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NEW ACCOUNTING RULES POSE EXPENSIVE QUANDARY FOR COUNTY

In seven years, Erie County might have to detail not only the value of its roads, sidewalks and sewers, but also what they were worth for the previous 25 years, a prospect that sent shivers through the Legislature Monday.

The reason can be found in more than 400 pages of new rules issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, an independent non-profit organization that sets generally accepted accounting principals for governments.

"It's going to be a huge undertaking," said James Liddle, deputy county comptroller.

Liddle said the County Charter requires the comptroller to follow the regulations, which led Michael Fitzpatrick, D-Buffalo to comment: "Maybe we should change the Charter. This is how the Boston Tea Party started. This is ridiculous. You are telling us we have to go back 25 years."

Liddle asked the Legislature for $50,000 to employ Deloitte and Touche, the county's auditor, as a consultant, which he said would ensure the county's procedure for complying with the rules would meet with the auditor's approval.

County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said the county already is audited for virtually everything and questioned the need of another layer of control.

"Do we absolutely have to follow the new guidelines?" he asked. "Is there a mandate?"

Refusal to follow the new regulations could weaken the county's ability to borrow by selling bonds at a good rate, Liddle said.

Thomas Mazur, senior account analyst, said developing the new standards for government agencies took 15 years.

"They want to make government financial statements more accountable, to show whether the government is making money or losing money," Mazur said of the accounting board.

Charles J. Alessi, deputy commissioner of environment and planning, said the rules should not pose any problem for the six suburban sewer districts, now in the middle of the $100 million construction program.

"We've got all the records," he said.

Swanick asked what the county would gain in adopting the rules, and Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Clarence, asked what it would lost by ignoring them.

Liddle pledged to find out.

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