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DEMOCRATS SEEK CHANGES IN GIAMBRA'S BUDGET PLAN

Erie County Legislature Democrats are recommending amendments to the county executive's proposed 2003 budget that would redistribute money in the areas of public safety, economic development, roads and bridges, libraries, senior citizens, youth, and persons with disabilities.

Their proposals represent more of a political statement of priorities than anything else, because as the minority party, the Democrats lack the ability to push through amendments without Republican support.

Majority Leader Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, emphasized that the budget changes proposed by the Democrats affect only 0.29 percent of the total budget and reflect what he called prudent money reallocation that would not lead to an increase in the tax levy.

Among the amendments proposed:

Public safety: allocating $290,000 for crime-fighting efforts in the cities of Buffalo and Tonawanda and the Town of Cheektowaga; adding three sheriff's positions to fight technology crimes; restoring two district attorney positions to prosecute drug offenders; and adding seven positions to the Department of Probation.

Economic development: $764,000 for community economic development initiatives; $150,000 for a regional small business stimulus fund; including the cities of Buffalo, Tonawanda and Lackawanna in the $30 million road improvement program; and funding other economic development agencies.

Libraries: providing nearly $200,000 to restore library hours and Sunday service.

The minority caucus also recommended additional funding for city snowplowing, school nurses, a park for disabled people, cultural tourism, and a variety of agencies and community organizations serving senior citizens, youths, and people with disabilities.

Money for the reallocation would come from cuts to Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, eliminating the proposed Division of Fleet Services, and trims to administrative costs such as travel, equipment, office supplies, and dues and fees.

Legislature Chairman Albert DeBenedetti, D-Buffalo, said that allocating county money to repair roads and bridges in the cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda would be illegal because the county doesn't own any of the roads or bridges in those cities.

The majority legislators will release their budget amendments today.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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