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County Legislature Majority Leader Reacts to Early Release of Audit Information

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Early reports leaked about an upcoming state audit have Erie County lawmakers bracing for action on a more than $100 million deficit.

According to published reports, the State Comptroller's review of county finances will put the deficit well above the worst case number of $113 million previously estimated. And the blame is expected to fall squarely on county officials.

Government sources say the audit -- expected sometime next week -- will show widespread county mismanagement. Though he would not comment on tape, the County Executive issued a statement defending his fiscal policies. Democratic Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli says they should all accept responsibility.

"We all asked for the State Comptroller to do this financial review," Marinelli said. "It would be my hope that we accept the number that comes from that report and then take a series of steps to rectify that."

She says that will have to include some form of tax hikes just to dig out of the 2005 deficit. Marinelli says she's ready to act, but isn't sure about other lawmakers. Still, she doesn't think a control board is necessary. But she admits they may have no say in the matter if Hevesi's report triggers that action by the state.

"I am duly elected to do a job, and I am prepared to do that job," Marinelli said. "This rush to go to that step (a control board), to me, is a sad situation. It may get triggered with or without my opinion on the matter."

In the meantime, Marinelli will propose a slate of possible county properties that could be sold to private entities to generate funds for 2005. The county would then rent the facilities. The list includes county parks, the public safety building, and the county home property among others. Her resolution will be presented to the full legislature at its session later Thursdayday.