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Common Council to host budget hearings, hear public input Thursday

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Members of the Buffalo Common Council are perusing through the nearly $500 million budget unveiled Monday by Mayor Byron Brown. On Thursday, they'll hear from city department heads and have also invited the public to speak.

Meetings with commissioners will begin at 9 a.m. Common Council President Darius Pridgen expressed his hope all departments would be covered in one day. He also finished Tuesday's Common Council session with a reminder that the public also has a chance to voice their opinions.

"We invite you to come to the hearings but we'll hear from the general public at 5 p.m., Thursday, May 4," Pridgen said.

Mayor Byron Brown unveiled his proposed budget for fiscal 2017-2018 on Monday afternoon. Council members received their copies immediately after Mayor Brown's speech. Although they were still going over the details as of Tuesday afternoon, none saw anything to raise red flags. But there are ongoing fiscal concerns that lawmakers hope will be better addressed in the budget.

"One of the things I try to look at, with overtime, where are we saving?" said Council member Rasheed Wyatt. "I know it's what the mayor focused on in his presentation, that we have more police officers coming on, so that we can see some savings there."

Council member Joseph Golombek welcomes the mayor's continued hold-the-line stance on property taxes and his generally conservative spending practices. 

"Buffalo is still going through a tough economic times," Golombek said. "I'm still questioning whether we're truly going through a renaissance or if it's a government-induced renaissance. But in order for things to get better, we need to keep this course going forward. I think if you can keep taxes down, if you can get more people to come into the City of Buffalo, that's key."

The proposed budget includes the use of $12 million from the city's reserve fund. Mayor Brown, in his speech Monday, pointed out that approximately $30 million in unallocated money remains in the fund balance, while approximately $36 million sits in a "rainy day" reserve.

Golombek warned that some might not necessarily appreciate squirreling away that amount of money. He suggests it worked against former Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski at the end of his tenure.

"Dennis Gorski had a huge rainy day fund and the residents of Erie County got tired of it and they voted him out of office," Golombek said. "Even though he had a great fiscally conservative, solid economic record, he was good on taxes and was good on finance, but people didn't like that. The criticism was that he was hoarding money. I think there should be a little bit of money that's sitting there, but it's there for us to use."

Wyatt supports the mayor's proposed funding for a program that will use temporary measures, including speed monitors and speed bumps, to measure and address traffic-related problems in residential neighborhoods including speeding, running stop signs and playing car stereos at excessively loud levels.

"I definitely agree with that," Wyatt said. "I've heard from my residents. Many of them watch cars just drive through at high rates of speed on streets that are 30 miles an hour. There's a great concern for children. I'm looking forward to how we do this and how we do it in a very effective, efficient way. People are tired of hearing the rhetoric. They want to see some action."

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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