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Common Council requests law mandating taxes be paid before a city approval given

Mike Desmond

If you want something from the City of Buffalo, like a license, a contract or approval for a development project, you better have your taxes paid.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Councilmember Richard Fontana likes the idea.

The Common Council is asking city lawyers to come up with a law to force tax payments from people or companies that want something from the city. Common Councilmember Richard Fontana told colleagues Tuesday it can be complicated when taxes are owed by a corporation or a developer, but the same developer is using another corporation to seek a city approval.

"The county's having trouble collecting on some of the judgments. Essentially, they're like, 'Yeah, sure, I owe this judgment within Erie County. The judge handed it down. But I'm not doing business as that anymore, I'm doing business as this' and it becomes a problem," Fontana said. "So if we can find a way to help safeguard around this LLC proliferation, I think that could help in this situation."

Majority Leader David Rivera said everyone should pay their taxes.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Council President Darius Pridgen (right) likes the idea.

"Put together a policy with regards to unpaid taxes, to make sure that we consider unpaid taxes whenever we're deliberating, whether it's the Planning Board, Zoning Board," Rivera said. "As a matter of fact, there was something before the Zoning Board or the Planning Board and they could not consider the fact that the developer did not pay taxes. Well, this will allow them to consider that."

Council President Darius Pridgen said he would like the new rules in place by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, because the city needs the money.
"Go into our new budget in July and I think that should be in place for anybody," Pridgen said. "I think if someone comes to this Council and they want a license for a tire handler, well, why should we give a license for you to open a business and you owe the city money."

How well the plan will work is unclear.

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.