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A new proposal has emerged to reorganize the Erie County Comptroller’s Office to address concerns from top budget staff that a plan to hire more accountants would cost the county extra money.

Deputy Comptroller Gregory Gach said the Comptroller’s Office would eliminate an $84,833 vacant chief of accounting services job along with five clerical jobs to offset the cost of the new accounting and information technology positions.

An earlier proposal to replace five mostly vacant clerical jobs with higher-paid positions drew criticism from budget officials in the administration of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz because it would have cost about $69,000 in added annual salaries and fringe benefits over the current payroll.

The new proposal, which would delete six jobs and replace them with five accountants and an information technology specialist, would keep the total cost of the salaries in the office about the same as before the reorganization, Gach said.

“We can’t guarantee it will save money in the out years, but their explanation is plausible, and we’re accepting it,” said Budget Director Robert W. Keating.

Keating said he also received assurances that the Comptroller’s Office would take steps to make sure that the plan wouldn’t cost more money during the next three years.

County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who took office in January, wants to increase the number of accountants in his office to make up for deep staffing cuts during the last two decades.

Twelve jobs requiring accounting degrees were eliminated from the Comptroller’s Office during the last nine years, Gach said.

Gach said he was concerned that there was no plan in place to bring on and train new accountants before others retire.

“It’s highly unusual to have all these vacancies,” Gach said. “Rather than simply just replace clerical with clerical, this is an opportunity to actually improve the office, especially with the fact that the vast majority of my accounting staff can retire fairly quickly.”

Gach said the duties of the chief accounting services and the clerical positions would be picked up by other employees once the reorganization plan is put into place during the next few months.

The updated plan would still need approval from the Erie County Legislature. Legislators earlier this week tabled the initial proposal after administration budget staff raised concerns about its cost.

“If it doesn’t make sense, dollar for dollar, we’re going to call him out,” Poloncarz told The Buffalo News earlier this week. “And that’s why our budget office looked at this and said, ‘it does not add up.’”

Under the original proposal, Mychajliw had planned to delay filling most of the jobs until mid May so that the new salaries wouldn’t add any cost to the 2013 budget.

djgee@buffnews.com