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Erie County Comptroller warns municipalities and schools to budget conservatively

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 23:09:25-04

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Comptroller is warning local municipalities and schools that decreased sales tax disbursement and potential increases in pension contributions may cause some financial issues.

Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick said there's been a 35% decrease in expected sales tax payments from New York State.

Hardwick also said there will likely be future increases in contribution payments by participating governmental employers to the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System recent financial trends on Wall Street.

"[W]hen the stock market is booming, local governments benefit by contributing less into the retirement system, as investment income is higher and our cost share is decreased. However, local governments must pay more into the system when the investment earnings are less," Hardwick said.

However, the West Seneca Town Supervisor and the Marilla Town Supervisor said they've prepared for this situation.

"We were very conservative in our budgeting, so it should not really cause a problem this year. We'll just have to take that into account," Gary Dickson, the West Seneca Town Supervisor, said.

"We're going to be okay shape because I've been planning for this for the past couple years. We've been responsible with our financial planning," Earl Gingerich Jr., the Marilla Town Supervisor, said.

Michael Cornell, the President of the Erie-Niagara Superintendents Association and Hamburg Schools Superintendent, said districts have prepared for less tax revenue too.

"All of your school districts, all of your superintendents, all of your boards of education, are very conservative in both their cost estimates and their revenue estimates. They understand revenue estimates are just that. All of our school districts in Erie County are always planning for what the downside risks could possibly be," Cornell said.

But leaders said they're less concerned about the decrease in sales tax revenue and are more concerned about the increase in contributions to the pension system.

"That has the potential to be a lot worse than the sales tax reduction," Dickson said.

"That's going to be harder hitting for us, but we can manage it," Gingerich said.

Tentative budgets are due in the fall.

"As long as that doesn't go too crazy, I think we'll be fine this year, and we'll be able to make adjustments for the years following," Dickson said.

Both Dickson and Gingerich said the towns have saved enough money over the past two years to likely prevent this hitting their citizen's pockets.