Read My Budget: No New Taxes It's Transparent, Fair and Responsible By Mark C. Poloncarz

Yesterday, I released the 2014 Erie County Proposed budget, which I am proud to say holds the line on property taxes while strengthening many of the popular County services that residents have demanded. 

This budget represents an understanding that as a county government, we are here to serve the residents of our community, to provide the services they have repeatedly called for, services that, often, only government can provide best.

Specifically, in this budget we will:

• Continue our investment in the libraries with an additional $415,867 in new operational funding and $250,000 in capital funding for a new book mobile;
• Provide tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements to roads, bridges and our parks across Erie County. 
• Purchase new vans for the very popular “Going Places” senior citizens transportation program; and,
• Continue our support of popular programs like the Rodent Control Program, Operation PrimeTime and the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

I think too often we get caught up in the numbers, focusing on the property tax rate or the challenges we face because of increases to mandated costs. There is far more to governing a community of our size than that. I think more importantly, we should talk about what we want to accomplish as a community and how we can achieve those goals. How do we make Erie County a better place for our families and build off of the many successes we’ve had over the past two years? 

I believe county government has a vital role to play in helping grow our local economy and creating jobs. We do this, not by expanding government, but by making the environment in Erie County conducive to private sector growth. That is why I am proud to say that this budget includes a number of projects included in the “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” economic development plan I released earlier this summer. 
Specifically, in this budget we will:

• Create a new Erie County economic development office in the Greater Toronto Area to work with Canadian companies looking to expand into the U.S. set up operations right here in Erie County;
• Create an Erie County energy office to help County government reduce energy costs and operate in a more environmentally-conscious manner;
• Provide additional operating funds for Visit Buffalo Niagara and conduct a needs analysis to decide if we need a new convention center; 
• Increase the total support for arts and cultural organizations and include additional funding for a public arts curator position at the Albright Knox Art Gallery which will leverage $120,000 of Gallery endowment funds to be used to purchase and install art in our community’s public places; and
• Adds funding for additional workforce development initiatives including our yearly summits.
As a public official, I am ever-mindful of the need to be a careful steward of the County’s finances and I constantly work to ensure the residents get fair, transparent and honest budgeting. 

Yet, I believe a budget should be more than just dollars and cents on a bunch of spreadsheets, it should be a common sense document to address the needs of our constituents and promote positive change for the entire community: whether it be used as an economic engine to spur job growth, a health and human services tool to address poverty and health care needs of its citizens, or the mechanism to create a more vibrant county parks system.

This budget does exactly that. It is a transparent, fair and responsible budget in which the dollars and cents are balanced, and reflects the common sense priorities of my administration. 

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