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The Buffalo Common Council has given the comptroller the green light to refinance millions of dollars in outstanding bonds, a move that will allow the city to take advantage of lower interest rates.

At a special session Wednesday, lawmakers unanimously approved a plan that could reduce the city's borrowing costs by $1.5 million over the next 20 years.

Comptroller Anthony R. Nanula asked the Council to give his office the latitude to refinance up to $110 million in outstanding bonds. However, officials said only $30 million in bonds will likely be refinanced.

The bonds, which have financed a variety of city projects, have different maturity dates and interest rates. The refinancings will involve those bonds with higher interest rates, city investment officials told lawmakers.

Tony Farina, executive assistant to the comptroller, said municipalities can benefit from declining interest rates much like homeowners do when they decide to refinance mortgages.

"This is an opportunity to get a better deal and save some money. That's what it's all about," Farina said.

Election reform forum set Wednesday

The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara has scheduled another in its series of election reform programs for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Buckham Auditorium of Buffalo State College.

The program -- "Confronting the Voting Rights Issue" -- will feature a panel of Anthony Neal, chairman of Buffalo State's political science department; Jennifer Gomez, voting rights advocate; Dennis E. Ward, election law attorney; and Ted Kirkland, columnist for the Challenger newspaper. It will be moderated by former Common Council President George K. Arthur.

The league, which will sponsor a third program on election reform in March, presents the forums as a way to create awareness of the issues, address problems and preserve the right to vote.

The program is free and open to the public.

Arts Council fills 2 management posts

The Arts Council of Buffalo & Erie County has announced the hiring of two new management people.

Melissa Grainger will head the technical assistance programs, and Patrick T. Keyes will oversee the regional cultural tourism program.

Grainger has been the corporate relations manager of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and executive aide to Barbara Kavanaugh when she was a member of the Common Council. A photographer and curator, she is active with Shakespeare in the Park.

Keyes has served in marketing and public relations with the Amherst Museum, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo Destroyers and most recently with the Buffalo Convention & Visitors Bureau.

New tax break offered to veterans

Veterans who were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal could be eligible for an alternative property tax exemption under recent changes enacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those who do not have an exemption and received one of the medals could qualify for a 25 percent combat zone exemption. Those currently receiving the basic 15 percent exemption, could now be eligible for the 25 percent exemption if they have one of the medals, according to the Town of Hamburg assessor's office.

Veterans are advised to contact their local assessor for additional information and a list of military actions and dates that might qualify them and for the deadline for filing.

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