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County Comptroller’s Office provided sharp oversight

Regarding the editorial, “County’s cash problem,” the assertion that the former (interim) Erie County Comptroller’s Office provided inadequate financial and fiscal management relating to the 2012 fiscal year-end cash shortage is incorrect.

Last month, Erie County didn’t receive two anticipated substantial and typically reliable reimbursements, amounting to nearly $20 million, from New York State relating to a county claim for state-mandated social services that the county provided to beneficiaries in September 2012 and an annual reimbursement from the State Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program. The balance of the shortage will be identified soon as the county closes its books for fiscal year 2012.

This shortage is not due to poor monitoring or mismanagement; rather, in large part it’s the result of the unfortunate timing of delayed reimbursements.

On the disbursement side, also last month the comptroller chose to pay a substantial annual state retirement bill by an optional deadline of Dec. 15, rather than on Feb. 1, thus saving the county more than $400,000 in interest.

Before former Comptroller David Shenk’s departure, County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s senior Budget Office staff was informed of the year-end cash flow situation, and in advance of receipt of the state’s $15 million bill involving payment to ECMC. Subsequently, the Budget Office, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and his senior finance staff expected the bill in 2013, but presumably it was surprising and certainly unusual to receive the bill so early in the new year; since 2009, the earliest the county received and paid a similar bill was mid-March (2009 and 2010).

Throughout 2012, the Comptroller’s Office constantly monitored cash flow, paid the county’s bills, made proper adjustments and communicated details in a timely manner. “Sharp oversight” was provided, and we move on.

Lorne Steinhart

Former Acting Comptroller, Deputy

Comptroller, Accounting & Finance