County Executive Poloncarz Paints Grim Financial Future

July 16, 2012 Updated Jul 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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July 16, 2012 Updated Jul 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - During his mid-year budget briefing with reporters on Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said a property tax hike may have to take place in the not-so-distant future.

"I'm leaving everything on the table," said Poloncarz, who is halfway through the first year of his first term.

"We have a balanced budget for the first five months, but if things continue we have some tough times going forward," he said.

"I'm very worried of the financial status of the county," Poloncarz said.

Several factors are contributing to the county executive's concern.

First there is skyrocketing overtime costs in the sheriff's department, mostly from deputies who work at the Erie County Correctional Facility and the downtown jail.

72 additional deputies must be hired during the next few years, including 15 by September. Those 15 new employees are not in the current year's budget.

The total cost is $6 million.

Then there is Erie County Medical Center. The county is on the hook for annual subsidies of $16 million, but this year that number could balloon to as much as $51 million, "because of costs associated with Medicaid and the ECMC Corporation's provision of services to underprivileged residents," Poloncarz said.

The county is also experiencing a drop in revenue from property taxes.

"In fact if we keep the property tax rate the same, based on the ... numbers for assessments that we've received from the towns and the cities so far -- we would actually generate $400,000 less in revenue in 2013 than we generated in 2012," he said.

The county has $83 million in reserves, but that would only be a one-time fix and leave the county scraping for pennies next year.