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Mayor Brown unveils nearly $500 million budget for 2017-18

courtesy Mayor's Office

Calling it "on time and balanced" for the 12th straight year, Buffalo mayor Byron Brown has released his spending plan for the city's next fiscal year. It holds the lines on taxes but uses $12 million from the city's reserves.

The budget, which totals $499,657,476, is a 1.1 percent increase from the previous year. Mayor Brown, speaking in his City Hall office Monday afternoon, said the increase is below the rate of inflation. He attributed the rise to rising costs in health care and employee obligations, while noting that all unions representing city workers are currently under contract.

It also continues a "hold the line" trend on taxes.

"We didn't raise residential property tax rates," Mayor Brown said. "And, we will reduce commercial property tax rates by under one percent."

But the budget uses $12 million dollars from the city's reserve funds, leaving an estimated $30 million in unassigned fund balance. Mayor Brown added that the city has a "rainy day" fund of $36 million and is anticipating a $1 million budget surplus at the close of fiscal 2016-17.

"You really prefer not to use much of the reserve fund but in order to balance the budget, sometimes we have to do it," said Common Councilmember David Rivera, who with his fellow lawmakers received copies of the budget for review immediately following Mayor Brown's presentation.

Highlights of the budget include $500,000 for Buffalo Public Schools, $500,000 for the Say Yes to Education program, $500,000 to open a police substation inside the Broadway Market beginning next year, funds to enhance the mayor's "clean sweep" neighborhood improvement program and money to support an initiative by which police and other city departments will address quality of life concerns with traffic, including speeding, the running of stop signs and noise from loud car stereos.

"In those instances, we will install temporary electronic speed displays signs and temporary speed bumps to calm the traffic," said Mayor Brown, who added that after a "grace period" police would act against violators.

The Common Council has until May 22 to return the budget to the mayor with additions. Mayor Brown then has the right to veto any changes. The budget becomes official on June 8, as per the city's charter.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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