A measure that would help Niagara County’s hospitals in a way two lawmakers say should have been done years ago will be presented Tuesday.

In part a protest of the way the county spent its tobacco settlement, Legislators Jason Murgia and Glenn Aronow will ask their colleagues to spend money from the general fund to bolster the county’s hospitals.

The county recently has securitized its tobacco revenue, and is expecting around $20 million from a bond sale, which will be used to pay down the county’s debt and for capital projects.

Aronow, R-Lockport, reasons that because the county’s debt will be defeased, a $1.9 million debt service payment scheduled for 2006 will be freed up.

He and Murgia, D-Niagara Falls, would like to see $1.5 million of that go to area hospitals.

The hospital support would come out of the general fund, because that is from where the debt service payment would have come.

Paying the hospitals directly from the securitization payments couldn’t be done, Aronow said.

The resolution is critical of Niagara County’s history of spending the tobacco settlement money, which includes paying down debt and fixing roads. Murgia and Aronow say the hospital payments will be more in line with the intended, correct use of tobacco money.

“I think that it’s a good thing for all of us, and it’s good for the hospitals,” Aronow said. “It sends the money where it originally was intended to go.”

However, instead of spending the money on treating tobacco-related illnesses, the idea behind the late-1990s $246 billion nationwide settlement, the legislators are asking hospitals to use the money to bolster homeland security efforts.

Hospitals are key players in the county’s homeland security plan but were not afforded any homeland security funds thus far, Murgia said.

Murgia says more than getting his hospital resolution passed, he would like to see a 2 percent to 4 percent property tax increase.

“A zero tax increase obviously would be great, but obviously, in light of our current fiscal crisis, is not responsible government,” he said, adding that Erie County resisted tax increases for years, only to end up in a state of crisis.

On Tuesday, County Manager Gregory Lewis is expected to present his budget, which will include a property tax increase of between 5 percent and 6 percent. He also will present possible changes to get the budget down to a zero percent property tax increase, as he was instructed to do by the Legislature on Nov. 1. Murgia did not vote for that resolution, but Aronow did.

The hospital resolution’s sponsors realize their colleagues may not support the resolution, given the fact that it’s being presented during budget season.

“I’d love to help the hospitals, but we’re going to have to find a more creative way to do that,” said Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls.

Virtuoso thinks Lewis probably used the $1.9 million proposed debt service payment to bring down a proposed property tax increase, and the hospital resolution could add to the tax burden.

Aronow disagrees.

“We have an extra $1.9 million,” he said. “It certainly in my mind isn’t adding to ... the tax burden.”

Contact Jill Terreri

at (716) 282-2311, Ext. 2250.

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