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Forecast on 2007 Erie County Budget Upgraded

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County lawmakers and the Giambra Administration don't usually agree on very much. But both sides are claiming there's reason for new optimism with the 2007 budget.

The county's Fiscal Stability Authority says the four-year plan is falling apart. And they say that puts the 2007 in serious peril.

Among their concerns are several failing initiatives that have so far created a roughly fifty million dollar budget gap.

But County Budget Director James Hartman said reports of the plan's demise are greatly exaggerated.

He points to reccently announced medicaid savings for this year that will show up again next year. And he said there are other good things happening, although he declined any details at this time.

The legislature's Finance and Management Committee Chairman Demone Smith will make a similar rosy projection at a briefing Monday.

Smith said mid-year budget hearings went very well. He and Hartman project about a $20 million surplus for 2006. So, why is the control board worried? Smith believes they want the ccounty to fail so they can take over.

But the control board says the taxpayers will be the real losers if the board doesn't keep a close eye on finances.

Hartman said the real proof that the county is doing o.k. will come when the proposed budget is released. He predicts the control board - and taxpayers -will be pleasantly surprised.

Still, all the officials' collective optimism is dwarfed somewhat by struggles to resolve one major, lingering item from the 2006 budget.

Lawmakers and the administration are still at an impasse over which capital projects should be funded.

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