City Comptroller says BMHA owes Buffalo more than $3 million

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- City leaders are investigating whether the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority owes the city millions of dollars.

The BMHA went before the Common Council Finance Committee on March 8 to ask for $250,000 to help low income tenants at Frederick Douglass.

“Some residents pay 30 percent of their income and some can’t afford to do that so the subsidy level is a direct rental assistance, to help with their portion of the rent,” said Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett, at the meeting.

Sanders-Garrett said the money would help support about 46 long-time residents. After being questioned by the Finance Committee, she said most of it will actually go towards an operational deficit at the complex, which is run by BMHA.

Two days after the meeting, on March 10, Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder sent a letter to the Common Council.

It said, “Before appropriating any funding for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) for operating expenses, the Common Council should be aware that the BMHA currently has outstanding invoices due to the city totaling more than $3 million.”

Comptroller Schroeder said BMHA owes $1.9 million for “bulk natural gas for heating BMHA buildings for 2005-2008” and $1.1 million for police services. The remaining money is owed for funds provided by other city departments.

“What disappoints me is that some of those bills have been sitting there since 2005,”said Council President Darius Pridgen. “Now when it comes up to granting aid that comes out, that should’ve come out a long time ago.”

Pridgen said the city and BMHA are both responsible.

‘Is the city collecting all of the revenues that are due it in a timely manner?And if not, what are we doing about it?” said Pridgen.

He told News 4 he spoke with BMHA officials to find out why they owe the city money.

“BMHA officials informed me that a great majority of the bills are from the private entity running the Marine Drive Apartments,” said Pridgen.

BMHA was not available to do an interview but Sanders-Garrett did give us a statement that said, “The BMHA is reviewing all its records pertaining to the Comptroller’s memo to determine if there is any validity to the claims of outstanding invoices. The BMHA will work with the City to resolve this situation.”

As the city works to collect the money, the Common Council has to decide whether to give BMHA the $250,000 it requested.

“We all know that HUD has been cutting these types of services throughout the country so to think BMHA is going to come up with that money, probably not,” said Rasheed Wyatt, the University District Common Council member. “If these few dollars are going to go towards helping BMHA in some of their operational issues than that’s where it needs to go.”

Council Member Richard Fontana said they still need more answers.

“I think if we did approve this it’s just going to go into the money they owe us and [the tenants] aren’t going to see a penny,” said Fontana. “If this is really money needed for Frederick Douglass we need to do something to get these old bills paid to get this money over to Frederick Douglass to solve this problem.”

On March 15, the Council decided to send the item back to committee so they can get answers from BMHA before they approve the additional funding.

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