Tonawanda News

January 8, 2013

Erie County to save almost $200M

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A report on Erie County’s fiscal scenario shows it stands to save nearly $190 million in long-term insurance liability costs, according to County Executive Mark Poloncarz.  

The reduction, which dropped from $977,525,903 in 2010 to $789,754,865 today, is due to renegotiated contracts with unions as well as a decrease in the overall number of county employees, all equaling $187,770,948 in savings, Poloncarz said. He added that some of the new union contracts require current employees to pay a portion of their post-employment healthcare costs that will reduce the county’s financial responsibilities.  

“As I’ve noted before, providing 100 percent county-funded health care to retirees places a huge strain on county finances and is unsustainable in the long run, resulting in spiraling costs without relief,” he said. “As we see in this report, when contracts are settled in a way that’s fair to all involved and recognizes the fiscal realities facing the county, there is an immediate positive impact on county finances. This significant decrease in liability further demonstrates the long term savings to taxpayers from settling union contracts, and reaffirms the importance of sharing the costs of retiree health insurance, as we will see savings going forward as well.”

The report, created by the Government Accounting Standards Board, which sets standards for governmental accounting and reporting procedures, also noted that over the next decade the county’s cash flow for retiree health care is expected to grow from $20,463,354 in 2012 to $40,201,070, while the cost of running Erie Community College is expected to increase from  $2,626,26 to $7,168,903.The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system is also expected to grow from $895,805 in 2012 to $2,216,432 in 2022. 

Poloncarz said he attributes the increases to the county’s aging populace as well as a large number of retirements during the next decade. 

“Even though the long-term liability amount is shrinking, the projected growth in the next decade for post-employment healthcare costs is growing substantially and will continue to be a significant budgetary concern for many years to come,” he said. “Nevertheless, the actions we take today will provide significant savings for the county in the long run and I commend the members of the Teamsters, CSEA Correctional Unit and AFSCME for recognizing this fact and ratifying fair contracts which address this situation.”