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Legislature Democrats Warn of County Budget Problems

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Democrats in the Erie County Legislature are warning of potential problems with the county budget.

The Democratic lawmakers say they're flying blind. They say the Giambra administration has failed to provide charter-mandated monthly monitoring reports. But Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli says what they do know has them raising red flags. She says the state's failure to pass an early retirement incentive that the budget depends on is creating a $17 million gap. Marinelli said it may be time for some mid-year budget hearings.

"We don't just do the budget in November," Marinelli said. "(Mid-year hearings) would be historic and would be most appropriate and responsible. That way, if there are corrective measures that must be taken, we can take them. We don't want to get to the three weeks of budget deliberations this fall, having to pick the worst case scenario."

Buffalo Democrat Al DeBenedetti, who chairs the Legislature's Finance and Management committee, says contingency plans should be developed that would include a freeze on county hiring and automobile purchases.

"If we're running behind in revenues because we're not saving enough money in personnel costs, one of the possibilities is to freeze hiring so that we don't incur any additional personnel expenses," DeBenedetti said.

The Legislature Democrats are asking the Giambra administration for information on a variety of budget points, ranging from the amount of the county's pensions costs to the status of the county credit rating.