December 2014 Column - Legislature delivers tax cut in 2015 budget while continuing investment in community

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On Dec. 2, the Erie County Legislature unanimously approved the 2015 budget that reduces taxes, funds critical services and supports cultural and service organizations. The Legislature was able to cut spending in the County Executive’s proposed budget, which only held the line on taxes, to deliver a tax decrease next year. 

 

In order to deliver the first property tax decrease to Erie County residents in nearly ten years, the Majority Caucus identified over-inflated budget lines, redundant expenses, unnecessary new positions, and areas where the administration can better manage.  These cuts are responsible, valid, and protect each and every service upon which Erie County residents have come to rely. 

 

While we reduced spending in the 2015 budget, we didn’t just stop there.  In reviewing the proposed County Budget, we noticed that a number of youth development programs and community-based organizations, including several in my district, received decreased funding from the County Executive.  Our budget amendments restored 2014-level funding to area youth groups, cultural organizations, and other community assets, including the Town of West Seneca YES Program and the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Aurora, Holland, and EMW.  I was also able to secure funding for the West Seneca Food Pantry and the Rural Outreach Center.  Our additions also focused on groups that have a County-wide impact.  For example, we increased funding to the Food Bank of WNY, the Buffalo City Mission, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, and a number of other agencies.  We are investing in Erie County’s future.

 

As a caucus, we strive to lead Erie County government through example.  As one of our first actions as the new majority this year, the caucus asked County Comptroller to audit our own expenses. Through this audit, we found ways to cut costs and improve efficiency, and as a result, one of our first budget amendments was a reduction of $100,000 in the Legislature’s operating budget.  

 

Nearly 99 percent of our budget amendments passed unanimously, and the overall amended budget was given unanimous support for the first time in the recent history of Erie County government. Our caucus showed that you can provide tax relief and continue to maintain the services residents have come to expect.   While this year’s tax decrease is a great start, we must continue to do everything we can to further eliminate the burden this area’s high taxes have on area residents and businesses. We still remain one of the highest taxed counties in the United States, and New York State is continually ranked as one of the top two “unfriendliest” states to do business.  We pledge to continue the work we’ve already started, and invest in our local economy to help all of Erie County reach its full potential.

 

Thank you to all the residents, community groups, and organizations that reached out to us and attended our public hearings on the budget. Your input was critical in our decision making process. In the end, we feel the 2015 budget as amended by the Legislature is fair, transparent and provides real deliverables to each and every resident.