Control board pans city budget
Faults mayor's plan for spending as too risky
Mayor Byron W. Brown's honeymoon with the control board officially ended Tuesday when the panel criticized his first proposed budget, noting it calls for the largest spending increase in at least 15 years and makes risky revenue assumptions.
In its first public comment on Brown's budget, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority faulted the mayor for not including enough cost-cutting strategies.
"There's very little in this budget where we are trying to reduce costs by doing things differently," said Robert G. Wilmers, M&T Bank Corp. chairman, who was among the most outspoken control board members Tuesday.
"We're hoping to break some old habits and move to the point where the city is on firmer ground," said board vice chairman Alair Townsend.
One "troubling" element of Brown's plan involves a significant increase in spending, Wilmers said.
"I'm terribly concerned when I see a budget that increases at 9.1 percent when the rate of inflation is at 2.7 percent," Wilmers said. "No business can survive when its costs are going up at three-and-a-half times the rate of inflation."
The control board said it expects to see some revisions when it meets June 6 to vote on the plan. The panel has approval power over all city spending. Outgoing city Finance Commissioner James B. Milroy challenged Wilmers' critique, arguing no one knows what inflation will be in the coming year. Milroy added that inflation is higher in the Northeast, and that costs such as utilities and gasoline are driving up costs.
Control board members also questioned Brown's assumption that Buffalo will continue to receive the same amount of state aid in the next four years that it will receive in the coming year. Albany has significantly increased aid to municipalities, but board members note that the state could face a deficit next year of $7 billion to $10 billion.
Buffalo is becoming increasingly reliant on state aid, which will make up 53 percent of the proposed budget, board Executive Director Dorothy A. Johnson said. Three years ago, she said, state aid accounted for 36 percent of the city budget.