The Erie County Comptroller’s Office on Monday took County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to task for failing to include year-end budget forecasts in the administration’s last two budget monitoring reports for June and July.
Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw said the County Code requires that all such reports issued after May by the Budget Office include those projections. He called the administration’s apparent lack of transparency troubling. “The administration should embrace a policy of openness, not secrecy. People have a right to know how the county executive is managing their money,” he said.
Deputy Budget Director Timothy C. Callan said there was no attempt to hide anything. No such forecast is available, he said, because the Budget Office just received budget projections Friday from the Department of Social Services.
“That represents 60 to 70 percent of the county budget,” he said, noting that any projections that the Budget Office made without analyzing figures from social services would be inaccurate.
“The Comptroller’s Office knows this. There’s no lack of transparency. Everything is fully above board,” said Callan, who added that year-end budget projections will be included in the August monitoring report set to be released around Sept. 30.
Deputy Comptroller Gregory Gach said a delay in providing comprehensive details about the county’s fiscal health puts the Legislature in a quandary as the government entity that ultimately approves expenditures, especially as budget season approaches.
Gach noted that the administration was late with its year-end forecasts in 2012. As a result, he said, the administration hired a senior executive assistant to “oversee all (Department of Social Services) materials” and ensure the timely release of those projections, which the County Code requires. “I understand what Tim is saying, but the law is the law,” said Gach.
Callan countered that the “code is not the County Charter.” He also noted that when Gach was budget director under then-County Executive Chris Collins in 2011, he did not release year-end projections with his budget monitoring reports until the one released in November of that year.
The Comptroller’s Office and the administration on Monday also clashed over a media statement that Mychajliw released last week in which he appeared to take credit for $4.8 million in savings that accrued to the county this year by borrowing through the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.
Administration officials said they announced last December – weeks before Mychajliw took office as comptroller – that Poloncarz had a plan to save taxpayers more than $2.6 million by refunding several prior-year bonds by borrowing through the control board, which has a better credit rating than the county and, thus, enjoys lower interest rates.
Gach said Mychajliw, as part of his campaign platform last year, championed the idea of the county borrowing through the control board, while Poloncarz resisted the idea. The county wound up paying an additional $1 million in interest, Gach added.