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Welcome to the Buffalo City Comptroller’s webpage. This site is a valuable resource for a wealth of information on the financial affairs of the City. The Comptroller is the City’s top fiscal watchdog, responsible for ensuring that your tax dollars are spent wisely, efficiently, and in ways that make your neighborhood a better place to live. This Department is responsible for all accounting services for the city, in addition to conducting audits to eliminate waste, fraud, and mismanagement in city government. It also is responsible for managing the city's investments and selling its municipal bonds.
Thanks for visiting the “digital” Comptroller’s office. If there is any financial information about the city that you can’t find on this webpage, please feel free to contact me. I am honored to serve the citizens of Buffalo, and privileged for the opportunity to protect their tax dollars as City Comptroller.
“The Department of Audit & Control will protect, report, and strengthen the City’s finances to help ensure an efficient, effective, and transparent government that will better serve the citizens and taxpayers of Buffalo.”
Fitch upgrades Buffalo’s bond rating to “AA-”
Fitch Ratings has upgraded the City of Buffalo’s bond rating to “AA-” in its latest rating report, the highest rating the city has received from the agency.
“We are thrilled to be in the ‘Double A’ category with Fitch,” said Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder. “This is the first upgrade we have received from Fitch since it started rating the city in 2010.”
The “AA-” rating is one notch higher than the “A+” Buffalo received from Fitch in April, and is currently the city’s highest rating. Standard & Poor’s upgraded the city to an “A+” rating in 2014, while Moody’s upgraded Buffalo to “A1” in 2012.
“All three of the major rating agencies have upgraded the city in the brief time that I’ve been comptroller,” said Schroeder, who took office in 2012. “That shows that Wall Street has taken notice of the progress Buffalo has made, both in managing its finances and building its economy.”
Schroeder took analysts from Fitch on a tour of Buffalo last year in an effort to showcase the city’s economic development projects. The tour included stops at the SolarCity site, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Larkinville, Canalside, the Outer Harbor, and the Buffalo River. Schroeder gave analysts from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s similar tours in prior years.
Schroeder puts financials in user-friendly format
Comptroller issues Popular Annual Financial Report
In an effort to share Buffalo’s financial information in a user-friendly format, Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder has issued the city’s latest Popular Annual Financial Report.
“Every year we issue our audited financial statements in a large document known as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,” said Schroeder. “Without an accounting or financial background, it can be daunting for the average citizen to interpret the vast amounts of data in that report. So we took the most important information and presented it in a clear, concise way.”
In addition to financial data, the Popular Annual Financial Report contains information on the city’s demographics, economic development, business climate, education system, and cultural attractions.
This is the third Popular Annual Financial Report that Schroeder has published. The previous two reports each received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. Schroeder said he has submitted the latest Popular Annual Financial Report, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the association for consideration for the same award.
“The report gives a total picture, not just for residents, but also outsiders who may be looking to relocate or invest in Buffalo,” said Schroeder. “We sell millions of dollars’ worth of bonds every year. This document will help us show the bond market that it is a great time to invest in Buffalo.”
Schroeder launches Open Book Buffalo
In an effort to make Buffalo’s finances more transparent and accessible to the public, Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder has launched Open Book Buffalo, an interactive tool on his website that allows citizens to see how the city is spending their tax dollars.
“From the big picture down to the small details, Open Book Buffalo shows how the city is spending its money, with whom, and for what,” said Schroeder. “It’s the taxpayers’ money – they deserve to know how it is being spent.”
The web portal includes information on expenditures, revenue sources, vendor payments, payroll records. Users can also compare the current year’s finances to previous years or to budget projections. All the information provided on the website is searchable and sortable, and is updated every two weeks.
“Whether you want to know how much was spent on overtime in a certain department or how much the City spent with a particular law firm, Open Book Buffalo can give you the answer quickly and easily,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder said he wanted any financial information that is subject to the Freedom of Information Law to be available on Open Book Buffalo.
“Anyone who has ever had to request information through the Freedom of Information Law knows that it can often be an arduous and time consuming process,” said Schroeder. “With Open Book Buffalo, you don’t have to file a formal FOIL request and then wait for a response, you can get the information you want with a click of a mouse.”
