Buffalo Mayor Demands Overhaul of Erie County Sales Tax Distribution

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown calls for changes to Erie County's sales tax distribution formula, arguing it is unfair to the city. Brown seeks state intervention, citing that Buffalo receives less sales tax revenue than smaller cities like Rochester and Syracuse.

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Buffalo Mayor Demands Overhaul of Erie County Sales Tax Distribution

Buffalo Mayor Demands Overhaul of Erie County Sales Tax Distribution

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is calling for significant changes to Erie County's sales tax distribution formula, arguing that the current system is "fundamentally unfair" to the city. Brown contends that Buffalo receives less sales tax revenue than smaller cities like Rochester and Syracuse, despite being the largest city in the county.

Why this matters: The debate over sales tax revenue distribution has significant implications for the fiscal health and development of cities and towns, and can affect the quality of life for residents. A fair and equitable distribution formula can also impact the ability of local governments to provide essential services and invest in infrastructure.

Erie County currently has an 8.75% sales tax rate, with more than half of the revenue staying within the county and distributed according to a complex formula established in the 1970s. In 2022, the county collected over $1 billion in sales tax revenue, with the City of Buffalo receiving $113.5 million. However, Mayor Brown claims that this amount is insufficient compared to the revenue received by Rochester and Syracuse from their respective counties.

Under the current sales tax distribution formula, the state automatically keeps 4% of the 8.75% sales tax, while the remaining 4.75% is divided among cities, towns, villages, school districts, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Erie County retains 55% of the sales tax revenue, with the remaining 45% shared among other municipalities and school districts.

Mayor Brown argues that a larger share of the county's sales tax revenue should flow into the city, rather than out to the suburbs. He emphasizes the impact on the poorest residents in the region, stating, "We really need to talk about inequity... We've talked about that for a couple of years, and that point keeps getting missed." Brown also points out that the current formula has a detrimental effect on "the poorest people in this region living in the City of Buffalo."

Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan has proposed refiguring the decades-old formula to account for population shifts from Buffalo to suburban towns, which would reduce the city's share of sales tax revenue. Former assemblyman and county executive candidate Ray Walter has also complained about the unequal distribution of county sales tax money, advocating for more funds to be allocated to towns and school districts.

In comparison, Monroe County provides the city of Rochester with $195.4 million in sales tax revenue, based on a formula established in 1985 that requires Rochester and Monroe County to each receive about a third of the local sales tax money. Similarly, Onondaga County gives Syracuse a comparable amount of sales tax revenue, despite having less than half the population of Erie County.

Mayor Brown is now seeking state intervention to address the perceived inequity in Erie County's sales tax distribution formula. He argues that the current system, which has been in place for decades, fails to adequately support the city of Buffalo and its residents. As the debate over sales tax revenue sharing continues, it remains to be seen whether changes will be made to the long-standing formula and how such changes might impact the fiscal landscape of Erie County and its municipalities.

Key Takeaways

  • Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown calls for changes to Erie County's sales tax distribution formula, citing unfairness to the city.
  • Erie County's 8.75% sales tax rate generates over $1 billion in revenue, with Buffalo receiving $113.5 million in 2022.
  • Mayor Brown argues that Buffalo receives less sales tax revenue than smaller cities like Rochester and Syracuse.
  • The current formula allocates 55% of sales tax revenue to Erie County, with 45% shared among other municipalities and school districts.
  • Mayor Brown seeks state intervention to address the perceived inequity and ensure a fairer distribution of sales tax revenue.