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Erie County Legislature passes 2014 budget

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

With a little tweaking from the original plan proposed by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the County has a budget for next year. Its passage marks the final budget before Republicans take control of the Legislature in January.

The $1.5 billion plan features some small changes from  Legislature Democrats but the tax rate stays the same as this year. That's even with major growth in costs like employee health insurance and welfare.

The big objection from Republicans was to a plan to borrow up to $9 million from Albany to pay the county share of employee pension costs.

Majority Leader Thomas Mazur says Albany makes a budget difficult.

"Our services here are mandated. Eighty percent of our services are mandated by the state. The money has to come from someplace, Mazur said.

"I never stop hearing people from both sides of the aisle saying fix my roads, fix my bridges."

The budget grapples with welfare and Medicaid costs in the slow economy. It also has a problem of employee union contracts which have long expired and present the possibility of high costs in wages and fringe benefits to get new ones.

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.