There appears to be some confusion about jobs and vacancies within the Erie County government's budget.
The Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority has established a hiring freeze to give the county administration the opportunity to rethink and re-engineer the way it performs government services. After all, the county is a billion-dollar-plus service provider -- a fact that should not be lost on the almost 1 million people who pay for and receive its services.
It is the desire and the charter of the Fiscal Stability Authority to work with the current administration to bring about a positive change in operating Erie County. This includes providing reasonable services in efficient manners at prudent costs.
In a recent Another Voice column in The Buffalo News, the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority's justification for a hiring freeze was likened to a publicity stunt that would have little effect on implementing a successful budget. I would like to present some relevant points:
One of the key points in the recent column was that many of the new jobs are largely state reimbursed and therefore have little effect on the county budget. However, aren't the taxpayers of Erie County also footing the bill for state-reimbursed positions?
Isn't the overall idea of fiscal stability to reduce the costs while increasing the efficiency? And shouldn't the taxpayers of Erie County know that simply because a position doesn't show up on the county payroll, that position still affects how efficiently the county is operated?
Over the last 35 years, Erie County's population decreased by about 172,000 people. As the number of residents continues to decline, the tax burden is borne by fewer people, resulting in higher taxes.
Erie County has added more than 350 jobs in the last two years, while maintaining the mantra of a better and cheaper government. Why, with a continuous decline in population, does the county still need to add jobs?
The net addition of 87 new jobs in the 2007 budget doesn't seem like a lot, but some additional facts magnify the impact of those positions.
After the current administration leaves, its leaders assume a 15 percent reduction in staff. Let me repeat: The county budget plan assumes that after the current administration leaves office, hundreds of jobs that are being added to the budget will no longer exist. This is not increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the county government. This is juggling numbers for short-term gain.
The taxpayers of Erie County deserve actual re-engineering efforts now. Taxpayers deserve to see real movement on jobs now, not paper movements in a year after the administration departs.
We are all affected by what happens in Erie County government and we need to make it as responsive, as effective and efficient as it can be -- now!
Anthony J. Baynes is chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.