Tonawanda News

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December 5, 2012

Erie County nixes tax hike

Tonawanda News — The Erie County Legislature voted 6 to 5 Tuesday in favor of an amended 2013 budget including no property tax increase, though it’s a plan County Executive Mark Poloncarz said “simply doesn’t add up.”

”Although I have earnestly kept the lines of communication open throughout this process in hopes of reaching a compromise that ensures the fiscally stability of the county and protects the programs and services demanded by the public, none could be reached,” Poloncarz said in a statement following the vote.

At issue is a difference of opinion between Poloncarz and legislative supporters of his original proposed budget, and a six-member coalition made up primarily of Republicans on the question of how much if any additional tax revenue is needed to support vital county services.

Poloncarz’s original proposal called for a property tax increase of 3.4 percent — which in addition to some $20 million in targeted cuts, would close a roughly $30 million budget gap. It would have increased taxes about $18 on a home worth $100,000.

He said an offer to decrease the proposed tax increase by half (in a deal that would have cost taxpayers an additional 9 cents per $1,000 of assessment) failed to sway the six-member, Republican-led coalition prior to Tuesday’s vote.

”I was told that it doesn’t go far enough to meet their definition of compromise,” Poloncarz said.

The coalition, determined to thwart anything but the smallest of tax hikes, instead pushed through a series of cuts totaling roughly the same $8 million intended to be raised through taxes originally. The amendments were supported by the slimmest margin, with bipartisan support from Democrat Tom Loughran of Amherst.

Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-Tonawanda, said the package he supported included among other things reduced overtime at the holding center, reductions to funding for private legal services, about $3 million that was headed for the county’s legal fund available to pay judgements and a roughly $1.4 million reduction of funding for a county welfare program once slated to receive twice that amount.

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