Is Erie County government a living cliche?
“The more things change …”
“Everything old is …”
When Chris Collins was Erie County executive, he wanted the county to borrow on its own, rather than through the county control board, even though the control board had a better credit rating and could borrow at a lower interest rate. It would benefit the county, he argued, to begin rebuilding its credit rating.
Then-Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz said, in effect, no way. The county will save money if the control board borrows the money, he reasoned, so the control board should borrow.
Fast forward to last week. Poloncarz, now county executive, wants the county to borrow money on its own, even though the control board has a better credit rating and can borrow at a lower interest rate. It will benefit the county, he says, to begin rebuilding its credit rating.
In truth, there may be facts to support both positions, just as there were when Collins was county executive, but the bottom line is that in a county that is home to one of the nation’s poorest cities, and in a state with the nation’s highest tax burden, the emphasis should be on keeping costs as low as possible. Let the control board do it.
That’s what the Erie County Legislature wants to do. It unanimously approved a resolution last week urging, but not requiring, Poloncarz to take steps that would allow the control board to continue to conduct short-term capital borrowing for the county.
Estimates are that the county could save $250,000 in debt financing costs by borrowing through the control board rather than securing the loan itself. That may not seem like much in the context of a $1.4 billion budget, but it’s still a quarter-million dollars that the county can put to better use.
That is also the opinion of the current comptroller, Stephan I. Mychajliw, though he has agreed to issue requests for proposals for underwriters for the county’s capital bonds and revenue anticipation notes. “We’ll find out who’s cheaper by having an open, honest and transparent process,” he said.
That seems like a sensible approach to the issue. It’s possible, too, that Poloncarz has a point in wanting the county to build up its credit rating, as the city has been able to do, but then he needs to explain why that wasn’t a good idea when Collins was county executive and he was comptroller.
Absent a compelling case that the county would have more money over the long term, legislators and Mychajliw are correct to favor the control board.