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Erie County property tax eliminated, services still maintained

The following article was submitted by guest columnist Erie County Legislator John Mills.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that the taxpayers will not face an Erie County property tax increase in 2013. I want to thank my colleagues in the Legislature who fought against that proposed tax increase, while protecting services. The amended budget that we adopted is representative of the true financial needs of the county.

As the leader of the minority caucus, which is comprised of three Republicans, one Conservative and one Independent, I am extremely proud that we were able to work across the aisle, with a member of the Democratic majority caucus, to identify cuts that allowed us to hold the line on taxes in 2013. What residents may not realize is that many budget lines in the county executive’s budget were excessive and didn’t have the historical data to support such an increase. Instead of asking residents to support inflated numbers through higher taxes, a majority of the caucus trimmed those numbers.

The cuts will not affect programs or services. Roads will be repaired and plowed, Sheriff patrols will be equipped, libraries will be open, culturals will receive their stipends, and residents who need benefit assistance will be helped. The county executive and members of the majority caucus are threatening the collapse of county government, because of the approved amendments. I want to ensure residents that our cuts do not put the county at risk and have not cut to the bone.

As is the situation in any budget process, at any level of government, there are different opinions and varying priorities. At the end of the day, with an adopted budget in the record, all elected officials must come together to see that county government continues to serve the residents, to the best of its ability. By eliminating the tax increase, we help taxpayers who already pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in taxes, each month. This also benefits the many businesses in Erie County who might not have been able to absorb the tax increase. They no longer have to worry about how to handle the increased cost.

It is also important that residents understand the county’s balance of power. Although the county executive has threatened to cut services and programs, changes in allocations are not decided solely by the county executive. Any deviations to the budget are dependent on legislature approval. Each year, we process various budget transfers and I anticipate much of the same, in 2013, because that is the nature of a $1.4 billion budget with thousands of employees, serving nearly one million residents. I believe we are well positioned to cover our costs.

I am proud of this budget and I am proud of the compromise reached by six legislators from four political and I am proud that we have officially adopted a budget for the people of Erie County.

In closing, I wish you all a very happy holiday season.


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