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Proposed Buffalo budget includes ticket surcharge to cover police, public maintenance

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s proposed 2018-19 budget includes the introduction of a new user fee that will be applied to events at prominent city-owned venues. While city lawmakers are only beginning to review the budget, they too are discussing how to cover the cost of maintaining and protecting public events while lessening the burden on city taxpayers.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s proposal, known as the Public Facility Maintenance and Security Surcharge, would call for a ticket surcharge for events at city-owned venues including Coca-Cola Field, Kleinhans Music Hall, Canalside and Shea’s Performing Arts Center as well as major venues such as KeyBank Center, which is officially owned by Erie County but for which Buffalo provides services such as traffic management outside events including concerts and sporting events.

"We have large numbers of people coming from across the Western New York community and beyond, to patronize the five venues that we have indicated," Brown said. "It is important for us to be able to spread the cost or providing much-needed public safety services among all users."

In Common Council Chambers in City Hall Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers were discussing the mayor's just-released budget proposal for 2018-19. Councilmamber Joseph Golombek pointed to a published article about the Town of Amherst and its own exploration of how police and other essential services for its public venues are paid. 

Lawmakers seem to agree with the mayor that city taxpayers, arguably, face an unfair burden taking on the entire cost of public safety and maintenance costs at public events. They are only beginning to review the mayor's spending plan but already want to ensure that ticket buyers aren't hit too hard with surcharges.

"The one thing I don't want to do is fee out our own residents from enjoying the City of Buffalo," said Common Council President Darius Pridgen. "I feel like when you are already a taxpayer, there may be some difference in fees at times. But we've really got to look at this."

Pridgen noted that what the mayor is proposing has already been practiced in other cities.

Mayor Brown estimates the surcharge would generate about $2 million annually. He said a working group will determine the formula for implementing the new fee. 

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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