Buffalo lawmakers eye legislation that gives them more time to review mayor's proposed budgets (2024)

The Buffalo Common Council proposed a series of local law amendments Tuesday aimed at giving lawmakers more time to review and vote on the mayor’s annual proposed city budgets.

The measures grew out of frustrations Council members had over the 9% tax levy hike the mayor proposed in May in his 2024-25 city budget.

The Council wants to require the mayor in future years to hold a public hearing on budget proposals to get community feedback before submitting a budget to the Council. The Law Department is reviewing whether a referendum is required.

Buffalo lawmakers eye legislation that gives them more time to review mayor's proposed budgets (1)

Meanwhile, the proposed amendments from the Council on Tuesday were referred to the Council’s Legislation Committee for discussion next Tuesday.

One of them mandates the mayor submit a detailed budget to the Council by April 1 each year, instead of the current May 1 deadline. Another requires any proposals by the mayor that would necessitate a tax levy increase above the state capor a service reduction must be submitted to the Council by March 1 each year.

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“I think by requesting that if there is a local law change … in order to accommodate a tax increase, it’s reasonable to ask that that’s done on or before March 1,” said Ellicott Council Member Leah Halton-Pope during a recent Finance Committee meeting. “I also think having a draft budget at least by April 1 allows us a significant amount of time.”

Another amendment under review says that if the Council makes any additions to the mayor’s proposed budget, those additions must be submitted to the mayor by May 26 instead of May 22.

More time to review the proposed budgets gives the Council more time to do their “due diligence,” said Fillmore Council Member Mitchell P. Nowakowski, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“Yes, there’s going to be additional responsibility for the mayor and his office, but we also have responsibility and a role, too,” Nowakowski said.

And another amendment stipulates that a final budget must be adopted by June 8.

Council members had been frustrated with how negotiations played out for the recent 2024-25 fiscal year budget. Some were displeased about what they said was a lack of communication with the Brown administration earlier in the process. And a few rejected Brown’s request for the Council to adopt a local law allowing the city to exceed the state’s 2% cap on increasing the tax levy. Brown’s request came the day before he was to present his 2024-25 budget recommendations May 1.

“That was a critically important decision that we should have had long time before that,” said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera at the Finance Committee meeting. “If we had time to discuss it, to negotiate, to work with the administration, we probably would have agreed with them on many of the things they were proposing.”

Buffalo lawmakers approve budget that reduces tax hike proposed by mayor

After hours of negotiations, the Buffalo Common Council approved a city budget Wednesday night that slightly lowered the mayor's proposed tax levy increase from 9% to 7.5%, saving property owners a small amount on their tax bills for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

“Sometimes we wait till the last minute to make decisions that are critical, and we’re under a lot of pressure to approve things at the very last minute,” he added. “I don’t want to see the Council make critical decisions without having enough time.”

Ultimately, the Council approved in May a $618 million budget that lowered the tax levy increase from 9% to 7.5%, saving property owners a small amount on their tax bills. The budget became effective July 1.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. was primarily concerned about how a new timeline would affect the budget process.

“How were we able to do this over the last 30, 40, 50 years that we didn’t need changes, and now with modern technology it seems like it would be easier, transparency would be easier,” Golombek said. “Why do we need to make these changes now and will these necessarily be good changes once they’re made? I’m just not convinced yay or nay at this point.”

By Deidre Williams

News Staff Reporter

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Buffalo lawmakers eye legislation that gives them more time to review mayor's proposed budgets (2024)
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