Six big Erie County projects, including plans for a shoreline trail in Evans and a proposal to expand the county’s auto bureau in Orchard Park, will be put on hold as County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz scales back county borrowing for the year.
Poloncarz has cut $9.3 million from a $38.9 million list of projects that the county had planned to borrow for this year, prompting questions from county legislators about why they weren’t told that some projects would be eliminated when they authorized the borrowing last month.
“The county did not make this decision lightly,” Budget Director Robert W. Keating told legislators in a letter Thursday. “We would have preferred to be able to conduct all the work in 2013.”
Poloncarz told the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority last month that he planned to reduce borrowing during the next few years to help make up for budget gaps he has forecast for 2013 and beyond after legislators blocked a tax increase he had proposed late last year.
The decision to scale back on borrowing is expected to save $1 million to $2 million a year in debt payments, said Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callan.
Projects that will be pushed into future years include:
• $1.1 million for design, land acquisition and construction services for the Evans Shoreline Trail.
• $95,900 for improvements to the county auto bureau at Erie Community College’s South Campus.
• $500,000 for window and door replacements and $200,000 for code compliance on ECC campuses.
• $200,000 for design and construction costs for safety and preservation work on county-owned dams.
• $1.5 million to reconstruct the Girdle Road bridge in Elma.
• A reduction in funding for road preservation from $9.35 million to $4.8 million and a delay in a project to reconstruct Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda into a future year.
The county also will trim borrowing for a list of countywide projects and purchases, including new vehicles, roof replacements and parks improvements.
Members of the County Legislature’s minority caucus object to the way Poloncarz made the cuts to the capital borrowing without consulting legislators. The Legislature approved the full list of projects in December and authorized the county executive to move forward with borrowing for the projects last month.
“He made these cuts without any kind of input from the county legislators,” said Legislature Minority Leader John J. Mills, R-Orchard Park. “We think that’s inappropriate.”
Callan said the Budget Office worked with department heads to identify which projects could be delayed or reduced. Previous administrations, he said, have reduced the amount of capital bonds issued after receiving Legislature approval for the full list.
Poloncarz has asked the Fiscal Stability Authority to go forward with borrowing the remaining $29.6 million for plans that include roads, building renovations, park upgrades and other projects. Among the projects are $2.6 million to renovate and reopen a health clinic on Broadway in Buffalo and $500,000 for interior restoration at the Darwin Martin House.