The minority caucus of the Erie County Legislature hopes to eliminate a proposed county tax increase with an $8 million package of budget cuts that would trim personnel lines, jail overtime and other spending, but would leave popular programs such as arts, cultural and library funding untouched.
But the five legislators will have to persuade at least one of their Democratic colleagues to sign on to the plan to roll back a tax increase proposed by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
Whether they can muster up more votes will play out during the next six days as legislators negotiate over changes to Poloncarz’s proposed $1.38 billion budget for 2013. The lawmakers are scheduled to unveil their budget proposals during a committee meeting today.
The six Democrats who hold a majority in the 11-member Legislature did not reveal Tuesday what proposals they might have.
“It’s a process, and it’s an unfolding one,” said Legislator Thomas A. Loughran, an Amherst Democrat, who said he has “no interest in voting for a tax increase.”
Loughran said he was working to eliminate the proposed tax increase and said he was hoping to build a consensus.
Staff for the Republican-led minority caucus provided details of a budget plan the caucus hopes to pass to reduce the proposed county property tax increase from 3.4 percent to zero. It includes:
• Cutting $3 million the county executive had planned to add to a fund for legal settlements and other legal costs. The account had $2.71 million in it at the end of September, and the county comptroller calculated the average annual expenditure from the account between 2004 and 2011 was $2.6 million, excluding an unusually large settlement in 2011.
• $1.19 million in additional savings from positions left vacant.
• $1 million cut from a social services program known as Safety Net, which provides temporary help for people who do not quality for other federal welfare programs. The cut would reduce a proposed 8 percent increase for the program to 4.8 percent. The minority caucus felt recent social services caseload trends didn’t justify the proposed increase.
• $2.15 million cut from fringe benefit lines at the jail and in public works. Members of the minority caucus believe those lines are inflated, but the Poloncarz administration has defended its benefit estimates as accurate.
• $912,750 cut from overtime lines, mostly at the jails, with the expectation that 45 new jail staff members next year will help reduce overtime that has been above budget for several years.
• Restoring the director of account services in the Comptroller’s Office at a cost of $157,634 for salary and benefits. Comptroller David J. Shenk, who will leave office in January, has told the Legislature the job is necessary.
The plan steers clear of popular programs – such as libraries and rodent control – that received support at a recent budget hearing.