BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Public safety, a spike in violence and a tax hike took center stage at the Buffalo budget hearing hosted by the Common Council, which is not looking kindly on the Mayor’s proposed tax increase.
Many residents are concerned about the $5 million going to Buffalo Police, which includes $300,000 for controversial shot-spotter technology. Residents said the City should use those dollars to invest in their community instead.
Also up for discussion was the proposed 4.5% tax hike for city residents. Many say this is too much, especially after a pandemic.
“I should not have to eat peanut butter and jelly when others eat steak,” one resident shared. “Mayor Brown you let me down.”
Former mayoral candidate and political activist India Walton proposed a smaller, 3% tax hike, which Mayor Brown pointed out on the campaign trail. Some residents said he was misleading and they believed he would not increase the tax rate.
“When you start thinking about the actual impact to the homeowner, you’re talking about 90 percent of city residents would see less than a $100 a year increase in their taxes,” Council President Pro Tempore Christopher Scanlon said.
Last week, Mayor Brown told News 4 he needed to raise taxes to maintain services, and defended the increase. He said taxes are still lower than they were when he took office. Majority Leader David Rivera said the Council needs to examine priorities.
“We’re looking at places where we can actually cut that won’t hurt service delivery, that won’t hurt personnel,” Majority Leader Rivera added.
Walton was also present at the meeting, but her comments did not focus on the almost 5% tax hike, rather she said some of the $5.4 million for Buffalo Police should be allocated elsewhere.
“We are asking you please to consider disposing of these unjust, racially biased technologies and increases in policing and surveillance in our communities,” Walton said.
Residents who agree with Walton said the proposed shot-spotter technology will do more harm than good. The controversial system has been used in other cities to identify when and where shots are fired, but many say it does not work. Council Members say they are looking into it.
“We’ve heard over and over again about the police budget, we have to pay attention,” Councilman Rasheed N.C. Wyatt added.
Residents believe this funding should go to improving the community rather than policing. The Council says its taking a deeper dive into the proposal now.
“We’ve heard from the people and now its time to do the work,” Council President Darius Pridgen continued.
The Council is holding public workshops to discuss the budget. Those meetings begin Monday, May 16.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.