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Legislature passes ECC budget with $300 tuition increase

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie Community College students will have to pay more for tuition next year. ECC's budget was passed Thursday by Erie County Legislators, but not until after lengthy debate on a motion to eliminate the tuition hike.

By a vote of 8-3, lawmakers approved an ECC budget that raises tuition next school year by $300 per semester.

A late motion to block that increase came from Republican majority leader Joseph Lorigo, who says the county is badly underfunding ECC and needs to invest more in education, rather than increase the burden on the student population.

"This is the second year in a row that ECC has raised tuition on students by $300," Lorigo said following Thursday afternoon's session. "We need to have a discussion about priorities in Erie County. We need to make educating our students a number one priority."

Opponents of his motion, however, came from both sides of the political aisle. Among the Republicans to reject the motion was Kevin Hardwick, who agreed with Lorigo in principle but sided with Democrats concerned about a projected $3 million budget deficit that would be created had the tuition increase been canceled.

"We have an opportunity to do something about these tuition increases. We have an opportunity to do something about the future of Erie Community College. But that opportunity is not today," said Hardwick. "That opportunity is this fall, in December, when we vote on next year's (Erie County) budget."

Lorigo disputes concerns about an ECC budget gap, saying that there is money readily available in the county's fund balance to cover any gap created by holding the line on ECC's tuition.

"We're sitting on $100 million in fund balance. We're required to have approximate $50 million. We spend $7 million last week on random stuff including $250,000 for light bulbs and $850,000 for plants," Lorigo said. "If we can't find $3 million to cover the cost of our students, so they don't have to be burdened with the cost of another tuition increase, that's on us. We need to get down to work and do our job."

Lorigo's motion was rejected by a similar 8 to 3 vote.

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