GUEST COLUMN: Proof of county progress in lower taxes, more jobs

Modified: June 7, 2019 3:36pm

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Recently, Erie County completed end-of-year budget balancing amendments that allow us to officially close the books on fiscal year 2018, allocating unused funding for use in 2019 and making possible additional investments in public health, public safety and more. I was proud to work with the Legislature’s Democratic majority to protect this funding and keep moving Erie County forward. With Erie County’s property tax rate now at its lowest rate in nearly two decades, unemployment at an historic low in our region, and a wealth of new development and investment in communities around the county, this month is a good opportunity to review the real progress happening in Erie County.

It was just six months ago that we enacted a 2019 budget containing the largest county tax rate decrease in over a decade, dropping that rate to $4.84 per thousand or nineteen cents lower than when I took office in January 2012. While naysayers have difficulty admitting this reality, my administration is committed to keeping your property taxes low while still securing funding for roads, public health, libraries, and other vital county programs. For example, in addition to that steep tax decrease we also allocated $72 million in capital project work including over $40 million for roads and bridges, bringing the total amount of combined road and bridge infrastructure investment we’ve made to over $400 million since 2012. Also prioritized was $750,000 in funding to combat lead poisoning and an increase of nearly $500,000 in library funding, which has now been raised by over $3 million over the last 7 years. We renew our commitment every day and continue to show that real tax relief paired with significant community investment is happening here in Erie County.

The amendments further underscored and strengthened that commitment. We will be investing over $1.75 million in the Evans Water Tower expansion and site work to service the new Angola Agribusiness Park, $2.5 million to support the expansion of the Botanical Gardens, and $5 million to support the Albright-Knox’s AK360 project in addition to committing funding for body cameras for the Sheriff’s department and for anti-poverty initiatives.

Businesses are taking note of our reinvigorated economy as well, with a surge of over $146 million in Canadian business investment since 2012 that’s created over 1,000 new jobs in Erie County and accompanying Canadian tourism that boosts our small businesses, cultural attractions and restaurants, and entertainment venues with hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Meanwhile, since 2012 the ECIDA has approved over 140 projects with a total private investment of over $2 billion and well over 3,000 new jobs created. As the business climate in Erie County has re-energized and taxes have lowered, community centers around the county have seen growth and investment that residents appreciate and that make our neighborhoods more vibrant and diverse. We are all better off and our communities are stronger when everyone is a part of the success, and we are working every day to make that happen.