This morning, the Common Council met with Comptroller Mark Schroeder and his staff to discuss establishing a policy for how to spend the city's "rainy day fund." A policy is expected to be introduced in time for Tuesday's Council meeting. The city established the fund in 2008, and it contains enough money - $36 million - to cover a month's worth of city expenses. But the Council never enacted a policy as to when the money should be used. They agreed that it cannot be used for general budget shortfalls, and should be used only in extraordinary circumstances.
The city's fiscal position is much better than it has been, though Schroeder has been concerned that the city is spending through its undesignated reserves, which are separate from the rainy day fund. These undesignated funds are filling gaps in the city budget, as Mayor Byron Brown has cut property taxes.
Today the city is working to process $30 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that had been frozen since May and was released Wednesday.
Two major developments won praise at the Planning Board this morning.
A seven-story medical office building described as a gateway to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was approved by the board, while a public space that will frame Canalside was presented as a courtesy to the city, as no board approval was necessary.
Board Member Cynthia Schwartz praised the "East Canal" project but questioned the lack of public restrooms at Canalside. Project engineers, who have incorporated arched fountains, trees, lighting and walkways said there were no plans for a public restroom on that parcel.
ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t taking kindly to some gentle criticism from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli over his plan to help localities save pension costs in the near term in return for possibly higher costs down the road.
Cuomo, on Albany’s WGDJ radio station this morning, said that if DiNapoli has a better idea, “I would love to hear it.”
ALBANY – Rarely is there a time when the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy and the Civil Service Employees Association agree on an issue.
So today we bring you when those two moons have aligned. The conservative think tank and the state government’s largest public employees union are both sharply critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s idea to temporarily reduce pension costs for localities.
ALBANY -– New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the school districts that obtained teacher evaluation agreements have committed “fraud” if, as most did, their deals with unions remain in effect for only one year.
Bloomberg this morning told a joint Assembly and Senate fiscal panel considering the state’s budget that most districts in the state failed, as required by the 2010 teacher evaluation law, to obtain multi-year agreements with their teacher and principal unions. It has been estimated that about 90 percent of the state’s nearly 700 districts, including most in Western New York, obtained only one-year evaluation agreements with unions. Buffalo was one of the few to get a two-year deal, though there is a clause allowing the sides to renegotiate after the first year of the plan.
Districts across the state rushed to get deals by a Jan. 17 deadline or risk losing planned four percent increases in state aid. New York City was one of a handful unable to meet the deadline, which Bloomberg today blamed on the teachers union.
“Everybody is just interested in getting the money and committing what I call fraud," Bloomberg told lawmakers about the deals most districts made over the past several months.
Now that county lawmakers have unanimously passed a plan to pump $130 million into Ralph Wilson Stadium, The News' Denise Jewell Gee talks with Brian Meyer about the next steps. They also discuss the Bills' economic impact on the region:
ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s second in command today sought to calm the dispute between the Democratic governor and the party’s co-chair that has caught the eyes of party insiders across the state.
At issue is the criticism from Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner over Cuomo’s new budget plan that the mayor has suggested short-changes municipalities struggling to keep their finances afloat.
Criticism by most state politicians of the governor, who is not shy about defending himself from any barbs, has been remarkably rare over the past two years. At a time when Cuomo has been trying to rally Democrats statewide to embrace his fiscal plans, Miner’s criticism – played out this week in various media interviews – has been more than noteworthy since she is Cuomo’s handpicked co-chair of the New York State Democratic Committee that he controls.
In Buffalo today, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who has been the public face of the administration in pushing back against Miner’s criticisms, was asked if the Syracuse Democrat is being disloyal to the Democratic governor.
"I’ve heard nothing come up in any conversation I’ve had or any conversation I’ve heard that would indicate that," Duffy told a Buffalo News reporter.
Asked if she should resign as party co-chair, he said, "That has not been discussed."
Duffy, a former mayor of Rochester, earlier this week told Syracuse reporters that a control board – which could essentially take over the financial decision-making for that city – could be an option for Syracuse if Miner did not like the governor’s budget solutions, which include a controversial borrowing-type plan for localities to use against future savings from the state’s pension fund.
"I’m aware of Mayor Miner’s comments. I was in Syracuse following them. And one of the things I said is this governor has spent more time investing in upstate and upstate cities. I said this twice in the last week, and if I were still a mayor and still in office I would be absolutely thrilled to have this governor doing what he’s doing," Duffy said this morning.
A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.
Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.
Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.