Erie County Legislature Votes Against Property Tax Hike

1:20 PM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY--  Erie County Legislators voted tonight to amend the 3.4% property tax hike in County Executive Mark Poloncarz's 2013 budget.

A coalition made up of five Republicans and one Democrat, Tom Loughran from Amherst, have approved cuts to the county's risk retention fund, jail and Department of Public Works overtime and fringe benefits, and county personal services account.

They also cut $2 million from Safety Net Social Services Assistance program.

And, in a 6-5 vote, legislators also rejected funding for several cultural groups, including the African American Cultural Center.  The only cultural group to more money in the Legislature's proposed budget is the Amherst Symphony Orchestra.

The only other additions to the budget are for a job in the comptroller's office, more overtime in the clerk's office, and more funding for a youth program called Operation Primetime.

Mark Poloncarz presented a budget that included a 3.4% property tax increase. However, six legislators put together an amendment to avert a tax increase. It cuts $8.5 million from the budget.

The cuts impact the County's Law department, the jail and the department of Social Services. The Control Board expressed concerns about the cuts, however they want to make sure the budget is balanced.

If that happens, Poloncarz told reporters, "not only will I be forced to veto every single addition the legislature has included," but there could be some harsh cuts, "there will be no sacred cows, everything will be on the table," he said.

Poloncarz said without a tax increase he may have to implement a hiring freeze.

It's estimated that a modified 4-year-financial plan for the county will now include a $34 million dollar budget gap. The Erie County Control Board is now in a soft or advisory status, but the result of this budget vote could change that.

"If the board looks at this and deems that the budget and plan aren't reasonable and doable that could invoke a control status," said Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority Executive Director Kenneth Vetter.

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