|Date:||July 27, 2023|
The Mayor's administration is requesting that the Buffalo Common Council approve a transfer of $60 million of American Rescue Plan funds from community-focused initiatives to fill city budget gaps instead. PPG and partners sent a letter to Buffalo Common Council on July 27, 2023 outlining legal concerns with this process and urging the council to get more information before they vote.
TO: Buffalo Common Council Members
FROM: Partnership for the Public Good, Back to Basics Ministries, Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, Arts Services Inc., Locust Street Art, Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, Buffalo Arts Studio, El Museo
DATE: July 27, 2023
RE: Legal Concerns with American Rescue Plan Procurement Process and Budget Modification
First, on behalf of our organizations and many of our partners, we thank you for your concerns and efforts to move American Rescue Plan funding to the residents, community-led initiatives, and small businesses in Buffalo that need it the most. We have spoken repeatedly with many of you over the last two years about this funding and community-led priorities for distributing it. We have watched you again and again in Council meetings call for the administration to move forward with the Request for Application processes for the project funds (food security, community justice and safety, health equity, etc) in the Mayor’s ARP Spending Plan that you adopted in August 2021.
As a result, during Tuesday’s Council meeting, we were grateful for your comments again rightfully expressing frustration and dismay over the Brown administration’s flawed processes for this critical funding:
Because we share your concerns, our organizations held a press conference on Monday focused on two major issues with ARP funding:
Because of these issues, we are concerned that if you vote to approve the Mayor’s request at today’s special session, this funding could become embroiled in investigation and litigation.
Here are items that we believe could be investigated or lead to litigation:
These questions have to be answered.
In addition, we believe strongly that the Mayor’s administration should provide a public accounting of the specific budget gaps that require an additional $50 million of ARP funding be moved to revenue replacement.
It is also incumbent on the Council to ask why these gaps were not presented and explained during the recent FY 23-24 budgeting process, particularly since the administration appears to be asking for ARP funds, post-budget approval, to fill a gap in this current fiscal year. It appears that the administration is now admitting to major structural deficiencies in the City’s budget and budgeting process; the Council is responsible for understanding the nature of these fiscal problems and why the process went so awry. If we do not seek this basic level of information, how can we expect more responsible or transparent budgeting with the remaining ARP funds?
We share in your sense of urgency to get this money out to community needs. However, you should not be pushed by Mayor Brown into a false deadline:
If you choose to delay the vote further, we will support you. We will mobilize additional residents and community groups to support you. We will share with our partners that this is not the Common Council’s fault, and that the Mayor is the reason the funds are delayed. We will share that we urged you to take a small amount of extra time to get it right.
As you concluded on Tuesday, the City needs to follow the federal procurement rules for this funding. It is simply too important to jeopardize with misuse and mistakes.
Residents and community organizations are turning to you because only Common Council has the power to get answers to the questions above. Please do all you can to ensure this “transformational” opportunity for Buffalo is not lost entirely.