Erie County leaders approve shared services plan

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – The Erie County Shared Services Panel voted Tuesday to pass a plan that could save Erie County taxpayers just over $13 million over the next three years – now the state’s budget office will need to certify those savings.

Municipal leaders met in May to start the brainstorming process.  The plan passed with a vote of 31-1.

According to the shared services plan, the biggest savings to the Town of Cheektowaga over the next three years would come from the town coordinating purchasing directly with Erie County.  It is believed the town can reduce its purchasing expenses by around 4% across the board.  Supervisor Diane Benczkowski represented Cheektowaga on the panel.

“They have all the pricing already.  It will save us time, it will save us money as far as essential purchases from one place rather than everybody doing their own thing,” said Ms. Benczkowski.

In theory, the town would have to hire a junior buyer to be the municipal point person to the county’s director of purchasing.  The job is estimated to come with a yearly salary of $40,000.  However, even with the job, the panel estimates that the town could save around $217,000 each year.

“The Town Board would have to agree to hire this junior buyer and figure out how all of this will work.  This was the town’s idea to partner with the county and take them up on their offer about helping us with purchasing,” added Ms. Benczkowski.

Erie County also proposed to move to a county wide tax collection system which could save county taxpayers $945,000 every year. The move would eliminate the need to have each town, village and school district send a driver or courier service to the Rath Building to pickup around 1.1 million tax records.

Cheektowaga was only a handful of municipalities to take the county up on their offer – 21 municipalites opted out.

“I did not opt out of it because I thought if there was a chance to save the town money, then we should stay in it,” said Ms. Benczkowski.

With a proposed start date of 2019, the Village of Sloan will piggyback off of Cheektowaga’s engineering and sewer departments to help them with their consent order from the DEC regarding their mandatory sanitary sewer work and the town will add the village onto joint construction bids.  The estimated savings to Sloan is $300,000.

It is important to note that the cost saving measures are just proposals.  The Erie County Comptroller’s Office says in order to enact any of the shared services, the municipalities need to enter into contracts or inter-municipal agreements. None of the plans can go forward without those formal arrangements.

The state required the creation of this shared services panel at the local level as part of the 2017-18 budget, however, many lawmakers tell Cheektowaga Chronicle that there are no teeth to force any municipality to go through with the plan.

We reached out to the Erie County Executive’s Office by email late Wednesday morning asking what happens after the state’s budget office accepts the plan.  We haven’t received a response as of Wednesday evening.

The comptroller’s office says auditing the plan’s compliance would be the purview of the State Comptroller. Citing pervious plans – many projects did not happen.