Share this article

print logo

SPENDING PLAN COULD HURT ERIE COUNTY

"I feel like the kid who opened up all of the presents and found that all I had was fancy paper," County Budget Director Kenneth C. Kruly said Wednesday of Gov. Pataki's proposed budget.

He said the budget proposal raises questions of possible losses for Erie County but provides no wonderful surprises.

The first thing he was hoping for -- and still hopes for -- is $90 million for the Convention Center, Kruly said.

"I would like to have seen him putting money in," said Kruly. "If he were, I think we would have read it today."

Kruly said the Western New York delegation to the State Legislature supports state funding for the proposed $124.5 million new Convention Center and will work to put it in the final document. He made his assessment on the initial 30 pages of budget releases and summaries.

Kruly also said that it will be necessary to see the fine print in dozens of pages of detail.

Pataki has budgeted an extra $550 million for the cities, towns and villages. Kruly said he's disappointed that the governor did not restore appropriations to counties, discontinued 10 years ago but recently under study for possible renewal.

Kruly said he is particularly concerned about county hospital and nursing home revenues, Erie Community College tuition, road funding and reimbursement to the Erie County Correctional Facility.

County taxpayers contribute to 10 percent of Medicaid patients' nursing home costs and 25 percent of other Medicaid costs. Kruly said taxpayers would benefit from lower Medicaid payments to private hospitals and nursing homes -- but will lose if payments shrink at the Erie County Medical Center and Erie County Home.

Last year, the county spent $13 million less than budgeted for Medicaid but the ECMC Network (hospital and nursing home) cost the county $5 million more. "We will have to see if the savings in Medicaid balance out what we may be losing at ECMC," he said.

Kruly hopes that the governor will lift the $2,500-a-year tuition cap at community colleges, including Erie Community College.

"More than half of community college in the state are at the state provided $2,500 tuition cap," he said.

The ECC budget will not be ready for several weeks but there may be problems ahead, he said.

Kruly noted that Pataki proposes a drop in reimbursement for state prisoners housed in county jails.

"That for us could be $1.5 million a year," he said. "We've been trying to get the amount increased to cover costs. It appears the governor is going the other way."

The county is using $1.5 million from a suit against the state on this issue to help build a $5.5 million addition to the correctional facility in Alden.

Kruly also said that there is a proposal to decrease road funding but he cannot yet tell whether it would affect the $4 million to $5 million the county receives from the state for road work.

There are no comments - be the first to comment