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Speeders, beware: Brown aims to slow traffic with new budget

Mayor Byron W. Brown's new budget proposal won't raise your taxes – but it could get you a speeding ticket.

The budget plan includes a $100,000 program aimed at slowing traffic in several locations throughout the city simultaneously.

As a result, expect to see  more portable electronic signs with flashing digits telling you how fast you are driving, as well as temporary speed bumps installed to slow you down.

The traffic calming program also includes increased enforcement of traffic  laws by police in targeted neighborhoods.

The increased enforcement, however, won't come until after the traffic calming measures have been in place for a while – a delay that provides a heads-up to drivers that increased enforcement will be coming.

"We need to address speeding in the city. We've been hearing that a lot from different neighborhoods," Brown said, adding the police attention also will focus on running stop signs, loud music and accident prevention.

"It's part of a quality-of-life initiative," he said.

The traffic calming program is included in the $499 million budget proposal  for 2017-18  that Brown is scheduled to announce Monday.

The budget increases city spending by $6 million, but holds the line on residential taxes and includes a slight dip – less than 1 percent – in the commercial tax rate.

The spending plan relies on  $11 million to $12 million from the city's current reserves to balance the budget.

Flat tax rate

Since taking office in 2006, Brown has frozen or cut property taxes every year. Residential rates are down by about 16 percent since then, and commercial rates by about 32 percent.

For the past six years, and again in this proposed budget, the mayor also freezes  property assessments.

The new  tax rates, under Brown's budget proposal, would be $17.88 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential property and $26.76 per $1,000 for commercial properties.

The residential rate would remain unchanged.  The commercial rate,  currently  $27.01  per $1,000, would drop by 25 cents – resulting in roughly a  $25 tax reduction on a commercial property assessed at $100,000.

The election-year  budget doesn't make any sweeping changes to  city government, and maintains funding levels for cultural and anti-violence programs, the mayor said..

Brown - who is seeking a fourth four-year term - calls it a stay-the-course spending plan aimed at a continued focus on keeping the city affordable and attractive for residential and commercial investment.

The mayor said the traffic calming program was included in the budget in response to neighborhood residents' concerns about traffic safety.

Neighborhoods will be selected for the program based on information from block clubs, city officials, and complaints to the city's 311 line, he said.

More cell towers

In addition to the traffic calming program, the budget includes several technology upgrades,  including installation of equipment that will enable telephone and other poles throughout the city to act as cell towers.

The cell equipment will be installed on some 150 poles to improve cell phone and computer  service, providing faster speeds as well as expanded  access, Brown said..

Cell phone providers requested access to the poles, and will pay the city $2,000 per pole annually, Brown said.

The cost will not be passed along to cell users, Brown said.

Police substation

The budget also includes:.

* $500,000 for a police substation planned for the Broadway Market;

* An additional $500,000 for the Buffalo Public Schools, bringing the city's annual contribution to $70.8 million, as well as $500,000 for Say Yes Buffalo;

* Money to expand the city's summer youth employment program.  An additional 150 slots will be added, bringing the jobs and internship position to 1,650, Brown said;

* A $700,000 upgrade to the city's internal  data network, aimed at making the operation more efficient and more secure; and

*$266,000 to upgrade the City Hall time and attendance payroll  system.

Rainy day fund

The $499 million plan is $6 million more than the current city budget – an increase of less than 1 percent.

The increase is attributed largely to health care costs and contractual employee raises, Brown said.

Brown is proposing to use $12 million from the city's $41 million reserve fund to balance the budget, although the mayor anticipates  ending the current fiscal year with a $1 million surplus. That surplus will reduce the reliance on reserves in the upcoming budget, Brown said.

The city also has a $36 million "rainy day fund" that remains untouched, Brown said.

The mayor's 2017-18  budget proposal will be presented late Monday afternoon to the Common Council, which will hold budget meetings prior to voting on the document. The Council is unlikely to make any substantial changes in the mayor's  proposal.

The new budget will take effect in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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