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Mayor Brown Releases 2010-11 City Budget
Contact: Peter K. Cutler
Mayor Byron W. Brown today released his recommended 2010-11 City Budget, which will be delivered to the Buffalo Common Council.
“Today, I am here to deliver my recommended 2010-11 City Budget – one day early! – unlike the New York State budget, which is now 29 days late,” said Mayor Brown. “Seriously, the impact and uncertainty created by the late state budget is harmful to cities like Buffalo across the state. I urge the Governor and the members of the State Legislature to commit themselves to resolving this situation immediately. There is too much at stake in cities such as Buffalo, where we have been able to stabilize our economy in recent years through conservative budgeting and restrained spending.”
At a total of $460,564,000, the Mayor’s recommended budget contains across-the-board cuts in every city department that reports directly to the Mayor, provides for several strategic reengineering initiatives throughout city government and, for the fifth straight year, reduces residential property tax rates, holds the line on commercial property tax rates and includes no fee increases.
“As I reported recently, the City of Buffalo has a $24 million budget gap in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which is due to a $10 million increase in our pension costs, as well as rising health care and insurance expenses,” said Mayor Brown. “And still, despite these costs that no municipality in our state can control, my recommended 2010-11 budget grew by only 2.6% over last year’s budget. I have cut costs in every city department under my control and I have eliminated nearly half of the 119 vacant positions from the budget. We have closed our budget gap, tightened our belts, maintained our rainy day fund and put in place government reengineering initiatives that will provide long-term structural change to the way our city government functions. These initiatives are designed to streamline services, eliminate redundancy, improve efficiency in the provision of city services, and, most importantly, save taxpayer dollars during these difficult economic times.”
The positions eliminated exclude those that save money, raise revenue, provide critical city services, or are required due to collective bargaining agreements or civil service rights. The need for deeper layoffs has been averted due to the Mayor’s administration’s ability to restrain spending over the past four years, which enabled it to accrue a sizeable fund balance to help weather the current challenging economic times.
In his annual message on the city budget, Mayor Brown said, “Unlike many other taxing jurisdictions in the state, Buffalo will not need to raise property tax rates or fees to close its budget gap.”
While other cities in the state such as Syracuse, Albany and Yonkers are increasing property taxes, cutting services and resorting to significant employee layoffs, the City of Buffalo has been able to address its fiscal challenges without having to resort to such drastic measures. With New York State struggling to close a nearly $10 billion budget deficit, all of the state’s largest municipalities are facing double digit budget gaps; reductions in state aid and rapidly escalating costs for the state administered employee retirement system are among the primary causes.
“This budget reflects the conservative spending practices my Administration has adhered to since I took office in 2006,” said Mayor Brown. “Because of this prudent approach to budgeting, the city is among the best positioned in the state to weather these difficult economic times.”
Rather than rely on raising residential and commercial property taxes, Mayor Brown directed his fiscal and policy staff to look at government reengineering practices that would avoid the need for increased taxes, preserve the efficient delivery of city services without raising fees and make city government function more effectively while saving money.
“We’ve worked too hard and achieved too much to jeopardize the favorable fiscal environment we’ve created for economic development and investment in Buffalo by increasing commercial property taxes,” said Mayor Brown. “Between 2006 and 2010, we have reduced the property tax rate in Buffalo each year resulting in a cumulative decrease of 12.5% for residential and 14.9% for commercial properties. With this year’s recommended 2.71% residential rate reduction, the tax rates for residential and commercial properties will have decreased by approximately 15% each since I took office in 2006. Just as important, by not increasing the commercial property tax rate in this budget, I recognize that businesses in our city, especially small businesses, would suffer a crippling impact with any kind of a tax increase.”
To continue to improve the quality of city services and public safety, without raising taxes or fees, Mayor Brown’s recommended budget will continue the progress his Administration has made in making city streets safer, growing Buffalo’s economy, improving neighborhoods, and creating job opportunities for youth. Funding to support a new police class, 2,000 employment opportunities for city youth, nearly 900 demolitions of blighted and vacant property and 500 full and partial rehabilitations of vacant owner occupied property are also included in the spending plan.
A total of 43 police officer vacancies have been temporarily eliminated until a new exam can be administered and a new class can be brought through the Police Academy.
“It is essential that we maintain our commitment to reduce crime and ensure that our law abiding residents live in a safe community,” said Mayor Brown. “Overall crime continues to decline in Buffalo, dropping 4% between 2008 and 2009 and 11.1% since January 2006. Since the beginning of this year, violent crime in Buffalo has fallen by 1%. To help combat violent crime, since 2006, we have added 126 new police officers and installed 125 surveillance cameras. We will also activate this year a new Buffalo Police Department public housing police unit, which further improve our Zero Tolerance anti-crime efforts.”
With increased investment in city in projects, reduced city taxes and lowered crime in the city, the Mayor’s recommended 2010-11 budget builds on the policies and programs that have led to more efficient service delivery to city residents (e.g., CitiStat Buffalo initiative and installation of GPS system in city snow fighting equipment) and the creative reengineering of city government. In this budget, the Mayor calls for the creation of a new Department of Parking, consolidating on- and off- street parking into one streamlined agency.
In addition, the new city Parks Division is formalized in this budget, with funding sufficient to run a quality parks system and support the work of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. And, economic development in the city is strengthened with a consolidation of all economic development functions within the Office of Strategic Planning. Redundancy and confusion is eliminated with the proposed dissolution of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation and the strengthening of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency under the supervision of the new Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning.
Another important reengineering effort involves moving the management of police and fire Injured on Duty matters to their respective departments, resulting in better oversight and case management that will lower the costs to the city and, ultimately, the taxpayers. Non-mandated services such as directly providing substance abuse services will be eliminated. The city instead will coordinate services and referrals, a more appropriate role.
“This budget takes a more creative approach to addressing the current state and national economic conditions that have affected our city,” said Mayor Brown. “In order to continue the progress we’ve made over the past four years, I believe this budget will effectively address the immediate fiscal challenges created by reduced state aid and soaring pension costs, while enabling us to remain competitive for continued investment and development during challenging times.”
© 2001-2011 City of Buffalo
Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios