BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's new $568 million budget plan has been unveiled.
While it uses some $52.5 million COVID pandemic relief federal funding, and the city gets $31 million in some long-delayed casino funding, the budget proposal still raises taxes and some fees for city residents.
Mayor Brown proposes a 4.5 percent tax increase and garbage fee boost, projected by a city spokesman to both cost the owner of an average $100,000 home about $60 more.
Brown was questioned by the media about why now, especially after he criticized the tax hike idea of his opponent in last year's mayoral election, and now that residents see roaring inflation and other COVID related economic impacts.
He responded that the city has rising costs as justification and that extra federal pandemic recovery money and casino revenues are limited, such as so-called one-shot revenue.
Brown defended it this way: "These are prudent increases to protect the financial future of our city. We have to maintain a strong financial future for Buffalo to be able to be there when residents are in need."
On Brown's budget priorities, public safety and crime is a big one. Fourteen new detectives will be brought on board, some being internal hires, to investigate homicides and other crimes.
Also, there's a comprehensive school safety plan, expanded behavioral unit response for mental health incidents, improved police communications, and the ShotSpotter technology for better response to shootings.
Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia spoke about ShotSpotter this way: "It's also going to get us to scenes where we can make arrests and get some more of these gun defendants off the streets."
Then he acknowledged complaints on last winter's city snow removal. There is planning for a new Department of Public Works campus to replace the ancient Broadway Barn, 19 or more new DPW vehicles will be bought to replace an aging fleet, which had truck breakdowns.
Also, a new public interactive GPS system will be implemented to track plowing like other cities to reassure residents of progress on their streets.
Brown says he also wants more economic development and more youth program funding like Learn to Earn, which he says provides young people with enrolled in summer school the ability to earn while they are making up academic work.
The budget also calls for new city workforce hiring to replace some positions lost in recent years.
City Council now has a budget review for May. One member expressed surprise at the size of the tax increase, while another called it a quote "non-starter" for him. Some members may also question some new spending amounts, as well as this new budget spends $33 million more than last year.