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Mayor Skeptical of Plan to Offer Seniors a 40% Discount on User Fees

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A Buffalo lawmaker wants to give senior citizens a discount on their city user fee. But Mayor Anthony Masiello is not so sure its possible. The idea was floated after the city held a massive three day auction of foreclosed homes because some residents failed to pay their fees to the city.

Late last week, Masten District Common Council Member Antoine Thompson proposed a plan to offer some senior citizens relief on the garbage user fee. Thompson says under his plan, seniors on a fixed income would receive a 40 percent discount. But those seniors must already qualify for the state's STAR program.

Mayor Masiello says at this point, he is not sure it is legal and feasible for the city to offer a discount.

"We have to follow what is legally correct and fiscally sound," Masiello said. "There are a lot of ways in which we help our senior citizens, especially with the STAR program. We are providing service. It is expensive, but it is good service. We'll look at options on how to help people."

Hundreds of city homeowners were given a reprieve last week on failure to pay their garbage fees and water bills. Initially, more than 3,000 homes were facing foreclosure and the auction block. But the city worked out payment plans, and fewer than 700 homes were sold.

Masiello says the city started to crack down on residents earlier this year. He says the effort has resulted in millions of dollars paid back to Buffalo.

"Since this process started in February, the city took in about $9 million in back property taxes, about $7 million in back user fees and $3 million in back water fees," Masiello said.

Maisello says the money will be used to build up a reserve fund for the city.