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Thursday, March 5, 2015

ALBANY — The New York State Senate unanimously passed a piece of amended legislation on Wednesday giving the state Comptroller's Office more control of the City of Lockport's budget.

The bill, S1692-2015, was sponsored by State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and forwarded to the Assembly, where an identical bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence.

In short, it legislation requires the Lockport Common Council to adopt any budget recommendations made by the Comptroller's Office for the next 10 years. The City had signed off on the agreement in August when it was seeking the state's authority to borrow up to $5 million to cover a shortfall in the city budget. The $5 million was needed to cover gaps in the 2015 budget, as well as make up for gaps in previous years' budgets.

The City ended up borrowing $4.23 million at the end of December. It is financed over a period of 10 years — the same 10 years the Comptroller's Office will have authority over the City.

The legislation amends previous language which had stated that the council "may" make adjustments as advised by the Comptroller. The new language states that it must make those adjustments.

Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey explained: "In other places, the comptroller has come in ... and the council said 'we're going to keep doing it the way we want to do it.' "

The state learned from that mistake and became more stringent with fiscally distressed cities like Lockport.

"Our goal is to make sure that our budget adds up," McCaffrey said. "But if there was a point where the Council did a budget that did not add up, the Comptroller's Office can (now) override it."

The Assembly version of the bill, A3546-2015, was referred to the body's Ways & Means Committee on Jan. 27.

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