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Buffalo budget hearing draws few speakers

WBFO News file photo

It was a small house Thursday night, as the Buffalo Common Council held a budget hearing on Mayor Byron Brown's proposed $494 million spending plan. The event usually draws sparse attendance and the actual budget was little discussed. One speaker wanted the council members to push city schools to give more help to home-schooled families.

From the Masten District, Franklin Redd said city schools need to step in and help families.

"The district has the ability to include home-schooled students on at least a fundamental level, when you consider student ID or student bus pass," said Redd. "Student bus pass for home school students releases them to be able to go to places in this city, such as Burchfield-Penney, Albright Knox, Zoo, Science Museum."

Redd said he can afford services for his children, but without help from the district, many other families cannot afford the same services and access. Council President Darius Pridgen said state law bars the city from putting much pressure on city schools to do something.

Other speakers wanted the Common Council to continue the pilot program in participatory budgeting, letting citizens vote on what to spend some city dollars. Sydney Brown said the program worked well in the first year and would work better expanded.

"If we had $4 million allocated to participatory budgeting, where we could have an executive director, where we could have staff numbers, where we could have a budget to fund for media and to really engage people, participatory budgeting would have far exceeded what we did and we did a heck of a job without having those fundings," said Brown.

Majority Leader David Rivera said he is willing to put some of his spending into the participatory process if council members decide to continue it for a second year.

Speaker Eddie Jones said small sums would help the city's youngest residents, like improvements to a playground near Buffalo State College. Jones would like some city money to go into parks, like a playground near Buff State.

"The schools are getting done. Universities are getting done. The Medical Campus is getting done. Downtown is getting done. Different parts of the community, work is getting done. That's all work. With no play, we have nothing but stress," said Jones.

The playground is near the boundary line between David Rivera's Niagara District and Joe Golombek's North District. The two agreed to talk about what could be done.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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