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Uncertainty Once Again Colors Erie County Budget Season

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Shades of red and green from the 2004 budget crisis are beginning to color the Erie County Executive's pending financial plan.

Ironically, the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority was brought in to stabilize county finances following the 2004 showdown between the county executive and the legislature.

Now, it's the control board that is creating a showdown. The County Executive's proposed budget for 2008 is due October 15. But it will have a six million dollar hole without expected revenues from a long-sought-after tax lien sale. The Control Board agreed to approve the sale, only if the administration and lawmakers allow the board to do future borrowing. The County Executive backed down. But County Budget Director James Hartman said there is no indication as yet that lawmakers will agree to those conditions.

Hartman outlined two options. They could make up the difference with a roughly three percent property tax hike. Or, he said they could submit the budget, assuming the tax lien sale revenues. He said that would effectively force lawmakers to acquiesce to the Control Board's conditions, or force lawmakers to make six million dollars in budget cuts.

Hartman said it is not as dire as the red budget - green budget showdown of 2004, but he said it is an unnecessary dilemma brought on by the Control Board's last minute demands.

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli did not immediately respond to calls from WBFO for a comment. The legislature meets in session Thursday.

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