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New figures put Erie County budget hole at $170M

Mike Desmond

Erie County's troubled finances go in front of the legislature again Thursday, with little resolution in sight other than massive cuts in spending and staff. That may happen, unless there is some agreement in Washington on a state and local government bailout along the lines of what has been given to American business.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he will have a spending cuts plan, although it will be early next month before it is put together.

"We're going to look at all options and it's significant," he said. "Two good things that have come out of the last week is we got our first sales tax data for the end of March-April and it was better than we thought. It was only a 24-25% drop, not a 50% drop, which we were expecting."

The original projection was a budget hole of $220 million, while new figures are at $170 million. The county executive said the fiscal situation is still bad enough that he is looking at everything, including road and bridge spending cuts.

"We've done line items on projects and we do expect that there would have to be some cuts because we just don't have the full revenue to pay things out of our operating budget," he said. "If it's our capital budget and it's borrowed, then we will move ahead with that because it's not the same. It doesn't have the direct impact like the money coming out of our operating budget does."

Poloncarz said he is hoping for more Washington cash.

"I wish that they had come up with greater resolution, right now, in Washington with regards to a new federal aid package. Negotiations are ongoing, but I've been told it's probably not going to get done before Memorial Day, now, which is what we were hoping for," he said.

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.
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