BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the face of high inflation, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown will send a budget proposal to the Common Council that calls for a 4.5% tax levy increase on residential and commercial properties in the city.
Brown unveiled the budget plan during his State of the City address Friday.
“Our new tax rate will still be less than half of what it was before I took office (in 2006),” Brown told the crowd.
This is Brown’s first spending plan since winning a historic fifth term in 2021. The heated mayoral race between him and challenger India Walton included a lot of discussion about taxes.
“She said in an interview that she’s going to raise taxes by 3%; 3% is not a modest tax increase,” Brown said during a September debate.
But on Friday, Brown argued his 4.5% tax increase proposal was modest, prudent, and sound.
“To protect the future of our community, we felt that a tax increase was necessary given the conditions we’re experiencing now. Not where we were a year ago because the factors that we were dealing with a year ago are not the factors that we’re experiencing right now,” Brown said referring to inflation.
The homestead tax rate would increase from $9.88 to $10.38, an increase of just over 5%.
The tax hike on home and commercial properties would create an additional $6.69 million for City coffers, from $147,865,000 to $154,560,000. Brown is also proposing increases to the City’s Garbage User Fee and permit and license fees. Between the tax increase and user fee increases, city officials estimate a resident who owns a $100,000 home would pay roughly an additional $60.
Buffalo Common Council members are expected to spend the next several weeks reviewing Brown’s spending plan. They have already called a special meeting for Monday. The city’s new fiscal year starts in July.
“Obviously, the devil is in the details always,” South District Councilman Chris Scanlon said of the proposed tax increase. “There is going to be some sticker shock there when you first hear it.”
“It’s still much lower than it was eight, 10, 15 years ago. But I have to see the details,” said North District Councilman Joe Golombek.
Brown’s budget calls for investments in both the police force and economic development. It includes funding to add about 14 detectives to the police ranks. There is also money included to bring ShotSpotter technology to Buffalo’s streets. That’s a gunshot detection system that police Commissioner Joe Gramaglia says will alert officers to gunshots within one minute of being fired.
“It’s going to get us to incidents faster,” Gramaglia explained. “If we find shooting victims within a minute of that shots fired happening, we can get to them faster. We can get them lifesaving care faster.”
On Friday, the city also issued an RFP for the purchase of a site for a new public works campus. That would allow the Department of Public Works’ fleet of vehicles to move out of the Broadway Garage. Also Friday, city officials issued an RFQ for a mixed-use development project at the LaSalle Metro Station’s Park-and-Ride.
“It really is a strategic, good place to live and it’s a quick access to thousands of jobs in the City of Buffalo,” said Buffalo’s Office of Strategic Planning Executive Director Brendan Mehaffy.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.