Unless the subject is brought to the table in the coming weeks – and that is a possibility – Batavia City Manager Jason Molino will not be getting a raise this year.
Tonight City Council voted 5-4 against a 2.75-percent salary increase for Molino, who has been instrumental in the community’s Downtown resurgence, which recently was punctuated by a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from New York State.
Council members Rose Mary Christian, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, Paul Viele and Robert Bialkowski voted “no” to the raise, while Adam Tabelski, John Canale, Pattie Pacino and Council President Eugene Jankowski voted “yes.”
The 2.75-percent hike, which was in the city budget, would have upped Molino’s annual pay from $93,782 – reportedly the lowest salary for a city manager in the state – to $96,361.
Even before the resolution came up in the meeting, Christian took the floor, stating that she had “some questions” about the process because it is the “taxpayers’ money.” Jankowski cut her off, and said that everything would be covered in executive session after the public meeting.
When the matter came up again (it was the last resolution on the agenda), Bialkowski contended that the raise had not been presented in the form of a resolution as required by the City Charter. Both Jankowski and Molino countered that it was put forth as a draft resolution in July – a fact confirmed by this reporter’s check of the July Conference Meeting agenda.
Bialkowski made a motion to delay the vote again, but that was defeated 6-3, after Christian questioned whether some on the Council up for election this year wanted to wait "because if it's passed now, you won't get elected."
She also, once again, questioned the process used to determine raises.
“I don’t like the system and I don’t like the 2.75 percent,” she said. “This comes up every January, so we go to the next budget, and they say we gave Jason 2.75 percent, so we have to give the department heads the same 2.75.”
Jankowski said that January is the time to discuss that and that Council is in the “process of changing the procedure, which will be talked about in executive session.”
Following the meeting, Jankowski said he previously asked that the vote be delayed to the fall since he knew he was going to miss a meeting and “wanted to be here to vote on it because it is controversial.”
“I wanted my intentions to be known, which were to reward the city manager for his proper work over the last year – it was budgeted for in January for him getting a favorable evaluation, which he did receive,” Jankowski said. “So I felt obligated to honor that contract.”
Jankowski and Bialkowski both said they thought the issue could be presented to Council again, with the former stating that he was going to explore the options going forward.
Molino, contacted by phone after the executive session, did not want to comment on the record.
Hired in July 2006, Molino is responsible for a workforce of about 140 (full-time equivalents) and manages a $25 million budget. The city’s budget presentation was honored for the third straight year by Government Finance Officers Association (see press release below).
In other developments, Council:
-- Heard a report on the city’s audit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, which produced “overall positive results,” said Laura Landers, CPA, of Freed Maxick.
“The unassigned fund balances put the city in a stable position,” said Landers, who highlighted the community’s statement of net position for its general, water and sewer funds.
Landers said the city was required to have a full audit this year – and likely for the next few years – because it expended more than $750,000 in federal Department of Transportation funds.
On the general fund, she said revenues of $16.2 million were less than expenditures of $17.6 million, thus decreasing the fund balance to $7.1 million, but that was done by design.
“It was a planned use of reserves of almost $1.7 million for sidewalks, capital improvements, and equipment,” Landers said, as well as for (as Molino pointed out), a fire truck and health-care expenses.
Landers noted that actual revenues were slightly less than budgeted, sales tax revenue also came in less than budgeted and expenditures – continuing a 10-year trend – also were less than the budgeted figure.
Of the $7.1 million fund balance, $1.8 million is unassigned, meaning that it can be used for whatever City Council wishes, Landers said.
Both the water and sewer funds showed operating surpluses, and have $2.4 million and $3.5 million in funds restricted for capital improvements, Landers said.
-- Was updated by Molino on the progress of the $10 million in DRI funds that were awarded to the city last week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in town.
Molino said the state has selected a consultant, LaBella Associates, a Western New York firm which has done work in the past for the Town and City of Batavia, and will be choosing a steering committee in the next couple weeks with the goal of submitting projects to the governor’s office.
“It’s a rough process – similar to a Request for Proposal process with certain criteria,” he said. “I would think that less is more in order to be able to evaluate projects, but there’s really not a lot of concrete information to give you at this point.”
Still, the program is on a fast track, Molino said, as recommendations are expected to be sent to Albany by February.
-- Voted unanimously to adopt the updated Comprehensive Plan after learning that some grammatical and formatting errors in the 100-plus-page document will be rectified and that all items, particularly form-based codes, will have to be brought before Council prior to being implemented.
Bialkowski said he was dismayed that errors existed in the document in light of the fact that Council authorized spending $100,000 for outside consultants to update the plan for the first time in about 20 years.
-- Voted to release five properties sold at auction to the highest bidders as follows: 29 Brooklyn Ave., Louie Kingsbury, $4,000; 200 S. Swan St., Geib Corporation, $20,000; 1 Watson St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $13,500; 46 Swan St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $1,500; and 2 Willow St., Robert Fritschi, $19,000.