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Erie County comptroller criticizes 'smoke and mirrors' budget

The proposed $1.48 billion Erie County budget has come under fire from County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who said County Executive Mark Poloncarz's plan relies too heavily on county fund balance and cash back from Erie County Medical Center to balance the scales.

"This budget is balanced artificially using smoke and mirrors," Mychajliw said.

He again criticized Poloncarz for taking $17 million from ECMC in exchange for the county's assistance in helping the hospital borrow money for a new emergency department through the county control board.

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About $4.26 million from the hospital is being earmarked each year for the next four years to defray health care payments the county must make to the hospital to cover uninsured and underinsured patients. Mychajliw said Poloncarz "stole from the poor," and ECMC is in worse shape now because of that. He referred to recent cuts to Medicaid that could deeply hurt the hospital's funding.

"I'll bet you they wish they hadn't sent us $17 million," Mychajliw said. "And guess who's on the hook if they go belly up? It's Erie County taxpayers."

He also criticized Poloncarz for again allocating $6 million in fund balance to balance the budget, although undesignated county reserves have remained steady or grown slightly. Budget Director Robert Keating said it's his hope the fund balance allocated toward this year's budget and next year's will remain untouched.

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