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About That Erie County Clerk Surplus


Press releases from politicians often annoy me as they frequently stretch the truth and exaggerate their alleged accomplishments. I like Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs. His willingness to serve on the Buffalo School Board for several years is admirable. My recent visits to the County Clerk’s Office have gone smoothly from a customer service perspective.

Jacobs recently reported in a press release that the Clerk’s Office generated a budget surplus of $1.9 million. It sounds impressive to brag that the Clerk’s Office posted a surplus. In fact some of the comments Jacobs received on Facebook to his surplus news were:

– “Impressive!”

– “Great Job!”

– “Breath of Fresh Air”

– “Thank You”

– “You are an awesome politician”

When you truly understand the role of the Clerk’s Office obtaining a surplus does not merit any of the above comments. The Clerk’s Office collects millions of dollars in fees from citizens primarily through real estate transactions. Every property sold in Erie County has to pay thousands of dollars in taxes and fees to the County Clerk. There is no possible way that the County Clerk cannot end the year with a surplus. David Swarts when he was County Clerk ended the year with a surplus, as did Kathy Hochul when she was County Clerk. The purpose of the Clerk’s Office is to generate fee income for Erie County and having a surplus is nothing new.

Taking credit for the surplus gives people the impression as indicated above that the County Clerk through his management skills is achieving a result that is impressive. The amount of the surplus achieved is dependent primarily on the cyclical ups and downs of the real estate market more than management skills. Fees have also been raised in the Clerk’s Office, which certainly helps to raise revenue. Jacobs has drawn attention to renewing drivers licenses through the Clerk’s Office instead of mailing funds to Albany, as local renewals allow the Clerk’s Office to retain fees for Erie County’s benefit. Encouraging local renewals can help to generate additional revenues for the county.

When the Erie County Executive submitted his proposed county budget, Jacobs complained that the County Executive was over estimating revenues in the Clerk’s Office by $500,000. Yet as Jacob’s now takes credit for the Clerk’s Office finished the year with a surplus of $1.9 million. Arguing over estimated revenues is part of the game that gets played in an effort to create a surplus as high as possible.

Exaggerated press releases comes with the territory of being in elected office. Perhaps I should let such things go without comment. Just offering a different perspective that many people may not agree with. 


  • Tell the Truth

    Are Chris Jacobs and Frank Sedita having lunch together? If Jacobs starts posting press releases with “creative” headlines on his County web page, I will know the answer to my own question.

  • jimd54

    I guess I don’t understand how there is a surplus. I assumed a greater amount of revenue collected because of a cyclical up just meant the county was more flush. Or if they collect more money than they need shouldn’t the tax rate be dialed down?

    • Larry Burch

      The Clerk doesn’t collect property taxes (which if too much was collected, in theory would have to be returned) he collects fees for various things like DMV, mortgage recording taxes, fishing and gun licenses ect. He has absolutely no control over who walks in the door to pay these fees (ie he doesn’t do anything to increase home sales or people buying guns). So the writer posits that it is a bit disingenuous for the clerk to pat himself on the back so hard for a surplus he has no actual control in making.

      • jimd54

        Ok, thanks. Do you know what happens to the surplus?

      • Larry Burch

        Not really sure…i guess it just comingles with the rest of the county’s money.

  • UncleBluck

    WOW…someone in govt is ACTUALLY doing his job………