City Leaders Urging for "Soft" Control Board

May 3, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 4:04 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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May 3, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 4:04 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Buffalo City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder has unveiled the Buffalo Fiscal Integrity Act, a proposed amendment to the city charter designed to ensure the financial health of the city for years to come.

According to a news release issued Thursday:

“If enacted, this legislation would require annual four-year financial plans, as well as policies to protect the city’s fund balance, including establishing appropriate uses for the Rainy Day Fund,” said Schroeder, also unveiled a Board of Education resolution in support of a four-year financial plan for the city’s school district.

Schroeder said he wanted to ensure the city had strategy in place in the event that the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority moves from a control period to an advisory period.
“If the control board does vote to shift to an advisory role, it is crucial that there is a framework of fiscally sound policies to guide the city moving forward,” said Schroeder. “This legislation will give Buffalo the tools to protect its finances, with or without the control board.”

Schroeder said that the legislation is needed in order to continue the great progress Buffalo has made in improving its fiscal outlook, which has resulted in the highest bond ratings in the city’s history.

“Moody’s upgraded the city’s bond rating to ‘A1’ last month, and we have an ‘A+’ with Fitch and an ‘A’ with Standard & Poors,” said Schroeder, referring to the city’s ratings from the “Big Three” credit rating agencies.

Buffalo’s improved credit rating has allowed the city to sell bonds at rock-bottom interest rates and without bond insurance, saving significant taxpayer dollars on interest costs and bond insurance premiums.

“In their reports, the credit rating agencies view the control board as an asset,” said Schroeder. “We must show Wall Street that the city has its own financial controls in place.”
Schroeder said that he has met with Mayor Byron Brown, the Common Council, the Board of Education, and Superintendent Amber Dixon, about a future without the control board, and he stressed the importance of having a plan in place to protect the city’s finances.

“In order to craft this legislation, we looked at policies that were successful in other communities in our state – such as New York City, Rockland County, and Yonkers - as well as some of the controls that the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority has implemented,” said Schroeder.

The proposed amendment to the city charter includes a requirement that the mayor submit an annual four-year financial plan to the Common Council each year. The legislation also includes measures aimed at protecting the City’s fund balances, including the “Rainy Day Fund.” Under the amendment, the “Rainy Day Fund,” could only be used for unexpected, non-recurring expenses, such as those resulting from mid-year cuts in state aid or natural disasters like the October 2006 snowstorm.

The legislation already has the support of the presidents of both the Common Council and the Buffalo Board of Education.
“Comptroller Schroeder’s Fiscal Integrity Act would demonstrate to the citizens of Buffalo what the fiscal picture looks like not only today but in the near future. It would help covered agencies, like the Buffalo Board of Education, in their efforts to develop financial plans that cover multiple years,” said Park representative and Board of Education President Lou Petrucci. “Long term planning is vital if the district is to provide continuity in our programs. I wholeheartedly support the comptroller’s efforts.”

“I'm proud to work with the Comptroller on new legislation that ensures fiscal stability in the City of Buffalo,” said Common Council President Richard Fontana.