Weekly Feature

2015-12-09 / Editorial

Erie County budget process produces sound budget

Erie County Legislature

Call it “A Tale of Two Budgets.” On the one hand, there is the federal budget. Hardly a week goes by when there aren’t some people threatening to shut down the government if they do not get everything they want. This sort of brinksmanship has led to several government shutdowns over the years and even entire years without a federal budget.

Then, there is Erie County and the recent adoption of our 2016 budget. Our process presents quite a contrast to what happens in Washington. After receiving the county executive’s proposed budget in October, I joined my colleagues in the legislature in proposing a number of amendments.

These changes included a number of job cuts to pay for increased funding for Erie Community College and a modest property tax cut. Rather than trying to force the cuts on the executive, we entered into negotiations with him; we basically said, “We want to increase funding to ECC and cut property taxes and here is how we plan to get the money to accomplish our objectives.”

We then invited him to suggest alternative cuts that would retain some of the jobs while still freeing up the money for ECC and the tax cut. He was able to do so, and we accepted his suggestions. The process was both collegial and professional. In short, it was about as different from D.C. as you can get.

Most important, the resulting budget was something that will benefit all citizens of Erie County. It certainly will comfort the county’s property taxpayers, as we delivered a second tax cut in two years. It also provided for slight increases in funding for libraries and cultural institutions, what the county executive likes to call “the People’s Mandates.” But it also provided a half million dollars more for ECC, which I like to refer to as “the People’s College.” This money will aid the college in its twin missions of providing a quality college education to students who might otherwise be unable to afford one and training the workforce of tomorrow.

This is extremely important, as education is one of the surest pathways out of poverty, and we have more than our share of poor in Erie County. We are making strides, though, in turning this around, and this budget certainly bolsters our efforts.

All in all, the 2016 Erie County budget process has confirmed my contention that by working together we can make Erie County an even nicer place to live, work and raise a family.

I’d also like to note that the budget includes investments in several service and community organizations located within the district I represent, notably Brighton Place – Community Resource Center, the Newman Family Boys & Girls Club, and River Road Fire District. Each organization will receive $5,000 in the 2016 budget to support its efforts to provide services and programs to the residents of the Northtowns and beyond.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hard wick@erie.gov.

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