Members of the Erie County Legislature’s minority caucus on Monday urged County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to spend more on repairing the county’s crumbling roads and bridges. But the administration says the lawmakers should have thought about that before cutting $8.5 million from his 2013 budget proposal.
“Due to their phony budget cuts, the administration was forced to implement severe budget cuts,” said Mark Cornell, a spokesman for the county executive.
“Legislature Republicans wanted us to do more with less. Now they’re criticizing us for not doing enough,” Cornell added.
In a news release Monday, members of the Legislature’s minority caucus called on Poloncarz to release more than $1 million in real estate transfer tax surplus funds, which are designated solely for roadwork, instead of sitting idly by while county roads crumble.
“I just think we can’t keep ignoring our infrastructure needs, because if we ignore addressing them now, they only become more costly to take care of later on,” said Legislator Lynne M. Dixon of Hamburg.
As a member of the Independence Party, Dixon voted last November with the three Republican members of the Legislature, Conservative Party member Joseph C. Lorigo of West Seneca and Amherst Democrat Thomas R. Loughran to cut $8.5 million from Poloncarz’s budget.
“This year, the administration has invested $34 million for dozens of road and bridge projects, which is substantially more than in the final years of the Collins administration,” said Cornell, referring to the administration of former County Executive Chris Collins.
“The minority caucus must not remember that in June, the administration requested to use $1 million from the transfer tax surplus fund for additional infrastructure projects and that it was approved by the Legislature,” said Cornell, arguing that those were the parameters the administration operated within. “Now they’re feigning outrage in an election year.”
However, minority caucus members insist it is the administration that is indulging in politics.
Dixon said the administration’s claim that using additional funds from the transfer tax surplus would throw the budget out of whack don’t ring true.
“It’s simply not the case,” said Dixon.
“During the midyear budget hearings, every department came in under budget. Plus there are $89 million in undesignated funds in the budget.”
Not only that, just last week the control board announced that it was transferring $720,000 in unanticipated revenue back to the county. “There’s money there to address these needs,” Dixon added.
Some members of the minority caucus have suggested that the administration is purposely neglecting county roads in their districts as payback for voting against his budget.
The administration has countered that all roads and bridges in the county are attended to, based on a priority scale.
Dixon said several weeks ago that she submitted to the administration petitions and letters from residents who are clamoring for the county to repair Sowles Road in her district. That road, among others, is in deplorable shape, she said.
“I don’t think infrastructure improvements are a priority and they need to be. It is late in the season, but we do have a couple of months left where the work can still get done,” said Dixon.