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City Hopes to Use Surplus to Offset Current Year's Gap

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – It's not exactly a windfall. But Thursday's announcement that Buffalo finished the 2002-2003 fiscal year with an $8.3 million surplus was welcome news.

A small surplus had been expected because of the belt tightening that started last year. But more money was leftover than expected, thanks to higher sales tax and utilities revenues.

City Comptroller Andrew SanFilippo says it's a confidence builder for the community. But he says it doesn't make recent cutbacks any less painful. Nor does it mean Buffalo is out of the woods yet.

"I would never speculate to say that we would have a surplus in '04, because don't forget, we still have six months left of the fiscal year," said SanFilippo. "And the control board still is considering or planning to issue $7.8 million in deficit notes to balance our budget."

But with a budget surplus to work with, Sanfilippo says the city may be able to minimize the borrowing needed to balance the current year's budget. He said it's still too early to speculate on how much could be used to offset the debt.

"Hopefully, between now and June 30th, we could make a strong case that we can, number one, minimize our borrowing and, number two, try to recreate some depleted reserves," SanFilippo said.

And SanFilippo says building back up those financial cushions will further help to bolster the city's financial position, as well as the city's image.