Democrats in the County Legislature today presented their additions to the county budget but maintained the 2 percent overall tax reduction proposed earlier this month by County Executive Gorski.
With nine votes, the Democrats are assured of passing their spending plan at a special Legislature meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Democratic leaders predicts a steady succession of tax cuts in future years without having to reduce services.
"We're talking about continuing the tax-cut program well beyond 1999," said Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore.
Swanick proclaimed the end of the era of campaign-year tax cuts followed, in non-election years, by sharp increases in property or sales taxes.
"Under our watch, we're not going there," he said.
Under the $1.069 billion budget, which now has a few million dollars in Democratic adjustments, tax rates will go down in areas where 72 percent of the county's population lives, as Gorski proposed three weeks ago. Tax rates will increase in municipalities that have been slower in updating their assessments.
This year's budget called for spending to increase by 1.16 percent, less than the rate of inflation, Democrats say, but next year's budget actually cuts spending.
"It's not just tax cuts," said Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples, D-Buffalo. "It provides good services."
The two Democratic leaders stressed that they conferred in late summer with Gorski, saying their monitoring of the county's finances showed a tax cut was possible.
For the third year in a row, the budget was ready two weeks before the deadline. In the past, budget preparation has often been a tense
time, with last-minute bargaining and midnight voting.
"It's an example of people who want to govern in the best interests of people," Ms. Peoples said.
Democratic additions will deal with problems faced by local businesses, add a handful of jobs in public safety and bolster green space and outdoor recreation.
The Erie/Niagara Regional Partnership, formed this year by the counties' legislatures, will get $1 million.
"The focus will be on retaining and growing existing businesses," Swanick said.
Ms. Peoples said the Legislature's staff will survey businesses, possibly with as few as 25 employees, to determine their problems.
"These small businesses often don't get attention until they are in dire straits," she said.
Amendments backed by the Public Safety Committee, headed by Edward J. Kuwik, D-Lackawanna, provide:
$24,000 for the Sheriff's Department Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in schools.
A subsidy for fighting crime in each of the three cities in the county.
Five additional sheriff's deputies and a clerk to free up another deputy.
Six more probation officers, including one to focus on domestic violence.
A recruiter for volunteer firefighters.
Legislator Lynn M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, focused on aiding victims of domestic violence and secured $48,000 to eliminate weeds in Ellicott Creek.
Legislator Judith P. Fisher, D-Buffalo, added money for one more rodent-control worker, plus $35,000 to plant flowers to enhance neighborhoods' entry points.
Two city Democrats, dissidents last year, are in the fold on this year's budget. Legislator Greg B. Olma obtained $50,000 to "enhance agricultural activities."
At the request of Legislator Albert DeBenedetti, $50,000 is earmarked for the city section of the Riverwalk and $20,000 for the sheriff's patrol there.
Swanick sought $25,000 in funding for hazardous-waste collection days.
The link between old railroads and future bike paths will be explored in a study that legislators will fund for the Environment and Planning Department. It will contemplate a "rails-to-trails" bike path in Cheektowaga and funding for constructing a bike path in Ellicott Creek Park.
Appropriations backed by Legislator Raymond K. Dusza, D-Cheektowaga, include $17,500 for the Kids Voting program.
Legislator Michael J. Fitzpatrick, D-Buffalo, included $40,000 for the Franciscan Center, a Buffalo-based shelter for juveniles from all over the county.
"I'll take care of community centers in my districts," he said.
A program launched by Legislator George A. Holt Jr., D-Buffalo, will more than triple.
It provides $1.2 million that will go to nonprofit agencies, mostly in his district, to help residents facing a cutoff in welfare improve skills so they can secure jobs.
Holt is chairman of the Social Services Committee.