Every once in a while it’s nice to be proven wrong. We were skeptical when Mark J.F. Schroeder announced that he planned to run for Buffalo city comptroller. The announcement – and the election – came in the midst of Schroeder’s fourth term in the State Assembly, where he represented the 145th District.
Schroeder, who had little regard for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was being chased out of office during the post-census redistricting process, we believed, and was looking for a place to land.
Not a certified public accountant, he seemed light on the experience that a voter would typically look for in a candidate whose critical function was to monitor the city’s spending, record-keeping and compliance with regulations regarding public finance. We admired his work in the Assembly, but harbored significant doubts about his ability to perform the tasks of the city comptroller.
It turns out there was no need to worry. Schroeder has done an exemplary job not only in continuing the solid work of his predecessor, Andrew SanFilippo, but in improving upon it.
Last week, Schroeder released the city’s year-end financial report, noting that the city’s fund balance is nearly $166 million, the highest in city history. He also observed, though, that the city will need to increase its reserves, since the city is facing significant expenses soon. That report reflects a good job by the city, which benefited greatly from the work of the city control board.
There is more. Each department in his office is now headed by a certified public accountant. After a national search, Schroeder chose a Buffalo firm, Troy & Banks, to conduct a street light audit to help the city save money on this $16 million annual expense. The best part is that the city will owe nothing to Troy & Banks unless the audit produces a savings for taxpayers.
Taking a page from the late Chester Kowal, who was city comptroller in the 1950s, Schroeder is increasing the rate of return on city funds through short-term investments with other governing entities, including the West Seneca School District, offering them a better rate than they could get elsewhere while producing more revenue for the city than it could achieve with other investments.
Would it have been better to have a comptroller with a strong financial background? Perhaps, but only if that person came to office with the diligence and focus that Schroeder brought to the Erie County Legislature, the Assembly and, now, the Office of City Comptroller. As it stands, though, the city has a strong comptroller counting the beans. If Schroeder was looking for a place to land in leaving the Assembly, he chose well for himself and the city.