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City and county personnel and youth departments are potential targets for consolidation, according to Erie County Legislature Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan.

Cooperation to avoid harsh increases in property taxes will be necessary if Republicans in Washington and Albany are successful in shifting state and federal welfare responsibilities to local governments, said the Town of Tonawanda Democrat.

"The city has the Civil Service Commission, the county its Personnel Department," Lenihan said. "It's my feeling those two departments lend themselves to consolidation."

His predictions followed Thursday's talks between County Executive Gorski and Mayor Masiello about consolidation.

"My feeling is that both county and city have planning functions that could be considered for consolidation," Lenihan said. "We don't need two waterfront plans."

Later, county and city parks could be candidates for consolidation, he said.

"We've already taken over the botanical gardens and Grover Cleveland Park," he said. "People on both sides think the facilities are well-groomed and effectively run."

Gorski said Friday that department heads have been consulted about possible cost-saving consolidations and that he offered a proposal to the mayor.

"I have not spoken to Chairman Lenihan," Gorski said. "I have given a plan to the mayor. Our mutual goal is to reduce costs."

City-county mergers on a scale envisioned by Lenihan last occurred in the early 1950s, when the city surrendered the Buffalo Public Library to become the heart of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system and the city Health Department to be the foundation for the county Health Department.

Those transfers have not been without pain. At times, city and county legislators complain about perceived inequities in library funding. And city school officials complain of the reduction in nursing services to the schools.

The current county budget includes $1 million to help Buffalo in its financial crisis. City and county leaders decide jointly how the money is used.

This year, the county Personnel Department is budgeted at about $1 million and Youth Services, $24 million. The city Civil Service Commission is funded at $659,543 and the Division for Youth, $663,674.

Lenihan predicted consolidations during Friday's meeting of the Youth Planning Council of the Near East Side, attended by 30 community leaders interested in strengthening families through jobs.

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