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April 19, 2018 - 7:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Johnson Controls, genesee county, energy savings, news, notify.

The Genesee County Legislature is having a hard time coming to terms with borrowing $4 million to potentially save $4 million or more on future energy bills.

Not every member of the Legislature believes the cost savings are real, or that the county should borrow that much money on an expectation of saving money years from now.

Legislators Gary Maha and Andrew Young are the most skeptical.

"I appreciate the effort," Young said. "I try to look at everything just as I would for my business. Would I do it? I would not borrow $4 million and hope I got it back over the next 20 years. I don’t know too many business people who would."

He called the idea, from a business perspective, "irrational."

Clattenburg said she looked at it a little differently.

"The rationale is like any homeowner," Clattenburg said. "You buy an energy-efficient furnace and your costs are cut in half and you take saving from the energy cost and use it to pay for your furnace. You talk about (as) if, I was a business. I talk about it as if I were a housewife and I was buying a furnace. That is how I would look at it."

In summary, the proposal involves the county signing an agreement with Johnson Controls that would entail the county borrowing $4 million. Johnson Controls would then act as a contractor for a series of projects intended to reduce energy consumption at county buildings.

Many of the projects are already part of the county's capital investment plans. Over the 20 years, the county would pay $200,000 a year on the loan but save an estimated $200,000 a year in energy costs. Johnson Controls guarantees a certain amount of costs savings realized in each of the first three years of the contract. The county could buy a sort of extended warranty for additional years to guarantee savings, though that isn't really being considered.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens first brought the idea to the Legislature in February and the Legislature gave him the green light to put together a resolution to approve a contract with Johnson Controls.

He's been to two committee meetings this week, Public Service on Monday and Ways and Means on Wednesday, to discuss the proposal with legislators. Neither committee has yet to approve the resolutions.

Yesterday, Ways and Means tabled the resolution pending more information on other financing options, such as using $2 million the county has available and borrowing only $2 million, perhaps from another source.

“I don’t just see it as a loser," Hens said during a 30-minute robust discussion of the proposal Wednesday. "I think it’s a good deal for the county. I wouldn’t be here for my third committee meeting pushing it so heavily if I didn’t think it was a great idea for the county.”

The benefits as laid out by Hens, County Treasurer Scott German, and the legislators who support it -- Shelly Stein, Marianne Clattenburg, John Deleo, and John Hilchey -- include:

  • Front-loading paying for several capital-improvement projects that the county will have to pay for eventually anyway;
  • If the contract is signed by May 30, an interest rate of 3.5 percent is locked in (the Federal Reserve is planning three interest rate hikes this year);
  • Getting the work done before inflation drives up the costs;
  • Shifting some of the operational expense of energy from an expense against property taxes into an expense against sales taxes, which frees up space for other expenses under the tax cap;
  • Saving maintenance and repair costs on old and failing equipment;
  • Ensuring employees are working in safe and comfortable buildings that currently need significant repairs

Maha said he isn't against the idea of getting the work done, but he isn't comfortable on taking on a $4 million loan with a 20-year payoff, especially when the county is looking at a potential expense of $45 million or more for a new jail.

"The timing of it bothers me," Maha said. "I understand the benefits of the energy efficiency at the county buildings but I look at my home, you know, I haven’t put any energy into my home until I have the money. I don’t think my constituents want me to say 'yeah, go ahead and borrow $4 million' when we’ve got other projects out there that will cost the county millions of dollars.”

Not every project in this proposal will, by themselves, lead to cost savings. Putting a new roof on the highway garage, for example, won't reduce energy costs but it must be done and it can be included in the contract. Making it part of the Johnson Controls contract takes it out of the list of other capital projects the county must pay for using the existing capital budget.

Most of the cost savings actually come from some of the smaller projects, such as switching lighting in county buildings to more energy-efficient systems.

Some projects, such as replacing the eight air handlers on the roof of County Building #2, will both reduce energy costs and save maintenance costs.

"Right now we spend a ton of time repairing broken air handlers in Building #2," Hens said on Wednesday. "We don’t have great job-costing software to be able to track exactly what we spend, but I can tell you, Terry and the other guys have a lot of overtime going in after hours to fix air handlers or going to the jail to repair the boiler."

Deleo admitted to some skepticism of the proposal but near the end of the discussion Wednesday, he said he had warmed to it.