Schroeder said that an open, transparent government is vital to protecting taxpayer money.
“As a former member of the New York State Legislature, I can assure you, anything that is done in secret is usually not in the best interests of taxpayers,” said Schroeder, pointing to recent corruption scandals in Albany.
“With Open Book Buffalo, the city’s finances are out there for the whole world to see,” said Schroeder. “This openness promotes accountability, efficiency, and citizen participation in government.”
To access Open Book Buffalo, click the icon below the headline.
National Grid refunds Buffalo $1 million as a result of
Comptroller Schroeder’s street light audit
Additional refunds are expected from remaining claims spurred by audit
The City of Buffalo has been refunded more than $1 million by National Grid as a result of an audit of street light and electricity costs by Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder.
“The city was being charged for street light fixtures that did not exist,” said Schroeder. “Because of our audit, we were able to recoup those funds for taxpayers – with interest.”
Interest represented about 40 percent of the $1 million refund.
“National Grid has to pay the same rate of interest that it charges its customers for late payments – 1.5 percent a month,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder said the city has filed more than a dozen additional claims as a result of his audit, and he expects those claims to yield refunds as well.
“There were other significant overcharges that the audit identified, and we are pursuing refunds for those as well,” said Schroeder. “National Grid just completed its own field audit, so we will compare the two and come to an agreement on how much more the city is owed,”
With roughly 32,000 street lights, electric bills totaling more than $16 million per year, and a complex set of laws and regulations governing utilities, Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder knew that the audit would require some outside help.
“With the manpower and expertise required for this type of audit, we knew we needed a firm with extensive experience a solid track record for getting refunds for its clients,” said Schroeder.
After a competitive bidding process that resulted in proposals from across the nation, Schroeder found the winning bid in his own backyard. Buffalo-based Troy & Banks, a national leader in utility audits, has performed more than 10,000 utility audits in all 50 states. But it was the company’s experience in Buffalo that really impressed Schroeder.
“Troy & Banks efforts in the 1990s led to a $1.5 million settlement with the city’s electricity provider,” said Schroeder. “This company knows the city’s electrical infrastructure and the laws governing it.”
Equally impressive as its experience was Troy & Banks price.
“We didn’t pay a dime until we got a refund from National Grid,” said Schroeder.
“Troy & Banks usually charges its clients 50 percent of refunds, but our competitive bidding process resulted in the company offering an even better deal for taxpayers,” said Schroeder.
The comptroller said that he will work with the Common Council to ensure these types of audits are performed periodically in the future, as there is six-year statute of limitations on overbillings.
“We don’t want to miss out on refunds down the road, so we are looking to draft legislation to ensure this type of audit is done at least every six years,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder unveils Watchdog Hotline
Citizens encouraged to report waste, fraud, and mismanagement in city government
Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder unveiled the Watchdog Hotline, a phone number and website dedicated to exposing waste, fraud, and mismanagement in city government.
“Citizens and city employees who see their tax dollars being wasted or stolen can use the Watchdog Hotline to alert our office,” said Schroeder, who heads the department responsible for rooting out wrongdoing in City Hall. “They don’t have to give their name, but they should provide as many details as possible to help our auditors begin an investigation.”
Citizens can call 851-8779 or use the watchdog website to anonymously report wrongdoing.
“Whether it is quarters from a parking meter, or a sophisticated embezzlement scheme, it’s taxpayer money and we need to know about it,” said the comptroller.
“Once we get the information, our auditors will step in to restore the public trust.”
Arbitration panel awards Buffalo $200,000 as a result
of Schroeder's audit of the Erie Basin Marina
Arbitrators confirm city ownership of floating docks
An arbitration panel has awarded the City of Buffalo $198,144, plus nine percent interest, as a result of Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder's audit that found that the former operator of the Erie Basin Marina had been underpaying its rent.
"This unscrupulous vendor thought they could get away with shortchanging taxpayers," said Schroeder whose audits exposed underpayments in every year from 2005-2013. "Not on my watch."
