Recently my office was pleased to announce that we have closed the books on fiscal year 2015 and ended the year with a budget surplus of more than $18 million, a relatively modest number when you consider that the entire county budget approached $1.7 billion.
It is good news for several reasons and further shows the responsible budgetary path my administration has pursued since I took office in January 2012, resulting in both increased savings and expanded investments for Erie County and its residents. This is efficient government at work, conducting the business of the people in fiscally-sound but non-exciting ways that build a better county. Nearly $11 million of the surplus will be put right to use in 2016 to maintain, protect and enhance the quality of life for our residents.
Specifically, we are allocating funding to aid in the fight against opioid abuse in Erie County by augmenting the functions of the newly-created Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional assembly focused on attacking opioid abuse across a number of fronts. The opioid abuse crisis is a public health epidemic happening across the country, one that demands a strong response from multiple aspects of the community. In Erie County we are building that response.
We are also providing new funding for programs to combat lead poisoning in our communities, an old scourge that silently remains in much of our older housing stock. It is encouraging to note that that along with the increased county commitment to fighting the problem of lead, Erie County recently was awarded a $3.4 million federal grant that dovetails with our lead prevention efforts and increases our outreach even more. My administration led the way not only in securing the additional county funding but also in pursuing the grant funding for lead poisoning prevention, and will work with our partners to now reach even more homes with lead issues.
Additionally, a portion of the surplus will be used to perform additional road work around the county to supplement work already scheduled, as well as to purchase pieces of heavy highway repair equipment to replace older machinery. My administration has invested over $100 million in Erie County roads and infrastructure since 2012 in an effort to provide residents with the best roads possible and we will continue to do so.
Summer 2016 is shaping up to be a busy season for road work, so please be patient when you encounter crews working on infrastructure in your area. Along with these critical investments, more than $7.6 million of the surplus will be added to the county’s unassigned General Fund balance, our “rainy day” fund. The Erie County Charter requires us to keep a minimum of $55 million in this fund, but with this year’s deposit the Fund will increase to over $99 million.
Sound, accurate budget forecasts throughout my time in office have resulted in this growth in the fund and have also allowed for the growth of new programs that are aiding the health and wellbeing of our entire community.