The Erie County Legislature early today adopted a 1991 county budget totaling $912.4 million.
The final version of the spending plan, steered into place by the Democratic majority, includes $1.1 million in spending not envisioned by the county executive in his original budget proposal.
However, those new expenditures are more than compensated for through across-the-board reductions and an early debt service payment of $850,000 from 1990 funds.
In its final form, the legislative budget provides additional money for some cultural and community groups, Mercy Flight and the library system, while maintaining County Executive Gorski's proposed average property tax rate of $9.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Although that represents a 4.8 percent drop in the average rate, most property owners will be paying slightly higher taxes due to assessment updates, local assessors say. The budget relies on an increase of $4.7 million in the property tax levy.
Gorski has until Monday to veto additions the Legislature made to his proposal. He cannot veto any cuts.
Majority Leader Leonard R. Lenihan, chairman of the Legislature's Budget Committee, said he's satisfied with the result, which passed 12-5.
"It reflects reality, but still provides basic services. It's a hold-the-line budget," Lenihan said of the fiscal plan.
He acknowledged that the majority of the department heads and agency officials who had asked for increases during last month's budget hearings will probably be disappointed. But with fiscal budget crises in Washington and Albany, this is "the best we could do," according to Lenihan.
Besides, Lenihan, D-Town of Tonawanda, those voting to approve the budget included: Democrats Edward J. Kuwik of Lackawanna, Michael A. Fitzpatrick, William F. Robinson, Thomas J. Mazur, David M. Manz and Legislature Chairman Roger I. Blackwell, all of Buffalo; Raymond K. Dusza of Cheektowaga, G. Steven Pigeon of West Seneca, Charles M. Swanick of Kenmore, Joseph R. Desmond of Eden and Republican Joan K. Bozer of Buffalo.
Votes against the budget came from Minority Leader Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, and her fellow Republicans Ralph M. Mohr of Lancaster, William A. Pauly of Amherst, Frederick J. Marshall of East Aurora and Michael H. Ranzenhofer of Amherst. Mohr said he's disappointed that the Republican package of amendments, which would have reduced spending by an additional $6.5 million was ignored. "We had an opportunity to bring the tax rate down by more than 8 percent, instead of 4.8 percent," Mohr said.
He also predicted proposed cuts in state aid to localities in 1991 may force the administration to reconsider some of the cost-cutting initiatives contained in the Republican package.
During the presentation of proposed Republican alterations to the Gorski budget, Pigeon belittled the minority amendments saying they did not come close to reflecting reality.
"I think their budget should be titled 'Mary Lou (Rath) in La-La Land,' " Pigeon remarked.
Democrats spent nearly an hour with Gorski prior to the start of the budget session at 11:25 p.m. Tuesday. Sources close to Gorski said that discussion, combined with slight modifications in their rendition of his budget may have erased a veto threat made earlier Tuesday.
Gorski had said he was planning to veto some of the additions lawmakers unveiled late last week. However, it now appears the fiscal plan may escape the executive's vetoes.
Gorski was not available to comment following passage of the 1991 budget shortly after 1 a.m. today.
Legislators also fine-tuned funding for Mercy Flight, reducing 1991 funding to $65,000, down $10,000 from their original proposal. They also reduced appropriations to Catholic Charities by $3,000 to $60,000, and reduced part-time library hours by $29,000.
None of those items appeared in Gorski's original budget blueprint.
Lawmakers also revised their plan to keep the Scajaquada Pathway Project alive. They had originally included $50,000 seed money for the $250,000 effort, but scaled the allocation back to $6,250 for 1991.
The new figure represents the 5 percent cash down payment the county must make to borrow a total of $125,000 for the pathway next year. The same procedure will be followed in 1992.
Last-minute adjustments to the legislative version of the budget include appropriations to a laundry list of small cultural and community groups, adding up to an additional $314,600.
The following groups stand to benefit from the "pork barrel" items, which tend to go to legislators' pet projects:
Orchard Park Council of the Arts, $1,420, up $500 from Gorski's budget; West Seneca Local Development, new appropriation of $7,500; Lancaster Opera House, $7,439, up $1,000; Be-A-Friend Program, $5,000; West Seneca Patriotic Commission, $2,500; West Seneca Public Library, $249,123, up $4,000; Orchard Park Public Library, $257,257, up $4,000; Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County, $24,998, up $2,000; CEPA Gallery, $5,599, up $1,000.
Also, the African Cultural Center Youth Programs, $355,000, up $7,000; Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services, $853,388, up $12,000; Northwest Buffalo Community Health Center, $20,000; Alleyway Theater, $12,060, up $4,700; Life Transition Center, $6,000; Ken-Ton YMCA, $9,000; Autistic Children, $6,000.
And, Ken-Ton Musical Theatre, 2,500; Language Development Program, $20,000; Tonawanda Kaufman Special Parks Project, $10,000; Valley Community Association, $375,000, up $20,000; Community Pastoral Care, $10,000; Buffalo Inner-City Ballet, $20,015, up $9,850; Gemini Dance, $10,004, up $4,025; Ujima Theater, $18,000, up $1,902; Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, $12,660, up $5,300; Junior League of Buffalo Waterfront Pavilion, $7,000; Tonawanda Football Clinic, $5,000.
Also, Tonawanda Industrial Development Agency, $4,500; Grand Island Memorial Library, $196,440, up $5,000; Town of Grand Island Senior Services Center, $18,000; Advisory Board for Lovejoy Elderly and Youth, $22,127, up $15,000; East Buffalo Planning and Development Council, $15,253, up $3,051; Irish Center, $5,000; Legal Services for the Elderly, $32,000, up $10,000; Buffalo New Music Ensemble, $2,520, up $1,600; Friends of Olmsted Parks, $7,015, up $6,500.
Also, Polish Community Center, $16,000, up $12,000; Friends of the Woods, $750; Niagara Radio Reading Service, $14,905, up $1,000; Council of Senior Citizen's Clubs, $87,091, up $3,300; West Seneca East Playground, $1,000; Council of International Visitors, $10,500, up $5,000; Free Trade Office, $20,000; AFL-CIO Labor Day Parade, $750; West Seneca Veteran's Day Parade, $750.