Chairwoman April Baskin Leads Democrats in Securing Funding for Critical Community Services for Buffalo Residents and Constituents
On December 5 the Erie County Legislature amended and approved the County’s 2020 Budget. The Legislature’s amendments, which totaled over $5 million, included funding for important community initiatives affecting residents in Buffalo and across the county.
Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin was lead negotiator in negotiating the amendments with County Executive Mark Poloncarz and her colleagues in the Democratic Caucus and the Republican Caucus. With positive and non-partisan discussions, the amended budget was approved 10-1, with Amherst Republican Legislator Ed Rath casting the lone ‘no’ vote, objecting to the budget amendments providing assistance to Buffalo residents.
The Legislature’s budget amendments include:
•$1 million for urban initiatives in the cities of Buffalo, Tonawanda and Lackawanna, with Buffalo receiving $500,000 which can be used, for example, for road work. This appropriation follows the Legislature Democratic Caucus’ securing $300,000 of County funding for Buffalo in June 2019 for similar purposes.
•$1 million for a much-needed anti-opioid Suboxone medication-assisted drug treatment program (“MAT”) in the County Sheriff’s Jail Management Division (Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility). The program will be established with assistance from the Department of Mental Health.
•$250,000 for a new pilot project for lead poisoning prevention administered by the Erie County Department of Health to address older houses (many of which are in Buffalo) and lead poisoning of children due to lead paint in old houses.
•$200,000 for a new pilot anti-neighborhood blight project to be administered by the Western New York Law Center to address abandoned houses; the project will allow the abandoned homes to be addressed and made habitable to help stabilize neighborhoods.
•$922,000 in new public benefit funding for community organizations working on neighborhoods, youth programming, health, literacy, senior services, meals on wheels, sports groups, substance abuse, housing, and cultural programming.
•$1 million in funding for the Board of Elections to address the 2020 presidential election and primaries.
Baskin was elected as the Legislature’s Chair in April 2019, and made history as both the youngest Chairperson and the only legislator to serve as both Majority Leader and Chair in her first term in office.
“I am proud that our Democratic Caucus made these amendments to the 2020 Budget to address critical community needs and programs,” said Baskin. “These budget amendments reflect our caucus’ commitment to the urban core of our community and to addressing important community needs, whether roads, drug abuse, youth services, domestic violence, senior citizens, neighborhoods, and housing.”
Some of the groups that will receive 2020 public benefit funding include: S&J Foundation, For Our Daughters, Project Mona’s House, Juneteenth of Buffalo, African American Cultural Center, University District Community Development, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo, various Boys and Girls Clubs, Colored Musicians Club, Torn Space Theatre, and Westside Community Services.
Baskin noted that the lead poisoning program, which she had been championing since 2018 with partners from the University of Buffalo Law School and Lead716, will also address State changes for lead poisoning in children and will provide Early Intervention services for children affected by lead. She stated: “Too many of our children growing up in older houses with flaking and chipping paint are slowly being poisoned and their brains being negatively affected and causing developmental delays or permanent brain damage. We need to do more to address this and our pilot project with the Health Department will address this.”
The 2020 Budget amendments from the Democratic Caucus also include a property tax cut and a reduction in the County’s property tax rate and levy, thus providing some tax relief to County property taxpayers.
“I would like to thank the members of the Democratic Caucus, especially Majority Leader John Bruso, as well as County Executive Mark Poloncarz for their assistance and partnership to help pass these budget amendments to deliver assistance to our residents,” added Baskin. “These amendments and programs reflect the Democratic Caucus’ commitment to the community and to the urban core of our county.”