"So you’re saying right now cash is cheap, so let’s lock it in at the low rate and keep that over the 20 years because it’s cheap now, and then we’ll keep our cash in reserves and if things go off, we always have the cash, and cash is king, as they say," Deleo said. "I’m not as negative against this anymore as I hear it more and more."

Young said he doesn't think the savings is sufficient enough to justify taking on $4 million in debt. Using a calculation provided by Johnson Controls called Net Present Value, Young said there are essentially no savings.

The initial NPV calculation showed only $1,357 in savings on the value of the money, but Hens said with a lower financing rate, the new calculation is $38,519.

"I’m not 100-percent confident, there’s no guarantee it’s going to pay for itself in 20 years," Young said.

Net Present Value is a term economists use to try and determine the value of money today against the value of money at some point in the future. The calculations can get complicated. A straight calculation of $4 million today versus the value of that money in 20 years would, at a steady rate of 2-percent annual inflation, be $2.7 million.

Such straight-line calculations through having little predictive value. We don't know what the rate of inflation will be in each year, what interest rates might be in future years (if money isn't borrowed now and is instead borrowed on a project-by-project basis in coming years); and in this case, how the cost of energy will change over 20 years.

Maha is concerned about placing bets on the prediction of the future, he said. Who knows what technology changes will come in 20 years? He suggested in 20 years, whoever is still around in county government will have no real knowledge of why the loan exists and what purpose it served.

"I want to reiterate that my concern is, I don't care if it's $1 million or $4 million, I don't like the 20 years," Maha said. "Who knows what is going to happen 20 years down the road. Who is going to look back in 20 years and remember why we did this?"

Clattenburg countered, “We might look back in 20 years and say look at all the money we saved over the 20 years.”

Both Hens and German made the point a couple of times during the discussion that the estimated saving presented by Johnson Controls should be considered "conservative" estimates that the actual cost savings should be higher. Johnson Controls, Hens noted, with the first-three-year guarantee on its estimates, doesn't want to overestimate and wind up owing the county money, so their estimates are cautious.

Clattenburg, who chairs Ways and Means, was perhaps the staunchest proponent of the Johnson Controls proposal.

“If we don’t do this and we go the other route (paying for each project individually), don’t come to me to override the tax cap at any point," Clattenburg said. "I hope you are willing to do that if we don’t go this way because that’s what’s going to happen."

Neither legislators Bob Bausch nor Gregg Torrey expressed an overt opinion on whether they will support the proposed contract. But Bausch suggested that maybe the county could use current capital project funds along with some reserves, up to about $2 million, to reduce the amount of money borrowed. That would both reduce the total amount of interest paid and reduce the length of the loan, perhaps to as little as six years.

Hens said that would mean going to another firm for financing and losing the guaranteed 3.5 percent rate. German said he would have to gather estimates but the rate wouldn't be guaranteed until the county was actually ready to take out the loan, which could be two months.

The committee agreed to table the resolution until German is able to report back on that option.

CLARIFICATIONS: We should have pointed out in the body of the story that the estimated cost savings on utility bills alone if the loan is taken out is $117,250. Hens says that's a conservative estimate based on an inflation rate of 3 percent over 20 years. He said the actual rate since 1998 has been 3.9 percent and going back to 1958, the averaged annual rate of inflation for energy costs has been 4.32 percent. If either of those figures hold true, he said, the county will save substantially more.

April 9, 2018 - 4:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, genesee county, Announcements, disabilities, ILGR.

Press release:

Once again, the Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies (WNYIL) is gathering nominations of members of the disability community who have made ongoing, significant contributions, such as support, assistance and inspiration to others.

Deadline for nominations is 5 p.m. Friday, April 13.

The winner will be honored with WNYIL's Independent Citizen Award at its Fifth Annual “Night for Independence" Gala on Saturday, May 12th at the Classics V Banquet & Conference Center, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.

Ideally, the nominee should meet the five core values of this award: 

  • Exemplifying independence in the community, such as: by beginning a special project; by spearheading an awareness effort; or by gaining the support of decision-makers, for the benefit of others with disabilities or the general community;
  • Going above and beyond what would be expected to assist others, by offering personal experience or expertise, organizing individuals around an issue, enlisting partnerships, and/or revealing self-sacrificing work;
  • Remaining active in the community over an extended period, even after an initial success with an activity or major project;
  •  Rejecting others’ criticism or doubt, that potentially could have deterred the individual from striving to reach and achieve personal goals;
  •  Showing the world the value of one person’s actions by encouraging others to have a contributing, encouraging, and positive attitude about making the community a better place for all. 

