BUFFALO, N.Y.- On Tuesday, six Erie County Legislators voted to back an $8.5 million dollar cut package rather than County Executive Mark Poloncarz's budget plan that included a 3.4% tax hike.
Wednesday, the debate rages on over what the impact will be. The cuts came in several areas, two of the largest were $3 million to the Risk Retention Fund and $810,000 to the County Jail's overtime budget.
The Risk Retention Fund is kind of like the county's insurance policy in case of lawsuits. Poloncarz and former Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski say that the danger of chopping this fund is that if it runs dry, they will have to go after other discretionary funds, such as parks and recreation to make up for it. Both say that of the county's $1.34 billion budget, only about $100 million is discretionary, the rest is state or federally mandated, so there is not a lot from which to choose if they have to make up the funding elsewhere.
The other item that has prompted quite a bit of debate is the cuts to jail overtime. The Erie County Holding Center and Jail have been under the microscope in recent years. A rash of inmate suicides prompted a state and federal probe.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard says the cuts to his department are manageable. Howard says that 30 new hires scheduled for 2013, central booking being shifted back to the City of Buffalo and a new reception area will make things more efficient and reduce the need for overtime.
And for now, Poloncarz says he has been in discussions with the Erie County Fiscal Review Board about the budgetary moves. they are in a wait and see mode before they decide whether they need to step in and go back to a "hard" status.