BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As he warned in in his December budget review, Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder says "it is not sustainable" for the Brown administration to rely on its reserve funding to help cover budget gaps.
As Schroeder told Jim Heaney of Investigative Post "It is not sustainable if you continually go into your savings accounts." When Heaney asked how many years it has happened, Schroeder replied: "Well for the last three years, the mayor and the city have went into savings. It's an unassigned category of 40 million dollars."
Mayor Brown says he is well aware of the comptroller's concerns that his administration and City Council have been tapping the city's reserves in recent years.
Brown has not yet announced a re-election bid. But since this is an election year, he can point to lowered property taxes for residents and businesses and the transition of the control board from hard to soft advisory as economic milestones. Brown says his administration has a sound, conservative fiscal policy.
However City Comptroller Schroeder says a drop in revenue and increasing costs lead to a $16.3 million dollar budget gap that City Hall again plugged with reserve money.
When the Mayor was asked if that is a looming financial problem for the city he replies "We plan not to to dip too far into reserves that we create a problem for ourselves fiscally."
2 On Your Side pointed out that the comptroller seems to feel it is a bit risky because even some of the credit rating agencies actually are starting to notice that the city is dipping in to those reserve funds. Mayor Brown reples "No. We don't think so. We're mindful of what we're doing. One of the things that was put into place when I came in, working with the control board was a four year financial plans. This is part of of our four year financial plan that we forecasted years out. In addition we put in place a 35 million dollar rainy day fund."
Schroeder says he is also worried about what he feels to be the city's over-reliance on funding from the state which makes up 38 percent of the city's general fund.
Mayor Brown says they know the state is keeping aid to the city flat at its current level even as costs for health care and pensions increase. Brown contends the state may help the city in some ways. For example it may pick up an extra $2 million for city prosecution of moving traffic violations which it does not get now.
But all that depends on what state lawmakers approve in the budget.
A reminder that you can see more of Jim Heaney's Investigative Post interview with the comptroller this Saturday on Daybreak starting at 6:00 a.m.