As Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown prepares to release his proposed 2019-20 budget Wednesday, members of the Common Council say they are expecting a lean spending plan but would like to see money for priorities ranging from programs for youth to education to sinkholes.
Fillmore Council Member David M. Franczyk also will be keeping an eye on some of the warning flags that the City Comptroller's Office has raised in the past year about the Brown administration allegedly overestimating revenue and underestimating expenses in city budgets that have counted on revenues that haven't come in as projected, particularly casino compact money.
"Is the Seneca money coming or not? We won arbitration. How long can they drag this out? .... Can they not give the money until the (federal government) responds and when will it respond?" Franczyk said. "But we won't get that money until that's resolved, so you can't think of it as money in the bank."
Weeks ago, the Seneca Nation asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to review a federal arbitration panel's January ruling that the tribe owes New York State $225 million in casino revenue it shares with localities.
Franczyk said he will be looking to see if revenues go up, if there are any new revenue ideas or if any new jobs are being proposed. He also will be checking to see if there are increases in taxes and fees.
"Are we going to be nickled and dimed with fees? Are we budgeting enough for overtime?" said Frankczyk, who has represented the Fillmore District for 32 years but is not seeking re-election.
This also will likely be the last budget Richard A. Fontana will work on as a Council member. He is not seeking reelection after 21 years of representing the Lovejoy District.
Fontana said he wants to see a "lean budget" as well as more money for programs at Buffalo's seven youth recreation centers.
"I'm not a real big spender when it comes to the budget... I would like to see more spending on youth activities. I'd like to bring the (community) centers into the 21st century," he said. "We're losing kids to video games, and they're sitting at home on their couches playing video games and not playing at the community centers."
More money to modernize programs at the centers wouldn't be a big expense, Fontana said.
"I think you could do it creatively," he said. "You could even get grants and such."
Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said he’d like to see increased funding in Brown’s budget for the Buffalo Public Schools.
"I’d want to see an expansion of the Community Schools initiative to bring wrap-around services to students and families in high-need neighborhoods and more arts and music funding for our students," Rivera said in a written statement. "We must use every dollar wisely and there is no better investment than investing in our future.”
Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who would like to see money to research a sinkhole problem in the city, said he is looking for "another fiscally responsible" budget proposal from Brown.
One of Pridgen's biggest concerns is sinkholes that have plagued the Fruit Belt, in particular, for at least a couple of years, said the Ellicott District representative. Residents have called the city to complain, and Pridgen would like to see money in the budget to research the problem and come up with remedies.
"Somehow we have to be able to research those sinkholes there and in other parts of the city," he said.