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GRIFFIN TOO LATE IN BID FOR ADDED TAX SHARE MAYOR WANTS ALBANY TO CUT CITY, OTHERS IN ON INCREASED SALES LEVY

Mayor Griffin arrived here, one day too late, to ask the State Legislature to give Buffalo and other municipalities a piece of the additional sales tax approved for Erie County.

Appearing before the Senate Cities Committee, Griffin said the Legislature should have delayed approval of the 8 percent sales tax to help Buffalo negotiate with the county for a share of the additional tax revenues.

Even if the county were willing to share the additional $78.7 million, state law would prohibit that move, according to Griffin.

Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo, said the State Legislature had no choice since that prohibition is included in the proposal prepared by the Erie County Legislature.

That proposal, called a "home rule message," has been drafted by the county and then approved by the State Legislature for the past four years.

The Senate gave final legislative approval Monday to the 8 percent sales tax, one percentage point more than the normal 7 percent. Stachowski also noted that the Senate did not have much leverage to change the proposal since the bill was passed the week before in the Assembly.

Likewise, there was the pressure of approving the tax before it expires next month, Stachowski said.

Outside the committee meeting, city Director of Administration and Finance Richard Planavsky said he was not certain whether the State Legislature could allow municipalities to share in the additional sales tax while still fulfilling the home-rule requirements.

Inside the meeting, Planavsky said state law -- not the county -- had created the requirement that only the county receive the additional tax dollars.

Committee Chairman Frank Padavan, R-Queens, disagreed, saying state law only calls for the county to collect the funds exclusively, not to keep the money exclusively. It could still share the money with its municipalities, Padavan said.

Based on the revenue sharing used for the remainder of the sales tax, Buffalo would receive $14.2 million, while the city's schools would receive $7.4 million.

"And next year it's going to be more, and the next year it's going to be more," Griffin said, adding that he is scheduled to meet with county officials next week to discuss the issue.

"We're not getting any help from the state or anyone, and you reach a point where that belt just doesn't get anymore notches in it, and that's what I'm trying to tell you people."

Stachowski and other state legislators said the tax should not be extended next year unless the distribution issue is addressed by local and county officials.

"You didn't have to pass it as soon as you did, that's one way you can," change the current situation, Griffin said.

"You mean hold them up and blackmail them?" Padavan asked

"Not blackmail them," Griffin said chuckling, "just show them that some people are interested in this."

The mayor asked for a "substantial increase" in general state aid to help the city close a $30 million budget deficit.

"The city simply doesn't have the means to close its budget gap without state help," the mayor said.

Since Gov. Cuomo is not recommending an increase, Griffin said he doubts that such an increase will be approved.

But the mayor said the state should, instead, double the $28 million in emergency aid to cities in New York State. Buffalo received $13.9 million from that fund.

Griffin also asked for $500,000 from the state to study the feasibility of replacing Memorial Auditorium, as well as $3.5 million to help finance a free-trade complex near the Peace Bridge.

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