BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Byron Brown made history as the first Mayor of Buffalo to be elected to five terms. On Monday afternoon, he gave his 17th annual State of the City of Address.
During the address, he announced a number of initiatives and plans for the City of Buffalo, including issues related to housing, taxes, 5/14-related community development and more.
Housing and taxes
Brown announced a property tax increase of 3.8 percent. For homes assessed at $100,000, homeowners will be paying an additional $46 per year. Brown also recommended an increase in the garbage user fee between $7 and $22 depending on the size of one’s tote, which will address higher fuel costs and equipment repairs within the city’s sanitation system.
“Even with these increases, we are still lower in costs than other upstate cities and surrounding suburbs,” Brown said.
A one-time bill forgiveness program for low-income homeowners will help those struggling financially to become current on water, sewer and tax bills. The total investment is around $30 million and includes funding from Governor Kathy Hochul.
On top of that, Brown said he’s directed officials to not hold a foreclosure auction this year to help give struggling homeowners extra time to recover financially from the pandemic and other hardships.
Brown also proposed an increase in the share of sales tax that Buffalo receives for its cultural hubs, museums and other locations, referencing the fact many people outside the city utilize and enjoy these locations and are off tax rolls.
Public safety measures and DPW investments
Brown committed to buying 11 new pieces of equipment for the Buffalo Fire Department, including a ladder truck and a pumper truck. Additionally, 24 pieces of snow fighting equipment and a vehicle rook, which can be used to safely remove stranded vehicles from roads, will be added to the Department of Public Works fleet.
Plans for a DPW campus and resiliency center are also going forward thanks in-part to $10 million in funding from Gov. Hochul. On top of that, $1 million have been allocated towards the cost of emergency snow removal contractors.
Brown thanked police for their contribution to the statistics of overall violent crime being down 11%, homicides being down 50% and shooting incidents being down 28% in Buffalo this year.
Citing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown announced that $11 million have been set aside for a one-time hazard pay allocation to Buffalo frontline workers.
Over $12 million to repave streets and nearly $8 million to replace sidewalks will also be put into use, as will a $10 million investment to replace old lead lines.
“Public safety is the foundation of a strong community,” Brown said.
5/14 and community works
The mayor publicly invited all residents to take part in panel discussions, community gatherings and healing services in the wake of the one-year anniversary of the May 14 racist mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue. Those events begin on May 12.
Over $300 million have been invested into West and East Buffalo, and in collaboration with minority developments, new investment will continue to come to areas like Jefferson Avenue. Brown also announced an award of $1 million towards the African American Cultural Center reconstruction project.
“The new building will be an anchor for Buffalo’s black community, and a destination that will attract people from across the region,” Brown said.
More improvements are also coming for Buffalo parks and park facilities, including the following investments:
– New sports facilities at Emerson and Kingsley Park
– A sports complex at Shoshone Park
– Improvements to JFK Park and Okell Park
Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.