The Erie County Legislature Tuesday unanimously voted to cut County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s $1.43 billion budget for 2015, trimming about $2.1 million from the proposal overall and at least a few cents from the county tax rate.
The net reduction came despite the fact that the Legislature added over $300,000 to the budget, much of it for cultural groups, to win across-the-board support from lawmakers.
Poloncarz’s $1.43 billion spending proposal would have kept the county tax rate the same as it has been since 2009, at $5.03 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Though numbers were still being finalized late Tuesday, the Legislature’s actions are expected to reduce the proposed tax rate to roughly $4.99 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
An administration official said the changes would save the owner of a $115,000 home about $4.80 on his or her next county tax bill, reducing it to about $575 from $580.
Cutting county taxes has been a priority for the GOP-aligned caucus that took control of the Legislature in January.
Legislature Chairman John J. Mills, R-Orchard Park, has said cutting the tax rate would send the message to county taxpayers that the GOP-aligned wing of the Legislature is serious about scaling back the cost of local government.
Minutes after the Legislature adopted its veto-proof budget, Poloncarz held a news conference, during which he thanked Mills for “shepherding through a budget that approved 99.95 percent” of what was contained in his budget proposal.
Over the past few weeks, the county executive said, he has been working with both wings of the Legislature to come up with a workable budget that protects needed services yet does not place an additional burden on county residents.
Earlier Tuesday, the county budget office prepared a list of amendments to the county executive’s budget proposal that would have reduced the overall budget by $1.7 million, which the administration shared with lawmakers.
In the end, the Legislature unanimously approved a plan crafted by the GOP-aligned majority that cut $2.4 million from Poloncarz’s plan, while adding over $300,000, mostly in the form of new aid and subsidy increases for about 28 community and cultural groups spread across the 11 legislative districts of the county.
Legislature Majority Leader Joseph C. Lorigo said county taxpayers were long overdue for a tax cut.
Tuesday’s annual budget meeting – which lasted just under four hours – started off acrimoniously, with Democrats protesting the fact that they hadn’t yet seen a spreadsheet of the Republican-aligned majority’s proposed amendments to the budget by the time the meeting had begun. At least three recesses were called – one lasting an hour – before the majority caucus shared that information with Democrats.
Lorigo said the GOP-aligned majority was still working on the nearly 90 amendments it proposed, right up until a few minutes before the start of the budget meeting. He blamed the delay on a crunch for time caused by last month’s snowstorm, which not only affected communities due east and south of Buffalo but also delayed hearings and other budget pursuits by the Legislature.