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$35 million budget deficit predicted for City of Buffalo

But state funds expected to relieve burden
Posted at 11:53 AM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:52:18-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The City of Buffalo has a $35 million year-to-date budget deficit and could run out of cash by month's end, according to a report from the city comptroller.

But Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration says the city's financial picture is not as bleak as it looks, and is likely to improve if expected funds arrive from New York State.

City Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams on Tuesday submitted a year-to-date budget report to the Common Council. The report appears to blame the COVID-19 pandemic for a reduction in revenue and sales tax receipts.

"We are confronting a challenging time as a city, however the Department of Audit and Control continues to make it a priority to report and strengthen the City of Buffalo's financial operations," Miller-Williams said in a news release.

The report cited these year-to-date figures, as of April 22:

• Revenues: $341,040,089
• Expenses: $376,474,885
• Deficit: -$35,434,796

The city's "cash funds are projected to land in the negative by the end of the month and cash disbursements are trending lower than projected," Miller-Williams said.

She said "anticipated state aid" for the city and its school district "will result in a positive combined cash flow through June 2020," but others have said they expect Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to significantly cut education funding as the state deals with its own fiscal strains in the wake of COVID-19.

Mayor Brown's spokesman released the following statement from Donna Estrich, commissioner of administration & finance for the city:

"The numbers the comptroller reported are our actual year to date. If we compare last year at this same time we had a deficit of $ 57.76 million and ended our year with a surplus of approximately a million dollars. A number of revenues come in during third quarter, the largest being State Aid of $98 million dollars."

North District Council Member Joe Golombek was in office the last time the city had a hard control board in 2003.

“I'll take some of the responsibility over the last several years of not fighting harder for a fund balance reserve,” Golombek said. “But the reality is, I don't think any of us would have wanted to go to the mayor and say, 'Mayor, let's raise taxes.'”

But South District Council Member Christopher Scanlon stressed the city still has $38 million in its rainy day fund. Scanlon said any upcoming financial problems are the result of a pandemic, not poor budgeting.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, the City of Buffalo was trending towards a surplus this year, and this health issue crippled the economy not only locally, but across the world,” Scanlon said.

The city's fiscal year ends June 30 and the mayor will release the city's budget for the 2021 fiscal year on May 1.