The Erie County Legislature needs to quit the contrariness and authorize the control board to borrow on the county's behalf. The Legislature is the only remaining holdout and its resistance has become obstinacy that is harming vital city institutions.
The control board was put in place to monitor county finances. It went from a "soft" to a "hard" board because the county failed to produce adequate financial plans. It wants to borrow money for the county, believing it can do so for less money than the county can, which is usually the case. That's part of its job, and it's going to insist upon doing it.
But county legislators don't want the control board to do the borrowing, contending that savings, if any, would only be minor and that such a loan would prolong the existence of the control board. It's fair to say, as well, that the lawmakers just don't like having their work monitored. But the board is here, and it's going to be around for a long time, whether it borrows the money or not. Lawmakers need to deal with that and get on with things.
The control board cannot legally borrow on the county's behalf unless lawmakers and the county executive ask it to do so. The Legislature won't do that, even though County Executive Joel A. Giambra has relented, signaling his willingness. The incoming county executive, Christopher C. Collins, has also said he wants the board to borrow the money.
Without that borrowing, important county projects will be delayed. The county promised $4 million to the Buffalo Zoo for the South American Rain Forest Exhibit, for example. The zoo has had to take out its own loan while waiting for the county to make good on its promise. Now it's paying $28,000 a month, in interest it had not budgeted.
Similar problems are occurring at Erie Community College, where the heating plant needs a promised $3 million repair job. And the Buffalo Bills organization is waiting for the full $5 million pledged for Ralph Wilson Stadium's new, high-definition scoreboard. None of it will be forthcoming unless the Legislature gets real.
It's not happening, although Legislator Robert Reynolds, D-Hamburg, chairman of the Finance and Management Committee, did go so far as to say he's "sorry." That makes things better, doesn't it?
Here's what needs to happen. The control board should take up the Legislature's invitation to speak about the loan at next Monday's meeting. It should use that public forum to explain to legislators and taxpayers, alike, why the board should do the borrowing. Indeed, such an exchange should have occurred weeks ago.
Legislators should listen. Then, barring some unforeseen revelation, they should authorize the control board to borrow. As Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, observed, the Legislature and control board are at an impasse that threatens deadlines for work on the county budget. Legislators need to face reality and get this work under way. The county has obligations that trump all the other concerns. We don't need yet another fiscal crisis in County Hall.