If you have no job and/or all the time in the world, here’s a copy (.pdf) of the proposed 2009 Erie County budget that Chris Collins released yesterday.
The budget contains a 3.6% increase in property taxes, and cuts out funding to Vive la Casa and Meals on Wheels, to name a few.
With the hatchet being applied to certain services and a tax hike still being proposal, what hast Six Sigma wrought?
Collins has said his biggest challenge was closing a multi-million dollar budget gap created by such rising costs as fuel, health benefits, and asphalt. He said despite Six Sigma savings and cut-backs there was still not enough money to create a balanced budget without a tax increase.
Collins said he hopes to spend $50 million per year for the next four years on major capital projects across Erie County. He said major road and bridge improvements are needed and the county can’t afford to cutback in that area.
“It’s an appropriate expenditure to keep the quality of life vibrant in our community and to create a nice atmosphere for folks to come visit,” Collins said. “The fifty million dollars compares to past years that ranged from thirty-eight to fifty million.”
Road and bridge improvements are basic infrastructure – not something that contributes to our quality of life or a nice atmosphere. I can’t recall the last time someone lauded the way of life in Western New York for the phenomenal roads. I can just imagine a prospective Buffalo n00b saying, “Hey, the taxes are sky high and getting higher, and the libraries and cultural institutions are underfunded, but gosh darn Goodrich Road is smooth like glass.”
This, however, is the kind of stuff that is inexcusable given the prospect of a tax hike:
A $27,000 dollar bump for the Deputy Commissioner in the Division of Youth Services.
More than $21,000 dollars for the Social Services Commissioner.
An $11,000 dollar raise for the Budget Director and $10,000 dollars for the Health Commissioner.
County Executive Chris Collins says, “I did give out 2, 3 raises. I will defend them as those individuals as being deserving of an increase and me needing to do that to make sure they stay.”
Comptroller Mark Poloncarz says, “At the time he’s asking the taxpayers of Erie County to pay more, you would think this would have been an austerity budget on its face value but it really isn’t.”
Poloncarz says the biggest increase is indefensible. The Director of Information and Support Services was making $86,511 dollars. That position goes away and a new Chief Information Officer replaces it. That position pays $134,173 dollars.
Poloncarz says, “All they did was change the title, but by doing that, they’re creating a new job grade and as a result giving an almost $50,000 dollar raise. That’s almost unheard of. That person would be one of the highest paid people in Erie County.”
Well, in Erie County government, anyway. I never thought people went into government jobs because of how lucrative they were, and government jobs don’t need to be that competitive with the private sector because, frankly, the benefits are usually much better – easier hours, holidays left and right, pension & other benefits. Government work has its own attraction not to mention the fact that one’s motivation to take a high-level county position should also be, at least in part, a desire to be a public servant rather than personal enrichment.
But raises aren’t the only thing. Collins can cut money to culturals – which actually do contribute to our quality of life – but he’ll create new pinheaded management positions:
Collins is creating some new positions, too. There’s a new Assistant Commissioner of Administration in Social Services making $87,000 and a new Deputy Commissioner of Health making $85,000 dollars.
Collins says, “We’re restructuring that department and bringing in a business level manager to oversee business operations there.”
At least he’s not Assistant to the Commissioner of Administration in Social Services /David Brent & Michael Scott
Operating government like a business shouldn’t mean rewarding your loyal employees with raises or creating new $87,000 jobs. In Erie County, it should mean making do with less and trying to cut the tax burden – not raising it. Just imagine if Collins had run on a “big raises for management and property tax hike” platform. I doubt the CE race in 2007 would have been such a rout. Six Sigma is supposed to maximize those efficiencies, identify and eliminate waste. Collins ran to lower taxes, identifying our tax burden as part of what holds us back. So what gives? Instead, Collins is busy making bizarre, inappropriate budgetary and personnel decisions in very tight times indeed.
I don’t get it.
(PS – to the person who inevitably comments “Keane wouldn’t have been any better”, that’s 30,000 miles beside the point. KTHX).