actions, property tax assessment challenges by the largest property owners in Erie County, overtime trends in some departments such as the Sheriff and Social Services, and sales tax revenue remain a concern and are being closely monitored.

Poloncarz concluded, “I am pleased to report to the residents of Erie County that the fiscal state of the County is strong and we continue to head in the right direction.  It is apparent that members of the legislature, even the Majority Caucus, believe this as well based on their limited questioning of administration representatives and overall tone and tenor of the hearings.  In the past, hearings lasted for hours while legislators grilled department heads.  This year, most hearings lasted less than 30 minutes; several under 10 minutes and even one that took less than a minute.

As I did when I was Comptroller, I take seriously my role as a protector of the citizens’ tax-dollars and will always stress fiscal responsibility as major theme of my administration.”

Additionally, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw chose not to issue a comprehensive mid-year report as he did last year. This lack of participation by the comptroller’s office is interpreted as general acknowledgement of the Administration’s successful management of the 2014 Erie County Budget thus far.