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Buffalo Comptroller audit outlines gaps in city finances

The City of Buffalo's finances are not looking good after last year - and this fiscal year is not starting well.
City Comptroller Mark Schroeder has just delivered the official audit from last year to Mayor Byron Brown. It showed:

  • City reserves dropped nearly $23 million, from $115 million last year to $92 million this year, to balance the budget
  • Overtime problems in the Fire Department, which the city says a new class of firefighters will ease
  • Traffic violation fines running $3 million below budgetno sales of city-owned real estate, which was budgeted to bring in $8 million
  • No $2 million from the Entertainment Ticket Surcharge
  • No $17 million that was supposed to come from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino

As far as casino money, Schroeder said something could be in the works.
"Once the mayor of Niagara Falls received money from the governor, because this is still in arbitration between the state and the Seneca Nation, and so you would think that the City of Buffalo and Salamanca would be hopeful that the governor would give the same consideration to Buffalo."

Schroeder said bond ratings agencies are not going to like the city's reserves dropping below $100 million. If the city has to borrow money this fiscal year, those reserves might be questioned by the ratings agencies that essentially decide how much the city pays to borrow money.

"It's most important to have over $100 million in the general fund," said Schroeder. "Over the last several years, the general fund has dwindled. This will be the first time since I have been the comptroller in seven years that it will go under $100 million."

Schroeder said one highlight is a balanced city school budget, which wound up pumping up the city.

"That is where we are getting relief," he said. "That is where I do not have to plan, right at the moment, to go for a RAN, a Revenue Anticipation Note, because the cash flow from the school district and the city in a blended way is keeping us afloat."

City officials did not return any comment to the comptroller's remarks.

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.