Mayor Byron W. Brown today released his Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan. This budget further promotes economic development and job creation, while honoring Mayor Brown’s pledge to not raise property taxes by further lowering them. It also continues to exercise prudent, financial discipline by making important quality of life investments that further strengthen neighborhoods, infrastructure, public safety, education, arts and cultural organizations.
“Buffalo’s economy is quickly transforming and this balanced and structurally sound budget proposal builds on our development activity and job creation by making critical quality of life investments, while shifting the focus to increased residential growth,” said Mayor Brown. “In this spending plan, I honor my pledge to not raise property taxes by further lowering them. I want to send a strong message to the business community, and 10,000 new and future job holders who will be working in Buffalo, that our city is a great place to work, purchase property and live.”
Mayor Brown’s proposed budget is $504.5 million, a 1.9% increase over the current budget.
This spending plan builds on Buffalo’s economic growth, which includes $4.3 billion in new economic development activity, and honors Mayor Brown’s pledge to not raise property taxes by lowering them. It also continues to exercise prudent, financial discipline by making important quality of life investments that further strengthen neighborhoods, infrastructure, public safety, education, arts and community organizations in Buffalo.
To keep Buffalo competitive for business and attract new residents, this year’s budget lowers the commercial tax rate by 1.7% and reduces the residential tax rate by .05% while maintaining priority areas that build on Buffalo’s strengths. With over 10,000 good-paying jobs projected to come on line over the next few years as a result of the ongoing economic development activity, this budget, with its commercial and residential tax reduction, is designed to send a strong message to the business community, and these new and future job holders, to purchase property and live in the city of Buffalo. Mayor Brown’s goal over the next two years is to create over 1,300 new units of housing to help stimulate the city’s tax base.
Neighborhoods and business districts will also be bolstered in this spending plan, which builds on earlier investments in infrastructure, public safety, youth and education, arts and other community organizations.
Lowering taxes is a significant accomplishment in what has been a very challenging time. Buffalo, like municipalities across the state, faces rising costs to provide essential government services, including a 21% increase in gasoline prices and 9% increase in electric costs. In addition, Buffalo continues to face increased expenses for which it has no control: a 17% increase in employee pension costs, an 8% increase in overall fringe benefit costs and a 4% rise in health care costs.
This spending plan is a sound fiscal management plan that takes every step possible to contain costs and draw new revenue streams. This year, the city will modernize its city fee structure. Some fees will increase. Some will be eliminated. Those that will be adjusted will still remain at levels lower than other municipalities in the region. The City of Buffalo garbage user fee remains the same, with no increase.
Other budget highlights include:
Through law enforcement and other quality of life initiatives funded in this budget, the city will make continued investments that build on the success of the Buffalo Police Department’s 24% reduction of crime throughout the City since 2005.
This plan will provide another commitment of $1 million for the purchase of new police vehicles…adding to the 49 already purchased vehicles…as Buffalo continues to replace the entire aging fleet.
The plan also adds a new police and fire class, upgrades the fire dispatch system and continues funding the resources needed to address and eliminate areas of high crime, illegal guns, gang activity and drug trafficking.
Buffalo’s ongoing commitment to stabilizing and improving neighborhoods continues.
This plan creates a pro-active Strong Neighborhoods Task Force that will address problem properties by cracking down on the top problem property owners in Buffalo.
It also introduces a new mobile application that will provide city residents with improved access to reporting neighborhood concerns.
Funding has also been included for a Cement Finisher Apprentice program to provide training to Buffalo residents for this trade and further improve the safety, beauty and economic vitality of Buffalo’s neighborhoods.
The city will also invest $8.5 million from a variety of funding sources to conduct approximately 560 demolitions, adding to the already over 5,000 demolitions completed since 2006.
Funding has also been added to create an Office of New Americans as immigration continues to rise in Buffalo. This will assist these new residents transition into the community and be a strategic focus in growing Buffalo’s population
YOUTH & EDUCATION INVESTMENTS
The budget also invests in Buffalo’s future with programs to support youth through job readiness and educational initiatives.
In addition to the $70.3 million provided to Buffalo Schools, which is more than 52% of the property tax levy, this budget includes $200,000 for Say Yes Buffalo, which is part of a new $800,000 four year commitment, bringing the city’s total Say Yes investment to $1.3 million.
In addition, this spending plan continues $400,000 in support for the instrumental music program in the Buffalo Public Schools, along with continued funding in the amount of $171,000 for the hiring of additional Attendance Teachers.
This spending plan also increased the city’s commitment to the summer youth employment program by $100,000. This brings total investment to $1.2 million, the highest amount in the general city budget in history. This will provide approximately 1,400 jobs to young people.
FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY SERVICES AND CULTURAL SUPPORT
This budget also includes a substantial investment in community services, providing funding for the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, the Police Athletic League, Americorps and a Marketing Campaign designed to attract new residents and businesses to Buffalo.
Buffalo remains committed to providing world-class cultural attractions. This budget includes $250,000 in competitive grants for arts and other community groups. It also proposes a $60,000 funding match for the curator of public art position at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Support will also be provided to retain a consultant to attract more film and television projects to Buffalo, as well as investment and training for more city residents to work in this industry.
Funding has also been allocated to The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, with continued support for Peacemakers, The Buffalo History Museum, Buffalo Zoo, Buffalo Place and Kleinhans Music Hall.
BUILDING ON BUFFALO’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB GROWTH
The 2014-15 recommended budget continues to promote economic development and job creation with a focus on residential growth, while honoring a pledge Mayor Brown made to taxpayers this year to not raise property taxes by lowering them.
In simple terms, for a residential taxpayer, the annual tax rate will be cut .05% this year, a 15.7% reduction since 2006. By cutting the tax rate again, city residents with a home assessed at $100,000 will save $309.
For commercial property owners, the tax rate will be reduced by 1.7%, a 29.6% cut since 2006. In simple terms, a $100,000 commercial structure will save the property owner $987.
Mayor Brown’s proposed budget presentation comes at a time when Buffalo’s positive transformation is well underway. Forbes recently cited Buffalo as the nation’s most affordable city. Buffalo’s strong fiscal discipline continues to earn it its highest credit ratings in history. At the same time, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ‘Buffalo Billion’ continues to add to the momentum.
“As Mayor of Buffalo, I present a sound spending plan that recognizes the difficult budgetary challenges, while at the same time, continues to build on the momentum and improve the quality of life that our residents have come to expect and deserve in the City of Buffalo, said Mayor Brown in closing. “I believe that my proposed Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Budget is a fair, reasonable and prudent fiscal plan for the coming year. Let’s continue to work together for an even stronger, safer and more prosperous Buffalo.”
According to the City Charter, once the Mayor submits his recommended 2014-15 City Budget today to the Buffalo Common Council, the Council must return the Budget to the Mayor by May 22, 2014. The Mayor may then veto only additions made by the Council. By Charter, the Budget becomes official by June 8th.