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Political fight erupts over ECC budget problems

WBFO News File Photo

A backroom fight over the budget for Erie Community College is turning into a major public fight between two of the area's most visible public figures, County Executive Mark Poloncarz and college president Jack Quinn.

College finances are shaky enough that the county executive yesterday referred to it as a potential red-green situation, a reference to the county budget which led to the Control Board controlling county finances.

"You cannot put this shortfall on the backs of the students by increasing tuition. You cannot continue to use your fund balance to plug these holes," said Poloncarz.

The college budget is due to be delivered May 10 as the ECC faces rising costs and  and dropping enrollment.

"They have not addressed the systemic problems that exist in ECC for some time," Poloncarz asserted

In response, Quinn says the board is working hard to resolve the budget but admits raising tuition would be a problem.
"Right now, it (tuition) is less than $2,500 a semester. We believe we're a very good bargain, quality education for a very good price," Quinn said.

"But, we're also cognizant, the trustees are, that we can't just continue to increase tuition and increase tuition, time and time again."

Because of the problems, Poloncarz appointed Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callan to the college board, a man who moonlights as a college teacher using his political science doctorate.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.