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Mayor's Budget Cuts Police Jobs, Reduces School Funding

Engine 22 on Broadway
Engine 22 on Broadway

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Mayor Anthony Masiello says his proposed budget is a "no frills" plan. He says it calls for across the board spending and work force reductions.

Masiello says he's calling for the elimination of 406 jobs. He says 150 positions would be cut within the police department.

"Ninety-three are permanent, working policemen at this time," Masiello said. "I'm also calling for the closing of three fire companies, elimination of other services and functions, and the reduction of personal that helps us deal with the reality of our revenues."

Masiello is calling on the Erie County Sheriff's Department, the State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to help deliver critical public safety services within the city. He says he wants to find out if the County Sheriff could assist with certain police services.

Masiello's plan also calls for the elimination of 70 vacant jobs in the fire department. He says job cuts within fire would not involve actual fire fighters. Three fire companies would close, Engine 16 on Jefferson Avenue and Engine 22 on Broadway, plus Ladder 5 on Seneca Street. Fire Commission Calvin Worthy says firefighters will still "meet or beat response times" if those companies close. Fire Commissioner Calvin Worthy says firefighters will still "meet or beat response times" if those companies close.

The budget would also reduce the city's contribution to the city's school system by $860,000. The Board of Education had been seeking a $2 million increase. Schools Superintendent Marion Canedo says without that extra $2 million, a number of non-mandated services, like sports, transportation for high school students and music programs could be cut.

The city's Division of Substance Abuse Services, which serves about 400 people a year, would be abolished, resulting in the loss of 32 jobs. Also, Buffalo would no longer fund local arts and cultural groups.

The Mayor is backing down from his earlier proposal to privatize city garbage. Masiello says he has worked with the union to reduce the number of garbage districts from eight to five. This would mean a reduction in the number of seasonal and temporary workers needed for trash pickup.

Property taxes for homeowners in Buffalo would increase 4.1 percent but would drop 4.9 for businesses.

The city's portion of the budget totals $270.5 million.

Buffalo Common Council president James Pitts is not pleased with the Masiello's proposed budget. He says it trims too much of the work force within public safety and calls on residents to pay more in property taxes.

The head of Buffalo's police union says he's not happy with Masiello's proposed jobs cuts for the Buffalo police department. Robert Meegan, PBA president, says the numbers are slightly lower from earlier projections, mainly due to a few police retirements.

But Meegan says the union will not supporting one-officer patrol cars. Meegan says Masiello is considering cuts with in the department's traffic squad and community service programs. He says the budget will also eliminate the burglary task force. But the police union leader says many of the final decisions regarding cuts rests with the police commissioner.

Meegan says if there is any reduction in officer positions, it will affect the protection of citizens.

"Eventually it is going to come out in the wash," Meegan said. "Individuals that have their homes burglarized in the city of Buffalo are not going to receive the same treatment they've had in the past. I think other police investigative services, such as dealing with gang members, will be affected. You're not going to have the back up, expertise and investigative arm to go after these individuals that have perpetrated these crimes.

Meegan says he wants to know what will happen to the money the city earmarked in last year's budget to pay for police department positions.

Meegan says the Mayor did not offer the PBA a preview copy of the budget plan and that he learned of job cuts through the news media.