Rochester's reluctance to accept terms of a proposed Hurd settlement may stop the State Legislature from considering a related refund plan for Buffalo at the current special session, officials said today.
Buffalo officials had hoped two weeks ago they were near an agreement when the governor's office proposed issuing a bond to close the tax overcharge case in the two cities. The bond would include $23 million to repay Buffalo taxpayers.
The refunds were ordered by the State Court of Appeals in its 1974 Hurd decision, which found that Buffalo overcharged taxpayers under an unconstitutional state tax law. The city has received 57,000 valid claims in the case. That puts the average refund at about $400.
But sources say Rochester officials believe Buffalo may be getting a better deal and are continuing talks with the governor's office. Attempts today and Friday to reach Rochester Mayor Tom Ryan to comment were unsuccessful.
The proposal calls for the state to issue bonds to cover Buffalo's obligation and $35 million owed by Rochester. The state and city would repay the bond over 25 years. The Buffalo cost would be about $700,000 each year and the state about $1 million each year.
The Common Council had planned to introduce a resolution Tuesday endorsing the governor's Hurd proposal but held off after officials in Albany said it would harm their negotiations with Rochester.
"Any move we make would bruise the Rochester (legislative) delegation's ego," one City Hall source said.
City officials wanted to have the proposal considered by the State Legislature during its special session on reducing the state's projected $1 billion deficit. Lawmakers are expected to begin meeting Tuesday night and complete their session Wednesday.
Rochester may not prove to be the only roadblock, though. Legislators may be reluctant to consider anything but deficit-reducing proposals out of fear it would open a floodgate of other local issues, Buffalo Comptroller Joel A. Giambra said.
"I'm pretty much cautiously optimistic that something may happen," Giambra said, "but it may get held off until the regular session in January."
Giambra said approval in early 1991 would still mean taxpayers could get refunds by the end of next year.