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Schroeder's marina audit

By Jill Terreri

Here's the full audit of the Erie Basin Marina from Comptroller Mark Schroeder, including the city's response and significant plans to change the way business is done there. 

Schroeder's office found the city's vendor, Brand-On Services, owes the city $343,245, which should be paid immediately, he said. 

The story on the audit is here, and a story about the planned improvements to the marina are here

Missing from the audit below is the response from Brand-On Services, whose president is Renee Wolasz. The Wolasz family runs the business, daughter Julie told me today when I reached her at the Hatch. Julie Wolasz declined to comment on the audit because she said no one in the company had read it yet. The audit was filed today with the Common Council. (To clarify, the company was fully aware the audit was taking place - auditors had been there for months - but the comptroller audits city activities, and the appropriate city department has the chance to write a response that is included in the audit, vendors do not. The vendor is able to look at the audit once it is released to the public.)

The city is planning to seek the missing payments, though it disagrees with Schroeder's final amount, and will solicit bids for a new operator in time for the 2014 season.

 

Erie Basin Marina Audit

More on city's HUD spending

By Jill Terreri    

The question of whether the city had to repay the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for misusing federal funds has been at the center of a line of attack from Republican Sergio Rodriguez against Mayor Byron Brown. 

Brown denied this claim during a debate, and HUD spokesman Adam Glantz told me last week that the city "did not have to return any funds to HUD."  The city has to use city funds for programs that aren't eligible for federal funding, and then use the federal funds on other, eligible activities, he said. 

Then Rodriguez's campaign pointed to this Investigative Post story, which says the city had returned $100,000.

I followed up with HUD for a clarification.

Continue reading "More on city's HUD spending" »

Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement

By Jill Terreri

Republican Sergio Rodriguez was not impressed with Sen. Charles Schumer's endorsement of his fellow Democrat, Mayor Byron Brown, during an event on Main Street yesterday. 

In a statement this morning, Rodriguez continued his criticism, that Brown has not done enough to improve education, and noted the city's unemployment rate and crime statistics. 

"I agree with Sen. Schumer: indeed Buffalo is turning around. But we're going in the wrong direction," Rodriguez said. 

He added later: "If we don't address the basic fundamental needs of people, which is the ability to provide their children a decent education as well as a safe environment, then there is no amount of waterfront entertainment that will convince people to live in the city."  

Continue reading "Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement" »

State Ed mandate confuses Council

By Jill Terreri

Concerns about the cost, loss of instructional time and apparent duplication in services were aired when a panel of city lawmakers brought in Board of Education members and school Superintendent Pamela Brown to Council Chambers today to discuss the recent mandate from state Education Commissioner John King, that the district partner with Erie 1 BOCES to turn around two failing schools, East and Lafayette high schools.

During an Education Committee meeting, Chairman Demone Smith said he was confused why the state would mandate that students be given the opportunity to take BOCES classes if they desired, when the district already offers many of the same programs.

Continue reading "State Ed mandate confuses Council" »

Today in City Hall: Fire contract

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today, the details of a tentative 15-year contract for firefighters, which has already been approved by the union's membership and the Brown administration, will be analyzed by the city's control board. 

The control board doesn't have any authority to approve the contract, as it is in advisory status, but members are expected to give an analysis of the document's true costs to city taxpayers when it meets at 1 p.m. today in the first-floor conference room of the Market Arcade. 

Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder also analyzed the contract, and found that it will cost the city $23 million, which is available in city reserves, though it could end up costing more as firefighters retire, induced by incentives in the contract. Approximately half of the department will be eligible to retire by June 30, 2015, and the city could face costs of "several million dollars," as it pays out for accumulated sick and vacation time, Schroeder wrote. 

The Common Council was prepared to vote on the contract last week, but the city wanted to give the control board time to review it. 

A Council vote is expected next week. 

From today's Buffalo News, Mark Sommer looks at Horsefeathers Market & Residences on Connecticut Street, which is part of a renaissance on the West Side, and Brian Meyer talks to Thomas Eoannou about his purchase of the North Park Theatre.

And in North Buffalo, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is set to open in late October

 

Buffalo comptroller analysis of fire contract

Today in City Hall: Budget vote

By Jill Terreri

Mayor Byron Brown's proposed $482.5 million spending plan is up for a vote by the Common Council during a special meeting at 3 p.m. today in Council Chambers. 

Council leadership and the administration are working out the details this morning, and the amendments have not been printed up, I'm told. 

The Council's budget hearings involved questions to department heads related to many matters outside of what was contained in the budget, so it's unclear what Council members will do to change the proposal. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget vote" »

Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council kicked off its budget workshops this morning in relatively brief meetings with some of the city's largest departments. 

The questions tended to deal with matters of concern to the Council, not necessarily what was in the budget. 

The Taxation and Assessment Department discussed the inquiries they were getting about the state's STAR program, which offers property tax breaks to homeowners. Basic STAR recipients must re-apply this year - senior STAR recipients re-apply every year. The city department doesn't administer the program, but it does send out the tax bills. Department officials said they worried that the state won't be able to tell them all of the properties that should be getting the exemption until June, and property tax bills must be mailed by July 1. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park" »

Block club, arts funding still up in the air

The Buffalo Common Council has scheduled a meeting Friday afternoon to approve a spending plan for the next fiscal year, though some details are still being negotiated.

Council leaders are talking with the Brown administration about money in three areas:

Continue reading "Block club, arts funding still up in the air" »

Recent hires in Buffalo's City Hall

The City of Buffalo's Department of Public Works has made a number of hires in the last month or so.

In the Streets Division, Michael Murphy was promoted to head exterminator, a post that carries a $45,723 starting salary. Murphy was previously an exterminator in the department, earning $36,119.

Michael Edwards was hired as a truck driver, with a starting salary of $22,468.

In the Water Division, Cecelia Folmar was hired as a clerk, which carries a $30,507 starting salary.

Continue reading "Recent hires in Buffalo's City Hall" »

New Sewer Authority budget increasing

The Buffalo Sewer Authority this morning approved a preliminary 2012-13 budget, but proposed rates won't be released until at least next month.

The authority's board, without objection, approved the preliminary $53,750,000 spending plan, which is an increase of $1,384,000 over the current year's budget.

Here's the four-page agenda item (pdf) on the preliminary budget.

After the meeting, authority General Manager David P. Comerford said he had no information about what the rates would be for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but that they should be available in the next month or so.

For the current fiscal year, rates were lowered by 1 percent. Here's the full 2011-12 budget (7.3 MB).

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

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.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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