The Control Board, which has overseen Erie County’s finances since November 2006, voted to move back to an advisory status Tuesday after accepting County Executive Chris Collins’ newly revised four-year financial plan. For the past two and a half years, the control board has been a “hard” board, playing an active role in the county’s finances; now, it will revert to a “soft” position, serving merely in an advisory role to the county.
The change marks a major step forward for Erie County. Collins will no longer need approval for contracts over $50,000 or to hire new employees. “I am very pleased that a year and a half into my administration, my team was capable of demonstrating to the Control Board our firm understanding and proper management of county finances,” Collins said.
Collins can also begin to accept his $104,000 annual salary. If you recall, during the 2007 election, Collins promised to work for just $1 per month until the Control Board’s role in county finances was diminished. Having delivered on that promise, he is now free to accept his full check.
Erie County Legislature Chair Lynn Marinelli also championed the move. In a statement Tuesday, she noted the role of the legislature in bringing forth this change through its monthly budget monitoring reports, mid-year budget hearings and reforms to the county’s charter, among other things.
Collins does acknowledge, however, that the county’s financial woes are not completely behind us. “The county’s financial health and respect for hard-earned tax dollars remains the number one priority of my administration,” he said. “My administration will continue to work toward even greater financial strength for Erie County and provide residents with the most value for their tax dollars.”
Overall, the county’s finances have improved greatly since the crisis of 2004 and 2005. Since then, the county has ended each year with a surplus. That said, the Control Board can revote in the future to regain its “hard” status should Erie County’s finances take another turn for the worse.