The Erie County budget for 2014 is a sealed deal now that County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has notified the Legislature of his acceptance of the lawmakers’ amended $1.39 billion spending plan.
That means a legislative override session that was scheduled for today is no longer necessary, since the county executive did not make any additions or deletions to the amended budget adopted by the Legislature last week.
“I commend the Legislature for the thoughtfulness and diligence they showed throughout the budget process, and for passing this balanced budget that protects taxpayers while recognizing Erie County’s economic realities,” Poloncarz said in a news release a day after lawmakers adopted the budget. He did not mention at the time whether he planned to veto any of the Legislature’s actions.
But Monday, Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, D-Buffalo, canceled the override meeting, citing a communication from Poloncarz “conveying his acceptance” of the amended budget.
The amended version of the county executive’s spending plan was passed in a 6-5 vote along party lines. The Legislature’s five Republican-aligned members of the minority – all of whom were opposed to the budget plan’s deferment of $8.6 million in pension payments – voted against it.
The budget slightly increases spending on popular public items, including more funding for libraries and aid to arts and cultural groups, but it maintains the current property tax rate of $5.03 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
It also includes $100,000 in new funding for the creation of a Toronto-area office of economic development to assist Canadian and other foreign companies in locating businesses and industries in Erie County, as well as funding for the new position of energy officer.
The adopted budget raises spending by $15.5 million, or 1.1 percent, over the 2013 budget.
The amendments to Poloncarz’s original 2014 spending plan shifted $467,239 in expenditures to cover the cost of some added jobs and increased aid to cultural agencies.
The retooling, which the GOP-aligned minority rejected, does not significantly alter Poloncarz’s original budget proposal. However, it allows for a $338,000 increase in salary and fringe benefits at the Board of Elections, among other adjustments to the budget.
Under the amended budget, $217,239 in benefits were cut for Erie County Medical Center employees still covered under the county workers’ compensation program, while $250,000 in professional service contracts, rental charges and other expenses were cut from the Board of Elections’ expenditures.
The funds were shifted to accommodate increased assistance to four local cultural groups, cover the cost of restoring a position in Information and Support Services that Poloncarz had cut, and fund additional salaries and benefits at the Board of Elections.
Under the amended budget, the Hamburg National Historical Society, Road Less Traveled Productions and the African-American Cultural Center are each set to receive county aid increases ranging from just under $6,000 up to $10,000 beyond what was budgeted by the county executive. In addition, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy will receive $10,000 toward the cost of a $45,000 restoration of the Rose Garden pergola in Delaware Park. The amendments also include the addition of $25,000 to fund a study of child neglect in Erie County.