Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, issued the following statement following the release, Thursday afternoon, of Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz's proposed 2013 county budget:
"First off, I want to thank County Manager Glatz and Budget Director Dan Huntington for the work they have put into the 2013 county budget. I know these are difficult financial times, and that Mr. Glatz has put serious thought into the budgetary needs of the county moving forward.
"Although the county manager's budget came in under the tax cap, the members of the Majority Caucus agree that there is still work to be done. We intend to work these next few weeks to lower the tax burden. The proposed 3.7 percent increase in the tax levy must be reduced, and the Legislature's Majority will utilize the budget process to identify potential cuts and adjustments. We will seek input from our department heads and work with them to achieve further reductions during the upcoming budget hearings.
"The proposed budget does a good job to address the goal of reducing the size of government. We have again reduced the size of county government. The budget reduces full-time positions to 1,393. Since 2010, we have reduced the workforce by 97 employees - a 7 percent reduction in the number of people on the county payroll in just three years. Even more significantly, since 2008, we have reduced the size of county government by 13 percent.
"Even though the county manager's budget came in under the cap, state mandates remain a significant concern. We saw a substantial increase of $1.7 million in the local share of Medicaid costs this year. Medicaid now costs county taxpayers more than $47 million every year, and represents 63 percent of the property tax levy. Also, the local share of pension costs increased another 9.9 percent, rising to $14 million this year.
"Despite those increases in state-mandated costs, the county manager's budget is a good starting point, and the Majority Caucus will look at both cost reductions and restructuring of budget items to mitigate the burden placed on our taxpayers. Even as we reduce costs, we will maintain vital public services."