Education and police department a concern in Buffalo's budget

BUFFALO, N.Y.  - City leaders in Buffalo are trying to tackle a half-billion dollar budget plan.

With only one week left to get the budget in order, the $513.6 million spending plan is proving to be one of the city's most difficult.

"This is probably one of the toughest budgets since I've been here that we've ever had to endure. City services are increasing, every time there's an event, a huge event in the City of Buffalo, police are not free, first responders are not free, having the fire department fully staffed is not free, fixing the roads that lead into these venues are not free," said Darius Pridgen, Common Council President.

Mayor Byron Brown proposed a property tax hike for the first time in 12 years, as well as an entertainment tax on tickets for events in the city.

The Buffalo School Board and the teacher's union says more money needs to be allocated for education. Last year the city gave 15 percent of revenue to the district while Rochester contributed 24 percent to the city's school district and Yonkers allocated 34 percent.

"There's no reason why they can't allocate the same percentage as the other school districts, 25 to 35 percent. That's an insult to our kids and it's basically an attack on our kids," said Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

A number of residents spoke out at a public hearing on the Budget Tuesday, calling on the council to allow more say from the public.

"We need people living in communities who are impacted by how that money is spent to be deciding on where that money goes," said Buffalo resident, Brian Borncamp.

Several people asked the council to set aside $5 million for participatory budgeting, specifically asking for a reduction in the police department's budget.

"We've seen that budget grow and grow every year, but we don't see homicide rates being solved at a higher rate, we don't' see crime decreasing in our communities at all. In a year when we're saying the budget needs to be tighter, why is the police department increasing by $2 million dollars," said Jennifer Carman, Buffalo resident.

Council President Pridgen says the council is going over the budget line by line.The council can reallocate money, but they cannot change the total amount of the budget.

Common Council has until Tuesday to return the budget to the mayor.

Panorama Hispano is the regional news and information newspaper for Hispanic and other diverse communities.

US Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in the United States numbering 54.2 million as of July 2014. Serving: Buffalo, Rochester, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, NY and Erie, PA. Outside our Market area: Visit our affiliate at: http://www.impremedia.com/

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