The interest on the arbitration award began accruing on January 30 at the daily rate of $48.85, bringing the total owed to the city to more than $204,500. The panel also confirmed the city's full ownership of the floating docks, despite Brand-On's claims of ownership.
"These docks would have cost $455,00 to replace, and generate annual revenue of $115,000," said Schroeder. "That is a significant victory for the city."
The other $44,014 was a result of underpayment of base sales, which includes sales from the Hatch restaurant and the ship store.
Schroeder's audit recommended that the city split up the Hatch and marina operations, and find new operators for both. The city followed the recommendations and two new vendors, Mollyworld for the Hatch and Smith Boys for the marina, began in 2014.
"Our audit of the 2014 season found that the city received 77 percent more revenue from the Hatch under the new vendor," said Schroeder.
CPA firm gives Schroeder high marks on audit process
Peer review audit says Schroeder’s department consists of
“experienced, competent, and qualified professionals”
Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder hired a firm of certified public accountants to review his audit team, known as a peer review, which found that Schroeder’s staff is made up of “experienced, competent, and qualified professionals,” who are “operating effectively.”
“It is always a good idea to bring in someone from the outside to take an independent and objective look at the audit process,” said Schroeder. “It is actually required by the charter, but to my knowledge, it has never been done before.”
Section 7-10 of the Buffalo City Charter requires that the comptroller have his department “reviewed by a professional, non-partisan objective organization utilizing nationally recognized guidelines.” After a competitive bidding process, Schroeder selected Amato Fox & Company Certified Public Accountants to conduct the peer review audit, which found that the department is “operating effectively.”
Schroeder credited the leadership of City Auditor Kevin Kaufman, who is also a certified public accountant. The audit report from Amato Fox & Company found that Kaufman’s “knowledge, drive, and energy level are a positive compliment to the department.”
“I have always known we had a great staff in Department of Audit and Control, but it is reassuring to have a team of professionals validate their excellent work,” said Schroeder.
Standard & Poor’s upgrades Buffalo to “A+”
“A+” rating by Fitch and “A1” by Moody’s are maintained
Citing recent economic development and “strong financial management,” Standard & Poor’s has upgraded the City of Buffalo’s bond rating to “A+” in its rating report released today.
“We are pleased that Standard & Poor’s has recognized the progress the City of Buffalo has made, both financially and economically,” said Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder. “This is an exciting time for Buffalo, and Wall Street has taken notice.”
Schroeder took analysts from Standard & Poor’s on a tour of Buffalo last May – with stops at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the waterfront, and Larkinville – in an effort to showcase the city’s economic development projects.
“I wanted the analysts to see first-hand the momentum our economy is experiencing,” said Schroeder, who enlisted Congressman Brian Higgins, Howard Zemsky, and Patrick Whalen, chief operating officer of the medical campus, as tour guides. “I believe they left here impressed with the direction the city is headed.”
In addition to noting the city’s “very strong reserve position,” Standard & Poor’s pointed out that “a number of development projects centering on health care and high-tech manufacturing are currently in progress…and could add to the city’s employment, tax base, and income levels in the long term.”
Schroeder also took Moody’s on a similar tour last year, and that rating agency affirmed its “A1” rating in its report released earlier this week. The city also maintained its “A+” rating with Fitch in its latest report.
The comptroller said the Buffalo’s ratings will work to the taxpayers’ advantage when he goes to the bond market next month to finance the city’s capital projects.
“We sell our bonds in a competitive bidding process,” said Schroeder. “Better ratings mean lower interest costs for taxpayers.”
The “A+” rating from Standard & Poor's is one notch higher than the “A” the city has received the previous three years.
“This upgrade represents the respect we have for city residents and sends a clear signal to the business community, the financial markets, and our many other partners that Buffalo is strong and getting even stronger,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown, noting his administration’s continued commitment to prudent and conservative budgeting.
“We are creating investor confidence in Buffalo with strategic investments and I’m pleased that Standard & Poor’s has recognized our diligent efforts,” Brown added. “The upgrade reinforces the message of positive change in our city that includes $4.3 billion in new economic development activity. Buffalo is ready for the next wave of investment, job creation and growth.”
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Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios