In keeping with a promise he made two years ago, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he is holding the line on property taxes for both commercial and residential parcels in his proposed 2012-2013 budget.
Brown has unveiled his $482.6 million budget, which will next go to the Buffalo Common Council. The city's new fiscal year takes effect on July 1.
"It is a very conservative budget," Brown said. "We tightened the belt and focused on very targeted spending."
While the budget has been increased by 4.4 percent, or approximately $20 million, Brown said he was able to keep the city's residential property tax rate flat and reduce the commercial property tax rate by 8.5 percent.
"I'm hoping that really drives more investment and investors into the city," Brown said of the property tax rates.
Of New York's large upstate cities, Buffalo has the lowest property tax rate. Buffalo's combined residential and commercial property tax rate is $23.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation compared with Rochester's $37.59 rate, Albany's $36.40 rate and Syracuse's $32.72 rate.
Since taking office in 2006, Buffalo's residential property tax rate has dropped 15 percent and its commercial rate is down 25 percent.
Brown said he hopes to use that fact as a major selling point to potential investors.
"I want to catch people's attention with that," Brown said.
The $20 million increase in the budget is primarily due to three factors: Rising fuel costs, increased fringe benefits and pension costs.
Fuel costs increased by 15 percent while fringe benefits payments are up 5.8 percent and pension costs will be hiked by 21 percent.
"We don't have any control over those costs," Brown said.
Brown said is using this year to start an energy savings plan for all city-owned buildings, retrofitting where necessary. The hope is save on energy costs.
In keeping with the environmental theme, Brown has allocated $75,000 to purchase two new sidewalk sweepers that will be in service in downtown and the city's neighborhoods and has set aside $250,000 for a neighborhood crime prevention program that offers grants for new signs, dead-bolt locks and lighting.
"A safer city is a more attractive city," Brown said.
Brown has also allocated funds for 34 new police officers and 43 new firefighters, giving Buffalo a police force of slightly more than 800 officers and 719 firefighters.
The mayor has included $11 million for the next two years in improvements to various Buffalo parks including renovating playgrounds, building new picnic shelters and renovating basketball courts. A skate park is also planned for LaSalle Park.