The Buffalo Council approves a budget. A new state judicial district in Erie County?  Public campaign funding starts to flow.

The Buffalo Common Council last week approved a 2024-2025 budget and four-year financial plan for the city that generally follows the proposals of Mayor Byron Brown.  The good news is that several Councilmembers raised important questions about the impending financial crisis.  The bad news is that they did not do anything meaningful about that crisis and may have made it a bit worse.

The Council, according to reporting by Deidre Williams in the Buffalo News, made net cuts in spending of $406,958, amounting to a reduction of 0.0007 percent of the nearly $618 million budget.  The city property tax levy was reduced by $2.38 million.  For the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 the Council’s tax cut will amount to a savings of $33 for the year compared with the original budget.  To make up for the diminished tax revenue the Council increased revenue estimates for various money received from licenses, permits and fines, some of the revenue sources that appeared to be already overestimated in the mayor’s budget.

Making essentially no cuts in spending while reducing a standard revenue source (property taxes) and increasing the estimated receipts from dubious other revenue sources makes this budget, going forward, more negative to the city’s finances over the next four years.  Kicking the can down the road does not resolve public budget problems.

The city administration was asked by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority to report on revisions to the budget and four-year financial plan that would be more realistic.  That information is due in the next week.  What those revisions might be is questionable.  As documented in a previous post, so is the Authority’s ability to do anything about it.

A new state judicial district for Erie County?

State Senator Sean Ryan recently filed proposed legislation (S9444) that would create a 14th state Judicial District by putting Erie County into its own District while leaving the seven other counties of the current 8th Judicial District in place.  The bill would assign 17 current Supreme Court Justices to the 14th District while five of the current group would remain in the 8th District.  Justices from the 8th District presently serving on the Appellate Division will be connected to one district or the other.  As of the date of this posting there is no Assembly sponsor for the bill.

Senator Ryan explains his proposal:  [Most] of the judges in the 8th [District] come from Erie county… there are no judges from Cattaraugus, Genesee, Orleans, Allegany, and Wyoming counties. One from Niagara and one from Chautauqua.  This will allow judges from the outlying counties an opportunity to be elected and cut down on cross endorsements.

Here is a breakdown of the population of the district:  Erie County 950,683; total of the other seven counties 595,702.

The bill would assign the following Justices to the 8th District:  Grace Hanlon, Diane Devlin, Frank Caruso, Paula Feroleto, and Frank Sedita III.

On a staffing level the bill says that as of January 1, 2025, District employees who work in Erie County would become employees of the 14th District while employees in the court system employed in the other counties would remain employees of the 8th District.

The State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year on June 6, leaving only a few legislative days for the approval of this or any other bills that are still on the agenda.

Public Campaign Financing Plan cash being dispersed

The Board of the Public Campaign Finance Program (PCFP) has begun to send out state funds to candidates who have applied to participate in the program.  The first rounds of cash go to candidates in a primary election.

There is only one state legislative primary in Western New York, in the 147th District.  Republican Incumbent David DiPietro is being challenged by Mitch Martin, a member of Sheriff John Garcia’s staff.  Martin’s first payment from the state program was for $75,420.  DiPietro is not participating in the program.

In total the PCFP Board has awarded $5.9 million to about 50 different candidates thus far; several of the candidates have received two payments.  To date 49 percent of the money has gone to legislative candidates in New York City where 44 percent of all legislative districts are located.  In several districts two or three candidates are receiving the state funds. 

One of the New Yorkers receiving a payment is Hiram Monserrate, a Democratic candidate in the 35th Assembly District.  Monserrate has had a variety of legal and political problems over his public career.  He was expelled from the Senate in 2010 following a misdemeanor conviction related to an assault on his girlfriend.  He served 21 months in a federal prison on a fraud conviction relating to his time as a city councilman.  Between 2010 and 2022 he ran for public office five times and lost every election by a wide margin.  Monserrate received $108,867 from the PCFP.

The program will continue on to the general election in November.  The 2024-2025 state budget includes $100 million for the program.

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The post The Buffalo Council approves a budget. A new state judicial district in Erie County?  Public campaign funding starts to flow. appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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