November 2014 column - Legislature reviews budget, library audit & weights and measure investigation

There is a lot that has been happening in the Erie County Legislature that you might have missed so I wanted to provide some updates on these important issues.


The Legislature received the County Executive’s proposed 2015 budget in October. It does not include a tax increase but does call for $40 million in new spending. Now, focus has turned to where cuts can be made by the Legislature to hopefully pass a tax decrease onto taxpayers. We should try and do better than just holding the line on taxes. The Legislature will conduct meetings with the various departments and commissioners from Monday, Nov. 17 through Wednesday, Nov. 19. Hopefully during those meetings we will identify areas to cut spending to lower the tax rate for all Erie County residents. The public is invited to voice their opinion on the budget during the public hearing which will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24 in the Legislature Chambers, Fourth Floor, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo.


In another matter, at the Oct. 23 Community Enrichment Committee meeting, legislators questioned the Library Director about decisions made to spend more than $422,000 on an Albany lobbyist and law firm in hopes of creating a special taxing district. As you may recall, the Legislature passed a resolution in April opposing the plan to add another layer of government. I was very disappointed that nearly half a million dollars was spent on an issue that was dead in the water. I work very closely with the library branch directors in my district to host my Hot Dog Fundraisers and they tell me how appreciative they are of those funds because they are desperately needed. When the county allocates funding for the library, culturals and other areas we expect each penny to be spent wisely.


Unfortunately, wasting funds has been an issue lately. The County Executive decided to borrow $29 million for capital projects and another smaller bond through the county instead of the control board, wasting $406,650. This is incredibly disappointing. Time and time again the Legislature has urged the County Executive to choose the cheapest option possible; we can’t afford not to. His decision making with regard to borrowing is  concerning.  


Finally, the Legislature is continuing to look into an investigation of the Weights and Measures Division. The Comptroller Office’s investigation showed improper fines were issued on local businesses, in addition to other issues. After refusing to appear before the Finance and Management Committee on several occasions, I have served the director with a subpoena, compelling his testimony. I am hopeful that he will appear at the Nov. 13 committee meeting to allow for this issue to be properly addressed. Businesses were improperly fined; we have to ensure the problems are resolved. Businesses need to know they can trust the county.     


If you have any questions about a county matter, please contact me at 858-8850 or email