Lawmakers butt heads over tax hike

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County lawmakers face a deadline to pass a new budget by Tuesday night and battle lines have formed over taxes and the bottom line.

The proposed 3.4 percent property tax hike may not be needed after all. The Minority Caucus on the Erie County legislature has picked up Democrat Tom Loughran as a swing vote on a package of amendments totaling $8.5 million in cuts, like trimming the risk retention fund in half.

Lawmaker Joseph Lorigo said, "I'm extremely confident that our amendments are going to pass. Over the past 15 years, if you look at the money spent from that risk retention fund, it averages out to about $2.5 million per year, and so we'll be leaving that at about $2.7 millions."

This plan also trims the sheriff's overtime budget by a million dollars.

"Over the next two years, the sheriff is getting 70 new employees mandated by the federal government. We're only cutting overtime by a million dollars," Lorigo said.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz says it doesn't add up, and it may prompt the Control Board to take a more active role again.

"I'm very worried about it. The proposed cuts package does not work. It'll leave a multi-million dollar hole in the budget and as a result, we'll have to take drastic measures next year. They have to do the right thing," Poloncarz said.

The county executive met with lawmakers in the afternoon trying to convince them not to amend this budget.

Lorigo said, "Threats to whether or not he's going to repair roads in the more rural parts of Erie County...that's a threat to the taxpayers."

Poloncarz responded, "Unfortunately, these six legislators want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to be able to say, 'We're keeping all these programs,' but not leaving me enough revenue to pay for them."

The meeting will take place Tuesday at 2 p.m. at County Hall. If there are six votes for these amendments, there will be no property tax hike because the county executive can only veto additions.

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