BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Erie County officials released the proposed 2014 budget. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz presented the budget Tuesday, saying it addresses the needs of our community “at a time when Erie County faces tremendous opportunities along with fiscal burdens.”
The proposed budget includes funding for the reinvestment in public libraries, $36 million for infrastructure investments, and three new positions in the health department. Poloncarz says the property tax rate will remain the same as it has since 2009, there is $4.4 million in additional revenue due to assessment growth and 40 county positions have been cut.
"The property tax rate will not be going up, and if you did a comparison of the property tax rate in Erie County in 2013-14 compared to years past, especially the 90s, it is lower than what it used to be in the late 90s, early 90s," Poloncarz said.
The proposed budget includes “initiatives for a smart economy.” It lists the following:
- Providing additional operating funds for the Buffalo Convention Center and Visit Buffalo-Niagara, new funding for the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission-WNED to support cultural tourism and development, and $500,000 in new capital funds for a needs analysis of the Convention Center;
- Designating nearly $68,000 in new funding for cultural organizations following a rigorous and competitive funding process that strengthens the County’s overall commitment to cultural and arts agencies;
- Allocating $2 million for brownfield redevelopment in Erie County, in addition to providing new funding for workforce development initiatives and summits;
- Providing $100,000 in new funding for the creation of a new Greater Toronto area economic development office to assist Canadian and foreign companies to locate businesses and industries in Erie County, such as the Welded Tube investment in Lackawanna;
- Providing $5 million for work at Erie Community College to bolster College science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) programs and educate future leaders in the vital science disciplines, and
- Creating the position of Energy Officer for the Erie County government to help the County reduce costs on electricity, natural gas, and other fuels while operating more efficiently and in an environmentally-conscious manner.
The budget was released, but not without controversy. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is already swinging. He says he is concerned about $7.4 million from the county’s “rainy day” savings account now reserved to keep the budget balanced.
A spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says $2 million of the fund balance will go as a one time capital expense for major repairs at the Botanical Gardens. He says the rest of the money was already approved by the Stability Authority as an appropriate, conservative use of county reserves in 2014.
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