Buffalo Common Council passes budget, reduces tax levy increase

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Common Council passed the $618 million city budget Wednesday by unanimous vote after a handful of amendments, the biggest of which was reducing the tax levy increase.

The process was at a standstill for over five hours. The largest issue was whether the council would approve the mayor’s budget, which included a 9 percent tax levy hike, far higher than the state-mandated two percent cap.

In the end, the council approved a budget with a reduced tax levy hike of 4.19 percent.

“As a council, it is our responsibility to protect the residents of the City of Buffalo, financially and otherwise, and this city has not done that for them all these years,” Council Member Zeneta Everhart said.

Council President Christopher Scanlon says this year’s budget is a win for city residents.

“The sticker shock associated with the May 1 release of the budget has been drastically reduced,” Scanlon said. “Impact to the residents on their tax rate will only be 4.19 percent, so we were able to negotiate that down quite a bit.”

Early Wednesday afternoon, there appeared to be a budget deal in place with the Brown administration to convene a vote, but a last minute hiccup held up the entire process. 

“That was the big delay — just trying to make sure that everything was on the up and up related to the local law and the tax cap,” Scanlon said.

The council had agreed to override the state’s tax levy cap last month. The mayor’s office was supposed to get the agreement certified by New York State, but they couldn’t find the paperwork.

A mayor’s spokesman tells News 4 the state certification was completed correctly.

While the vote was unanimous, some council members aired concerns over what they described as delaying financial hardship for the city and local voters:

“We’re relying on revenue that is one time — the $14 million from the reserve fund, the $25 million from the ARP — that’s a one time thing,” Council Member David Rivera said.

“Either they’re going to have to make draconian cuts where it is going to hurt,” Rivera added. “We should’ve been making these cuts years ago. We pushed it down the road, we kicked the can down the road. That is going to catch up with us.” 

“You can tell by the mood in here tonight during this vote that no one’s real happy where we’re at and I think that it’s probably a wake up call for everyone,” Scanlon said.

The council also voted to reduce vacant exempt positions within the city.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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