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Erie County Leaders Scramble to Finish Fiscal Plan

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The state imposed County Fiscal Stability Authority came with a very strict, imposed deadline. But the clock is ticking away and Erie County officials still haven't come up with the first piece of a very complex four-year financial plan.

The control board must approve a four-year financial plan by October 15th. That means the control board needs to have it in front of them for review by October first. Before that, the legislature must also review it - and approve it.

Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said his goal is to have it to lawmakers by the first week of September.

But, so far, the first number of that plan, the deficit number, isn't even filled in. Giambra said Thursay they're working on it.

"I believe that in the net couple of days we'll be able to release the deficit numbers where there's a consensus between my office, the comptroller's office and PFM, the firm working on behalf of the stability authority," said Giambra.

Giambra raced away quickly after briefly answering questions. He has only two and half weeks to put together the entire fiscal plan.

It needs to reflect not only the the deficits for the next for years, but any areas to be cut, as well as revenue projections and any proposed tax increases.

And what about closing the 2005 deficit?

Giambra said that hasn't been decided definitely yet either.

"I still believe the tobacco funds are going to be the solution to the problem, but I am open, as I said to Chairman Regan and others, at other ideas that might be more cost effective. If there are, I'm all ears," said Giambra.

Some of those who are working on the plan have lobbied for deficit financing, at least to fill part of the 2005 gap.

That question, as well as how much taxes might need to go up all goes back - again -to the size of the deficits.

So, there will undoubtedly be a great deal of number crunching at the Rath building over the next few days. The Control Board meets again on August 30 to review those projections.