BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Property owners in Erie county could keep a few more dollars in their pockets next year under the proposed 2017 county budget released Friday morning by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
In it, he’s calling for a slightly lower tax rate of $4.94/$1000 of assessed value, representing a two cent drop from the current year.
That’s offset, in part, by growth in the tax base from the new development that we continue to see in the county.
And, that’s allowing the proposed budget it include about $55.6 million for infrastructure projects, including almost $24 million for roads and bridges. That’s similar to the spending for that this year.
Other highlights in the 2017 proposed budget include about $500,000 more for the library system, about $500,000 for anti-poverty initiatives that Poloncarz plans to lay out in the coming weeks, and more money for cultural organizations and continued improvements at the Botanical Gardens and the County Parks.
Poloncarz called his recommendations a “steady as she goes budget”, and described it as one that’s conservative, balanced, and works for the people of Erie County.
The budget proposal now goes to the legislature for consideration and amendments. Legislator Edward Rath, who is Budget Committee Vice Chair, and Legislature Majority Leader Jospeh Lorigo responded after the proposed budget was revealed.
“The Legislature did not receive any advanced information on the proposed 2017 Erie County Budget,” Lorigo said. “We saw it the same time as everyone else when it was posted on the county website. At first glance, I am pleased to see the tax rate has not increased, however there is more to the story. We cannot continue to spend more and more each and every year without justification, especially in light of the County’s ever-increasing obligations to ECMC, as well as the continuing decline of sales tax revenue. The Budget Committee will be meeting with each department and elected office to review the proposed budget before voting on any amendments. First and foremost we will ensure that critical services are funded while respecting taxpayer dollars.”
“Today the County Executive proposed his ideas for a 2017 budget,” Rath said. “Now it is the Legislature’s responsibility to improve on what has been proposed. This is a long process that takes several weeks before we will have a finalized budget. We are facing several financial challenges in preparing the 2017 budget, however we need to ensure that we prioritize public safety and critical services. The Majority Caucus has been committed to delivering a tax rate decrease to residents for the past two years. I believe we will make every effort to once again deliver tax relief when the process is complete. Between today and early December we will study thousands of budgetary line items to finalize a balanced and practical County budget.”
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw had this to say:
“This morning, as required by the Erie County Charter, I released to the Legislature a report on the revenues and expenditures included in the County Executive’s proposed 2017 budget. As has been the case for the last several years, the County Executive violated the charter and did not provide my office with the property tax revenue numbers that are used to balance the budget. This violation of the law denied my office the necessary information to provide the Legislature a full and complete report.
The County Executive’s 2017 budget is over-reliant on an expectation that sales tax revenue will grow by nearly $10 million next year when, to date, it has only grown $25,854 in 2016. It is irresponsible to balance the taxpayer’s budget on a risky assumption like this. It also concerns me that the County Executive has been involved in extensive talks with ECMCC about a smoke and mirrors borrowing scheme that will add almost $200 million to the taxpayer’s credit card which is supposed to be paid through a shady credit mechanism over the next five years. His revenue and expense report was silent on this matter, meaning he intentionally didn’t provide the information or he intends to conduct this process outside of the county budget and behind closed doors. Either is unacceptable and unfair to taxpayers.”
County lawmakers have to decide whether to approve it by the second week of December.