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Council to meet on request for more state aid

Buffalo's push for an additional $86 million in state aid will be the focus of a special Common Council meeting next week. Council leaders met Friday with Mayor Byron W. Brown and the city's two lobbyists to plot strategies for enhancing Buffalo's chances of snaring the extra money.

The city is seeking $40 million in capital funding for economic development initiatives, including money to tear down decaying buildings. The city is also pushing for $20 million in efficiency grants, aid that encourages localities to find ways to lower the cost of doing business. City officials are also lobbying for passage of a plan put forward by the Democratic-controlled Assembly to give Buffalo an additional $26 million in aid. Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed a $12 million increase.

Brown said the city has made a strong case for extra aid. He met with state lawmakers Tuesday during a trip to Albany.

On Friday, Brown met with four Council members and the city's lobbyists, Victor Farley and Janet Penksa. Brown stressed the importance of obtaining additional state assistance.

"It's aid that will help make the city more efficient, stabilize our tax base and accelerate economic development," said Brown.

Council President David A. Franczyk said he left the meeting confident that Buffalo has made a compelling case.

"We're a poor city that has already made a lot of cuts. You can't squeeze blood from a stone," he said.

Franczyk added that he is cautiously optimistic a wage freeze could be lifted if the state Assembly aid package is approved. On Wednesday, the head of the control board made it clear that until structural changes are made in city government, talk of lifting the 23-month-old wage freeze is premature.

The Council will likely hold a special meeting Tuesday at which time lawmakers will endorse Brown's call for state assistance.

"We want to show that we're a unified team," said Franczyk.

Some city officials think the biggest challenge in the aid request involves convincing the state to give Buffalo almost all of the money in a $20 million pot set aside to promote governmental efficiency. Pataki has proposed giving $18 million to Erie County. Some city officials speculated that state lawmakers may opt to split the money evenly between Buffalo and the county.

Included in Brown's request for efficiency grants is about $10 million that would be used for computer upgrades and other systems to improve city operations.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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