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Mark C. Poloncarz, Comptroller

March 30,2011

As the County’s independent taxpayer watchdog, I strive to ensure you get the best ‘bang for the buck’ when it comes to your tax dollars.  With that in mind, my office recently released an audit of the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (“CVB”) because they receive more than 80 percent of their yearly budget from the County.

Instead of contacting me to discuss his concerns, County Legislator Edward Rath chose to score some political points by attacking me in a scathing editorial in last week’s Amherst Bee.  After reading his comments, it is apparent that he didn’t even bother to read the audit he’s criticizing.  If he did, he would have noted the audit did not just criticize the CVB, but complimented them as well.  That’s what a fair audit is supposed to do. 

Rath takes exception to my office’s contention that the CVB may have had an end-of-year surplus.  This is important, because if they did, they owe that money back to the County.   We used one accounting method and got a surplus, they used another and didn’t.  The problem is, if two different methods yield two different results, which is the right one to use?  Unfortunately, the contract the County and CVB entered into was poorly written and doesn’t actually say, so we are left with confusion.  In his criticism, Rath misses the point; we don’t think the CVB lied or miscalculated anything.  We think, and CVB completely agreed with us, that future contracts need to be changed to include the specific way a surplus is calculated, so we can avoid any further discrepancies. 

Secondly, both Rath and the CVB believe we “failed to accurately compare Buffalo’s CVB to other similar organizations,” and because of this, our assertion that CVB spends a greater percentage of their budget on salaries than all but one of the compared organizations is flawed.   We disagree.  Although we compared the CVB to other upstate New York organizations like Rochester that have a similar $3 million budget, they insisted we instead compare to Cleveland, who’s budget is three times greater at $9 million, or Grand Rapids, who’s budget is one-tenth the size at about $300,000, because in the end they would have made our findings seem more favorable to CVB. 

Rath is correct to say, “County taxpayers [should] demand that their money be used efficiently by the county.”  I think in the future he should be a little less concerned with blindly defending a County vendor after they’re audited and be more concerned with defending those County taxpayers, who he took an oath to represent. 

If you are interested in reading the CVB Audit yourself please click here.