BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released his proposed budget for 2015, Wednesday morning, which Poloncarz says will boost spending, but hold the line on county property taxes.
The County Executive plans to spend $1.43 billion next year, nearly $40 million more than this year’s budget, but Poloncarz says the county property tax rate stays the same as it has for the last 5 years.
“Erie County Government, as a government, will be smaller in 2015 than it will be in 2014,” said Poloncarz who contends the county is downsizing because there will be a net loss of 8 job positions from the existing county workforce.
Of the nearly $39.7 million in new spending, Poloncarz is dedicating almost the entire amount, $38.5 million to fixing county roads, and Poloncarz says and Erie County has a lot of roads, 2,400 “lane miles”.
“If you did a straight line road, from Buffalo to San Francisco, you would drive straight across the country, past San Francisco, into the Pacific Ocean. That is a lot of roads to repair,” explained Poloncarz, yet the county’s property tax rate will remain at $5.03 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
So where is the money coming from to cover the new spending? Poloncarz says higher sales tax collections, and a growth in property assessments.
“All these new buildings that are coming on line in our community, especially in downtown Buffalo–especially those that were vacant properties–they are going to be paying higher taxes, as a result of having assessment growth.”
But County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says holding the line on taxes is okay, but Erie County can do better, and Mychajliw is looking to cut taxes, “I think we need to sit with our partners over the next month to see where pork and patronage can be cut, in order to cut taxes. Taxes should not be cut without reducing spending in this budget.”
Poloncarz said most of the cuts in the county workforce are coming in the Department of Social Services, despite adding dozens of staffers to Child Protection Services. According to Poloncarz the state is taking over some of the work that was being performed by DSS.
The County Legislature’s Majority Leader, Joseph Lorigo said lawmakers didn’t get much of a chance to check out the spending plan, but hearings get underway next month, with an eye on saving taxpayers some money.
“We will basically go through the budget, line by line, and see where we can make some changes–where we can make some cuts–and hopefully be able to present a budget to the Erie County taxpayers that reduces their tax rate.”
Lorigo hinted, lawmakers might be returning to familiar battlegrounds in their search for areas to cut spending, and reduce taxes: funding for local cultural agencies, and libraries.