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UB to Help with County Cost Savings

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The State University at Buffalo Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth is being called in to help salvage one of Erie County's troubled initiatives.

Finding alternatives to costly incarceration was supposed to save the county about five million dollars by next year alone.

But, as WBFO recently reported, Buffalo's stepped up policing efforts are putting more criminals behind bars than ever.

And that puts at risk savings that are crucial to the county's four-year plan.

James Hartman is director of the county's management initiatives program. He said the regionalism institute was hired to find ways they can recoup the savings.

"What we're going to try to do is to develop, what we're going to call, a case management system that will basically allow the different components of the criminal justice system to sort of have a common database that they can use to sort of track what happens to defendants as they move through the criminal justice system so we can figure out where various bottlenecks are occurring," said Hartman.

The UB Institute was chosen over another group interviewed, the Center for Government Research, based in Rochester.

According to Hartman, the Institute will be paid roughly $170,000 for a year of service. He said the county will apply for and expects to receive an efficiency grant through the county fiscal stability authority to pay the fee.

"The holding center is one of the major expense items in the county budget, totally supported by county tax dollars," said Hartman. "So, developing way to try to reduce the inmate population in the holding center is really critical to the whole larger goal of cost control in Erie County."

Hartman said the Institute's work will not be just another study gathering dust on a shelf.

"They will be doing analysis and evaluations and recommendations throughout the period of their engagement," said Hartman.

"So, this is really about implementing what we want to do. It's not about another, sort of, high level study," ssaid Hartman.

Hartman said the alternatives to incarceration is one of two major initiatives at risk. He said there also isn't any progress on union concessions.

Together, he said the failing initiatives blow a twenty million dollar hole in the 2007 budget. That's about half the savings originally targeted for next year to keep the four-year plan on track.