Poloncarz: County government will be “leaner”, “more efficient” under proposed budget for next year

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(WIVB) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says county government is going to be “leaner and more efficient” under his budget for next year.

Poloncarz released the 400 page spending plan on Thursday.

The county executive’s spending outline would cut the overall property tax rate- but cutting the rate on higher property assessments still results in a higher tax levy, by about $7 million.

Poloncarz believes Erie County is coming out okay despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is going to be a little bit leaner and more efficient for county government because we are going to have less people providing the same amount of services,” Poloncarz said.

The budget includes fewer county workers and slashes the number of vacancies.

Highway spending is going to take a hit, but Poloncarz says he plans to keep the important projects on the table, although those on the drawing board will likely stay there for 2021.

“I think we are actually going to be doing a greater percentage of roads in 2021 than the towns are doing based on their projected budgets because some of those budgets are really, really cut down,” Poloncarz said.

While Poloncarz cut the county’s overall property tax rate by six percent, he says higher property assessments will raise the tax levy by $7 million.

County lawmakers got their first look at Poloncarz’ plan.

“People in this community are dealing with financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic across the board,” Erie County legislature minority chair Joseph Lorigo said. “If we are going to say to them we want to collect more taxes from you, I think we need to take a step back and see if that is something that is even really necessary.”

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw criticized Poloncarz’ call for higher taxes. He was unavailable for an interview, but recorded a statement saying in part that the Office of the Comptroller will do a thorough analysis of the budget.

County officials noted that the county has taken a hit in sales tax collections, but they were bracing for worse.

“And that is a good thing, because it allowed us to propose a budget that provides the services that the public wants without having to do one of two things- slash and burn county government or raise the property tax rate,” Poloncarz said.

Poloncarz conveyed his budget plan to the Erie County Legislature, and they’re set to start budget hearings next month.

Lawmakers have six weeks to make changes to the plan before it takes effect next year.

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