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2018 Erie County budget passes unanimously

Mike Desmond

Without debate or discussion, Erie County legislators Thursday unanimously approved a budget for next year. Legislature Chairman John Mills said the smooth passage reflects a series of sit-down meetings with County Executive Mark Poloncarz to work it all out.

Given the complicated nature of public finance, the new budget lowers the tax rate and raises more money through the property tax, as values rise.

The overall budget is up, something Republicans have criticized Poloncarz about over his time in office, but it stayed below the tax cap.

While the overall budget is around $1.5 billion, that is not what the county gets to spend, since so much spending is mandated by Albany, leaving around $130 million for things like roads, bridges and the libraries.

"The pie's only so big and it keeps shrinking because of the mandates from the State of New York," said Mills. "They just come and take the money out of our account."

Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said there were some changes made.

"We invest in our community," Lorigo said. "We showed places in our districts that maybe were either completely forgotten by the county executive or outright eliminated. We added funding back to certain organizations."

Minority Leader Tom Loughran said it is a good budget, even with limited cash for priorities.

"There's some and I think that for my interests, you always try to protect the libraries, the cultural communities and put some money aside for our roads and bridges and we did that," Loughran said. "We achieved that in this budget."

Besides putting up some money for those organizations, the budget also puts up a quarter of a million dollars for Erie Community College on top of the same additional amount in the budget proposal from the country executive. The college has been struggling financially, partially because of shrinking enrollment.

The budget also puts more money into the opioid crisis, fights the bedbug problems in the Rath Building by adding some full-time professional cleaners and adds staffers to the District Attorney's office.

What happens during the new fiscal year is out of legislators' control, with possible budget problems in Albany and potential Washington problems as federal tax proposals could hit a variety of budget areas.

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.