Under the Hat: High Ground - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: High Ground

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We're not even halfway through August and already there are two clear indications about how the Erie County 2012 budget process is going to go.

One-it's going to be another tough year with some real choices over what is and isn't vital in discretionary county services.

Two-it's going to be another battle to determine that whatever fallout happens, that the other guy gets the blame.

County Executive Barry Grossman outlined his areas of concerns for us this week.

They are:

A library system without permanent endowment funding.

A public safety center where telephone user fees don't pay all the bills.

A 400 million dollar shortfall statewide in human services programs.

And ongoing operating and pension costs at Erie's two county homes, Pleasant Ridge Manor East and West.

Grossman also used our interview request as a chance to fire the first volley in the battle for the political high ground, saying that his administration was determined to give Council a preliminary budget that contains no new taxes.

He's not inventing the wheel with that political budget move but this year in particular that strategy is a shrewd one.

Eventually it will place the onus on council members to either make some unpopular choices or take the heat for reaching deeper into taxpayers' pockets.

Grossman has been unable to gain consensus on his budget rationale lately, disagreeing with a council decision to move forward with a 30 to 50 million dollar consolidation of the two county homes into a brand new, free-standing building.

He's also running into opposition from a determined grass roots arts community after a committee he formed suggested selling a Childe Hassam painting to establish a permanent source for library funding.

Grossman's tact in recent days has been:

"Okay, if you don't like my ideas, fine. What have you got?"

With cuts from Harrisburg, rising costs all around and a pledge of no new taxes, clearly something has to give.

 What eventually does and who is saddled with the ownership of that, will help shape what's expected to be an interesting but difficult fall indeed. 

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