County Executive Gorski's proposal for a three-year freeze on the county tax levy is insufficient, Republican county legislators said Thursday, claiming that the tax levy could be cut 3 percent.
"The status quo is not OK," Legislator John W. Greenan, R-West Seneca, said at a news conference Thursday. "It is not right to remain the highest-taxed region in the country for the next three years."
The Republicans called for a public referendum on a local law they proposed to free up $7 million they said is unnecessarily held by the Gorski administration in 372 funded jobs left vacant at least since March. The Republicans estimate the total cost of the jobs to the county is estimated at $9 million a year, a figure disputed by the Gorski administration.
In effect, Gorski's zero increase proposal claims that status quo is satisfactory for county taxes, Greenan said.
GOP leaders said they would need nine votes in the Legislature to pass their proposition and send it to public referendum in 1998.
Only six of the 17 legislators are currently Republican, but the GOP argues that different views among Democrats on taxes might produce the needed votes. In addition, several Republicans are running competitive races against Democrats in the November election.
"If a job has been vacant more than six months, why do we have it?" asked Minority Leader Frederick Marshall. "If the county executive needs a cushion, he can put it in a contingency account."
"Taxpayers have been paying for unfilled jobs all of these years," said Marshall, R-East Aurora. "In Erie County, you don't get what you pay for."
The Republicans suggested that a $2 million vacancy turnover account is reasonable, along with a provision that would allow the county executive to certify that a position vacant more than six months is nevertheless needed.
That would free up $7 million to reduce the tax levy instead of holding it steady at $226 million as Gorki proposed, Greenan said.
"This approximated a 3 percent cut on the tax rate," said Greenan.
Dale Larson, R-Lancaster, said vital positions should be filled so that taxpayers get services for their taxes.
"We're taxed to the max," he said. "Give the money back to the taxpayers."
County Budget Director Kenneth Kruly said the $9 million estimate used by the GOP is based on two miscalculations.
It assumes that currently vacant jobs were vacant from Jan. 1 and also does not allow for the fact that state and federal governments pay two-thirds of the costs of more than a hundred social service jobs, Kruly said.
"The calculation are totally crazy," he said.