Buffalo Common Councilmembers made minimal changes, as they approved Mayor Byron Brown's half-billion-dollar city budget proposal Tuesday, which holds the line on taxes.
This budget process was relatively calm, with a major change in how it came down and a major change planned for next year. The Council crammed all of the budget hearings into one very long day, to avoid the meandering days of hearings of the past - a department here, a department there.
That kept the budget moving swiftly and allowed Councilmembers more time to make the changes they wanted in the spending plan. Majority Leader David Rivera said there was not much that could be done, although there were some changes.
"Approximately $610,000 to the mayor's budget, including $150,000 more for community projects, programs and projects," Rivera said. "I like to say that with the help of, certainly, the leadership of the Common Council and the mayor's financial staff, we have been able to make these changes. It was a very tough, conservative budget."
Taxes will not go up, a police substation will go into the Broadway Market, city schools will get an extra half-million dollars and the city will get a new quality-of-life program to deal with the perennial neighborhood complaints about speeding cars, ignored stop signs and noisy vehicles.
Lovejoy Councilmember Richard Fontana is a veteran of the budget process.
"Budget used to sometimes come half-baked - not under this administration, but under past - where the senior division would be cut, the Parks Department would be cut, this would be cut, and many of the members here would feel strongly that those items should be back in the budget," Fontana said. "So, as Dave mentioned, we used to go and every page try to find money to cut so we didn't have to add to the tax rate."
However, the big planned change comes from Council President Darius Pridgen. He pushed through a budget amendment calling for early public meetings on potential city spending so citizens can pitch in early on what they want.
"That early in the year, there would be a public hearing and in that public hearing, the public would be able to voice their concerns or their suggestions about what they would like to see in the budget, very early," Pridgen said. "Doesn't mean that everything that's suggested would happen, but what it does mean is that the public's voice is being heard earlier in the process."
The Council president said he wants that meeting in January, instead of one in May, after the mayor has delivered his budget.