Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw acknowledged Friday that political rival County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, closed out the 2013 budget year with a small surplus.
Still, Mychajliw took Poloncarz to task for being wildly off the mark when it came to the county executive’s budget projections for 2013. If the Budget Office possessed better financial prognosticators, Mychajliw said, Poloncarz might have foreseen the folly of including a proposed 3.4 percent property tax increase in his initial spending plan for 2013, an increase that would up being rejected anyway by the Legislature in December 2012.
“By closing out 2013, we’re able to confirm that his proposed property tax increase was not only unnecessary but would have needlessly punished taxpayers,” Mychajliw said.
A spokesman for the administration accused the comptroller of political grandstanding.
“It’s just disappointing that he may be the first comptroller ever to criticize a county executive for achieving a budget surplus,” said Mark Cornell, a spokesman for Poloncarz.
The comptroller’s year-end fiscal report for the county is a precursor to one that will be released by independent auditors Drescher and Malecki in coming weeks.
The findings in Mychajliw’s report detailed several variances in what the administration budgeted for, including a $5.9 million less in sales tax revenue than was projected; a $10.3 million decrease in fringe benefits costs from what was originally estimated; and the collection of $6.2 million more in property taxes than was initially calculated.
Mychajliw estimated that the nearly $24 million variance from what was projected represents about 20 percent of the roughly $120 million in non-mandated expenses actually controlled by the county executive and the Legislature in the overall $1.4 billion county budget for 2013.
“No private sector CEO would keep their job if they had wild fluctuations to the tune of 20 percent of their entire budget,” Mychajliw said.
“Either the county executive misled the Legislature, or he is incompetent at budgeting,” he added.
Cornell countered that a budget projection is merely an educated guess based on current knowledge.
“We’re actually talking about a $1.4 billion budget that we make projections on a-year-and-a-half in advance. There are lots of unknowns,” Cornell said.
He drew a comparison with the administration of former County Executive Joel Giambra.
“During the red/green fiscal crisis, we were talking about $20 million to $50 million deficits, and the best this comptroller can do is complain about a $1 million surplus? It’s hyperpolitical,” Cornell added.