Modified: September 29, 2023 1:08pm
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by Director of the Erie County Division of Budget and Management Robert Keating to present his Fiscal Year 2024 Proposed Erie County Budget (“Proposed Budget”), a balanced proposal that cuts the tax levy by $1 million and reduces the property tax rate to $3.38 per thousand dollars of assessed value, a drop of fifty-five cents from the Adopted 2023 Budget, taking the property tax rate to its lowest point in modern history. This historic reduction underscores Erie County’s fiscal strength and demonstrates the Poloncarz administration’s continued focus on decreasing the tax rate, which remains by far the lowest in WNY has now been reduced by 33% since Poloncarz took office in 2012. The Proposed Budget pairs these savings for homeowners with a Residential Energy Sales Tax Holiday set for the period of December 1, 2023 through March 1, 2024, giving residents substantial energy savings during the coldest months of the year.
“The 2024 Proposed Budget is a solid plan that addresses the needs of citizens and promotes a stronger community for all. This year we are proposing cutting the property tax rate to its lowest rate ever, continuing a pattern my administration has followed since I took office in 2012, and we are providing added relief to homeowners with a sales tax holiday on energy during the coldest months of the year. This Budget puts more money in people’s pockets while still providing the services residents demand,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “This Proposed Budget also continues our commitment to improving our infrastructure, funds important programs to protect public health and safety, and adds other enhanced investments in our parks, SUNY Erie, and elsewhere.”
The Proposed Budget of $1.9 billion represents an increase of $162.5 million over the Adopted 2023 Budget, with shared sales tax and New York State mandates accounting for 75% of this increase. Fully 90% of the 2024 Proposed Budget is consumed by state and federally mandated programs and services.
Chief among the factors driving this increase is a $47 million increase in personnel expenses due to impacts of recently negotiated contracts as well as the creation of forty-six new positions, half of which are in the offices of the Clerk, Comptroller, District Attorney and Sheriff.
Major investments in the Proposed 2024 Budget include:
- Law Enforcement/Sheriff’s Department, slated for a $31.2 million increase compared to the 2023 Adopted budget. This covers new contracts for Teamsters Sworn & Civilian Units as well as funding for twelve new full-time positions, after forty-seven positions were added in 2023. Additionally, a $1 million deposit for a new “Erie County 2” helicopter is included.
- The People’s Mandates will again see continued investment. Despite the $1 million levy reduction, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system will receive $1.4 million in new revenue over 2023; the 2024 capital Program includes nearly $100 million in capital investments, with nearly $58 million in road and bridge projects, $3.5 million for Parks improvements including a new inclusive playground, and $17 million for SUNY Erie including a new North Campus Sports Complex. To better protect the environment and Lake Erie, the Proposed budget includes funding for a new Community Climate Resiliency Fund and over $160 million is committed for sewer upgrades including American Rescue plan projects and work at the Southtowns Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.
- Investments in Preparedness are already happening, with $7.5 million planned for new dual-purpose equipment such as high lifts and groomers for use in an emergency; a new agreement with the Erie County Federation of Snowmobile Clubs for search & rescue activation when needed; and ongoing research with the Albany Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Analytics for creation of a Blizzard Rating Scale & comprehensive deployment guide.
- Tourism Promotion including a reinvestment of $10.2 million in increased Hotel Occupancy Tax, increases in aid for the Buffalo Convention Center and Visit Buffalo Niagara, and capital work on regional assets such as the Darwin Martin House, Shea’s Theater and Kleinhans Music Hall.
- Debt Reduction continues to be a focus and the for the 11th straight year the Proposed Budget will be paying off more debt than the county will issue in the following year, with nearly $58 million in bonded principal retired in 2023 and $56 million in capital spending expected in 2024. Fiscal prudence has been a hallmark of the Poloncarz administration, which has paid off over $187 million in debt since taking office in 2012, reducing that burden from $416 million to $229 million. Aggressive debt retirement leads to better bond ratings which makes future borrowings cheaper and creates more capacity to borrow in the future.
The 2024 Proposed Budget is now before the Erie County legislature, who must vote on it by December 7, 2023.
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