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Itís that time again: budget season

The following is a guest column by Erie County Legislator Lynn Dixon.

Itís that time of year, when all the little ghosts and goblins come knocking at the door. With trick-or-treating now behind us, it also signals another season underway in the Erie County Legislature: budget time. I received the administrationís proposed 2014 budget in the late afternoon of Oct. 15, and have been analyzing the numbers, ever since.

Understanding the countyís $1.4 billion budget can be a challenge. The county executiveís proposed 2014 budget increases spending, but does not include a tax increase. This was done by utilizing surplus for operational costs. My review of the budget has raised some questions and, as we go through the process, I will work with the administration and my colleagues in the Legislature to understand how this budget would affect 2014 and the subsequent years. What many residents are surprised to learn is that nearly 90 percent of the spending in the budget is mandated by the state or federal government. The portion that the county controls pays for the sheriffís office, the road fund, employee costs, libraries, culturals, etc. Finding areas we can cut takes a lot of work and cooperation, but last year, a bipartisan majority of the Legislature found $8.5 million to cut to eliminate the tax increase. The same diligence will go into this budget, to ensure it is in the best interest of taxpayers.

One of the services mandated in the county budget is the federal HEAP program, which provides eligible residents with assistance for heating costs. If you believe the Farmerís Almanac, this is supposed to be a harsh winter and this program will be critical for helping residents stay warm. I will soon be announcing HEAP outreaches, throughout my district, that provide residents with one-on-one assistance to apply for the program. If you have questions, please visit www.erie.gov or contact my office.

I want to thank many of you who have attended my community outreach events, throughout the district. It is beneficial for me and residents to have the opportunity to sit down to talk, one-on-one, to discuss concerns. Recently, questions about Basic STAR have been asked. New York state is requiring all homeowners who receive Basic STAR to re-register with the state. You should have received a letter about this requirement. If you did not see the letter or misplaced it, visit www.tax.ny.gov and click on the button that says, ďRegister for STAR.Ē The deadline is Dec. 31, 2013 but donít delay; make sure you re-register as soon as possible, to ensure you receive this valuable exemption.

Anyone with questions about county issues is encouraged to contact me at my Legislative Office at 858-8671 or email lynne.dixon@erie.gov. You can also find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/legislatorlynnedixon and information is available on my website at www.erie.gov/legislature/district09.


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