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What has been conspicuously missing in the budget debate is any discussion of how the shortsighted "red" budget plan actually hurts the ability of the county clerk's office to generate revenue and bring in much-needed cash to fund county operations.

The budget slashes county clerk operations by as much as 71 percent in some departments. Last year, between the four auto bureaus and the registrar's office, we returned nearly $10 million to the county.

The clerk's office is unique in that it is self-sustaining. We cover our expenses and still collect enough to support other nonrevenue-generating county departments and programs. Decimating the staff needed to process the work and collect the fees is nothing short of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

The issue is not whether there should be a tax increase. I maintain that the county clerk's office should be treated as a stand-alone operation, and be left untouched. The office serves as the business center for the county. It should not be kicked around like a political football. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people registering cars, getting licenses, buying homes, starting businesses and seeking justice in our courts, I say, "the bucks start here" -- and must stay here -- to continue those very services.

David J. Swarts

Erie County Clerk