Budgeting practices from previous years have left Buffalo’s reserves running low. That’s one of the reasons Comptroller Mark Schroeder has issued a warning about the Mayor’s 2018-2019 recommended budget.
Since 2012 the mayor has used $85 million from the city’s reserves to balance the budget. 2017 saw the reserves come down to $6.5 million dollars. Schroeder said the proposed spending plan is built on fuzzy math.
"When you use all of your reserves, then it becomes problematic," said Schroeder. "As the fiscal officer of the city of Buffalo, I am extremely concerned."
The current proposal includes $17 million in casino revenue. Buffalo has received none so far in this fiscal year due to the dispute between New York State and the Seneca Nation.
Schroeder said the budget needs to have more realistic sources of revenue to succeed.
"If the mayor doesn't amend his budget or if the council doesn't strengthen the budget, it could lead to the reactivation of a hard control board," said Schroeder. "That is concerning because the people of Buffalo have elected the mayor, the 9 council members, and the comptroller to represent them."
The last time a control board was in place in Buffalo was from 2003 to 2012. The board would be made up of people appointed by the Governor.
Mayor Brown stands by his budgetary assumptions. He said he completely disagrees with the comptroller’s assessment.
"He's entitled to his own opinion," said Brown. "He has a charter mandated role. My charter mandated role is to prepare the city budget which is what I have done. We have prepared solid budgets for the city of Buffalo and now we are seeing record amounts of economic development."
This is the thirteenth budget Brown has put together.
"We don't submit budgets that are not balanced and are not sound," said Brown. "I think the history of my budgeting has proved that. Our budgets have always balanced. We feel very confident about the budget we have proposed."
Brown said this budget is proposing some things Buffalo hasn’t done in the past. This includes the charitable gift fund.
The new fund will enable property owners whose taxes exceed the federal tax cap to pay their property taxes into the fund and receive a tax credit worth 95% of their payment, which could be deducted from their federal taxes.
The 2018-19 Budget totals $513.6 million, an increase from last year’s budget of $13.9 million.