Medicaid And Your Recent Erie County Tax Bill

William T. Stachowski

February 17, 2006

Recently, you received your Erie County tax bill in the mail. I was astounded by an erroneous and misleading statement that the 22% property tax increase was due to Medicaid.

Here are the real facts.

The State has taken over the county’s share of Family Health Plus saving Erie County taxpayers in fiscal year 2005-2006, $7.4 million and in fiscal year 2006-2007, $13.5 million. Additionally, the State has capped standard Medicaid costs for Erie County as well, which have saved taxpayers in fiscal year 2005-2006, $2.9 million and in fiscal year 2006-2007, $17.1 million. Compared to 2004, the State has picked up approximately $41 million in Medicaid costs that were previously the responsibility of Erie County and its taxpayers.

In fact, if you look at Erie County’s own financial estimates, a very different financial picture materializes. The County Executive’s own Medicaid estimate for 2005 was $204,666,933. In 2006 his Medicaid estimate is $193,087,941. This represents a reduction of $11,579,052 or a decrease of 5.66 percent.

At the County’s request, the state allowed Erie County to rework its Medicaid program, to more efficiently and cost-effectively pay for the health care services for our elderly, disabled and needy residents, saving millions for overburdened taxpayers.

Albany, has been open and willing to do all that it can to assist Erie County in re-establishing is financial stability after years of fiscal mismanagement. State Comptroller Hevesi’s report this past year found gross mismanagement of millions of taxpayer dollars, which eventually culminated in the State of New York establishing a financial control board to stop the financial bleeding. For example, county spending on debt service has increased by over $42 million since 2002 and county projections for future spending on county debt continue to skyrocket.

Like you, I believe that we are taxed too much. However, it is grossly inaccurate, to state that Medicaid is the culprit for spiraling county taxes.

It is not my nature to "pile on" and aggressively criticize public servants. However, Erie County government officials continue to blame everyone in this state, other then themselves, as to the current financial mess taking place in Erie County. I am not immune from constructive criticism, and I have always welcomed new ways and ideas to improve our region. Our residents deserve a fair, objective and a reliable financial picture from its leaders at the county-level. By placing misleading and deceptive numbers in our county tax bill only furthers distrust amongst our residents, and perpetuates a cycle of finger-pointing that reflects poorly on our county.