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Legislator schedules outreach in Erie County

The following is a guest column by Erie County Legislator John Mills.

In one monthís time, a historic change will take place in the Erie County Legislature. For the first time in more than 30 years, the Democratic Party will not be leading the Legislature. This change clearly demonstrates that taxpayers arenít satisfied with how the Legislature has been functioning and are calling for change. Under new leadership, we must all work together to meet the demands of the residents.

Interestingly, the new Majority Caucus brings together members of three different political parties, representing at least a portion of every town and city in Erie County. I believe this is the first time in the countyís history that has occurred. The new Majority Caucus will directly represent and report to urban, suburban and rural communities. This will provide the caucus with a unique understanding of the needs of county factions.

I am honored to have the support of my colleagues to serve as the Legislatureís next chairman. The official vote will be taken after the first of the year and I look forward to bringing the other 10 members to the table, to handle the peopleís work. While there will be disagreement, I encourage constructive dialogue to ensure we are weighing all sides of the issues. Only when we truly consider the alternatives can we find the best solution.

I believe that my past efforts of working across party lines, including a professional working relationship with the current chairwoman and county executive, has earned me the respect of my colleagues and constituents.

I pledge to continue to keep lines of communication open, with every department and branch of government. This effort will be critical to leading a Legislature that I am certain will accomplish great things, for our county. We have a lot of work to do.

I want to congratulate all who were victorious, in this past election cycle, especially the new legislators who will be representing the taxpayers, for the first time. You have earned the trust and respect of your constituents and it is critical that every decision you make is done on their behalf.

I also want to offer two important reminders concerning the Home Energy Assistance Program and Basic STAR. HEAP applications are now being accepted. For the first time, Erie County residents can apply online. Visit www.mybenefits.ny.gov to apply.

Or, if you prefer to meet with a representative, my first HEAP Outreach is scheduled from 9 a.m. -4 p.m. on Dec. 19 at Concord Town Hall, located at 86 Franklin St. in Springville, to assist residents with the application process.

Basic STAR applications are due by Dec. 31. If you have not re-registered for Basic STAR, you must be do so by the end of the month. Visit www.tax.ny.gov for information or call (518) 457-2036. Basic STAR provides eligible homeowners with an exemption on their school taxes, approximately $500 a year, so make sure you do not miss the deadline.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a very safe and happy holiday season.
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