Buffalo lawmakers crunching the 2018-19 budget numbers
Buffalo's Common Council has to have its amended version of Mayor Byron Brown's budget back on his desk Tuesday. Council President Darius Pridgen says it is likely to be noticeably different from the original.
"So, at the end of the day, there is very, very intense discussion right now among councilmembers about how we are going to approach this budget," said Pridgen. "What I think that probably the majority of councilmembers agree to is that the budget will not be totally accepted as presented."
The original plan calls for a tax increase and a series of higher fees, like the charge for garbage totes and on event tickets, to pay for a larger budget instead of using limited reserves.
Activists showed up for Tuesday evening's Council budget hearing to say there were better priorities, like cutting the Police Department budget and re-directing that cash.
Just Buffalo Executive Director Laurie Dean Torrell questioned the ticket tax on events in city-owned facilities like Kleinhans Music Hall, where the group brings in writers for talks. Others called for residents to decide how to spend $5 million of the budget. The mayor cut the participatory budgeting line in his proposal.
West Side activist John Washington said the budget is an attack on poor people.
"This budget could have been written by the Police Benefit Association," Washington said. "If employers and police officers can destroy communities, we're empowering developers to destroy communities. Every single project is about gentrification and about paying the city to invest in those projects for destroying people who have been there and who have been holding jobs for generations."
School Board Member Paulette Woods and Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore were both there to plead for more money for schools. Rumore said other large Upstate cities put more money into schools, in some cases, much more.
"I understand the Common Council, you, are our backstop and there is a limited amount you can do," said Rumore, "but when you consider that we are $30 million-$93 million behind what those other cities contribute, that's a problem."
Buffalo puts up $70 million for city schools, while Rochester contributes $119 million and the much smaller Syracuse $65 million.