The board charged with providing oversight to Erie County’s finances has, through its own operating budget, amassed nearly a $1 million surplus over its almost eight years of existence.
On Thursday, the five-member control board known as the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority unanimously agreed to part with $720,000 – about three-quarters of its fund balance – and give the money back to the county.
Afterward, Chairman James M. Sampson said the control board has, over the past several years, worked hard to hold the line on its own approximately $500,000 annual operating budget, while also building a positive working relationship with the county budget office.
“This action is, I think, an indication of the work that everybody on the Fiscal Stability Authority and the folks from the administration have dedicated to developing a cooperative partnership where we perform our responsibilities as a Fiscal Stability Authority, while at the same time act in a way that benefits the county and the taxpayers,” Sampson said.
“This is one of the more pleasurable things we’ve done since I’ve been the chairman,” he added.
County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz praised the control board’s action.
“I want to thank Chairman Sampson and his fellow directors for approving the transfer of $720,000 in surplus funds back to the county,” said Poloncarz, who also continued to lament the $8.5 million in cuts that were made to his 2013 budget proposal last year by the County Legislature.
“Because of the Legislature’s phony cuts to the budget last year, my administration had to implement significant cost-cutting measures to ensure a balanced budget,” he said in a news release Thursday.
“Even after all of the cost-cutting measures my administration instituted, this year’s budget is still very tight. These funds will definitely be put to good use for the benefit of Erie County residents. This is just another example of the control board’s willingness to not only work closely and cooperatively with my administration, but to work on the people’s behalf,” Poloncarz added.
The transfer of funds from the control board to Erie County is set to occur 60 days from the fiscal authority’s action on Thursday and is contingent upon the receipt of an invoice from the county. Administration officials on Thursday said it had not yet been decided how the $720,000 will be allocated.
“We can choose to not spend it, in which case it becomes part of the county’s fund balance,” said Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callan.
The county executive has discretion over how the funds might be allocated; however, the Legislature would be required to sign off on the appropriation.
The control board went from “hard” to “advisory” status in June 2009, after county finances began to improve and certain financial goals were attained. The operations of the control board, which was installed in August 2005, is funded by Erie County. The state’s Public Authorities Law allows the control board to intercept county tax revenues and state aid revenues in order to pay the fiscal stability authority’s operating expenses. At the board’s discretion, it may transfer any remaining balance back to the county.