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Poloncarz to deliver county budget deficit plan Thursday

WBFO file photo

He wouldn't say whether it will include layoffs or furloughs, but Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's plan to address a budget deficit is expected to include some cuts and use of fund balance dollars when it's delivered Thursday morning to the Legislature.

Poloncarz spoke of the forthcoming release during Wednesday afternoon's COVID briefing. He had signed off on an earlier version of the budget, he reported, but then Wednesday afternoon the first numbers from May sales tax revenues came in and, as he hosted his briefing, had not yet had the chance to see how those would impact the overall spending plan.

"We had estimates based on the April numbers. We had nothing on the May numbers," he said. "So we had a number of potential plans that we would implement to address what was going to be a significant deficit. More than $100 million, but less than $200 million when we originally talked about it."

With businesses going on "pause" since mid March and the COVID pandemic, sales tax revenue losses were anticipated. In early May, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw declared the county to be in a budget deficit and called on the Poloncarz administration to come up with a plan to address it. Poloncarz, who had declared Mychajliw's declaration "premature," issued an order that gave him 23 more days to complete that plan. 

Democrats on the Legislature, in response to the Comptroller's wishes, recommended the county wait for updates on possible federal funding before his declaration, but that stimulus relief is not yet assured. The House had passed a $3 trillion stimulus package in mid May but was still being debated this week in the Senate.

Poloncarz hinted of what could be found in the plan, adding that it was pending further review and changes leading up to Thursday morning's delivery to the Legislature.

"Right now the plan includes cuts. It includes using fund balance. It includes major reductions across the board and budget lines that we control. So there's gonna be a lot that goes on in the package," he replied. "And it's also going to be dependent on what we send over to the Legislature with the budget numbers when it comes to sales tax for the month of May, from our largest providers, so to speak, the ones that generally pay the vast majority of the sales tax, and that was received at the budget office at one o'clock."

When asked if county employee layoffs or furloughs would be called for, Poloncarz answered he would not say anything until Thursday's release.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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