If you are aware of an individual who has served those with disabilities, and who, you feel, would meet all these criteria, please contact Marykate Waringa of WNYIL’s Office of Community Engagement at (716) 836-0822, ext. 146; or email her with the candidate’s name, a paragraph about his/her qualifications and contact information, as well as YOUR name and contact information, to [email protected].

Thank you for your willingness to help acknowledge deserving members of our community! 

WNYIL is Western New York's largest cross-disability, consumer-directed, non-residential organization for persons with disabilities. At WNYIL, individuals of all ages and all types of disabilities learn to exercise their freedom of choice to take control of their own lives, in order to live more productively in, and contribute to, the community.

March 22, 2018 - 1:50pm

Press release:

The Attica Central School District will offer a free Prekindergarten program for the 2018-2019 school year. The northern tip of the district is in Genesee County.

The Universal Prekindergarten is a preschool program established by the State Education Department. The Prekindergarten program is taught by a NYS certified teacher and aide.

Prekindergarten Registration for the Attica Central School District

Children who are residents of the Attica Central School District and who will be 4 years old on or before Dec. 1, 2018 are eligible to register for the Prekindergarten half-day program. There is no cost to families. Transportation is the responsibility of the parent.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the program will be held five days per week (Monday-Friday) following the Instructional School Calendar. There will be a morning and afternoon session with a limit of 18 students per session.

If you would like your child to participate in the program, please apply by completing the Attica Central School District Registration Form and accompanying paperwork. Registration materials are available on the District website or by contacting Ann Marie loranty at 585-591-0400, ext. 1408.

All registration forms need to be submitted no later than March 29.

Please bring your completed form and ALL required documents to the Attica High School Main Office, 3338 E. Main Street Road, Attica, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

For your information, the Wyoming County YMCA operates an after-school program at the Attica Elementary school. This program is available to preschool parents who participate in the afternoon prekindergarten session. Please contact the YMCA at 585-786-2880 for details on the program and to receive a registration form.

We strive to continue to offer this opportunity to residents of the Attica Central School District and hope that you are able to take advantage of this valuable educational opportunity for your child. If you have any questions please contact Mrs. Beitz, Elementary Principal, at (585) 591-0400, ext. 2235.

March 22, 2018 - 11:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, economics, news, notify.

County Treasurer Scott German told members of the Legislature on Wednesday that he's somewhat surprised that Standard & Poor's has continued Genesee County's slightly downgraded credit rating because of a "weak economy."

He said he disagreed with the assessment.

"For some reason, they say we have a very weak economy here," German said. "I don’t get that."

The county's rating is AA-, which has been the case for awhile now. The minus after AA indicates the county is a slightly worse credit risk than other agencies with an AA rating. The highest rating is AAA.

A credit risk assessment, or bond rating, effects the cost of borrowing money, such as it needs for water projects or is likely to need for a new jail.

The county fares well as a credit risk because of good management, budgetary performance, strong budgetary flexibility, very strong liquidity, and low debt load.

The county's credit risk outlook for new municipal bonds is "stable," according to the report.

It's the "very weak economy" that is dragging the credit rating down, according to the report.

S&P's report says that the buying power of county residents is 83.2 percent of the national level with a per-capita market value $49,542.

"Overall, the county's market value grew by 2.1 percent over the past year to $2.9 billion in 2018," the report states.

The report does note that while income is below state and national averages, the county's unemployment rate is also traditionally lower and that remains true.

The county's tax base has increased modestly and consistently over the past five years.

There is unrealized hope for growth through the county's economic development efforts, the report states, particularly with STAMP -- Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park -- the 1,250-acre nano-tech business park under development in Alabama.

"However, given its early stages of development, it remains to be seen if these industries will relocate to the county," the report states. "One company recently changed its decision to move to the park."

The report also takes note of the $10 million allocated by the state for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the expansion of the HP Hood facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park as positive signs for the future.

"Given the modest amount of development still ongoing, we do not expect the tax base to experience any negative pressure in the near term," the report states.

February 21, 2018 - 3:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news, notify.

Genesee County is exploring the possibility of entering into a contract with a consultant who will help the county save money on energy costs and reduce energy usage.

County Superintendent Tim Hens presented a proposal to enter into an agreement with Johnson Controls that would enable the county to fund many projects for system upgrades that need to take place anyway but in a manner that would make the projects cost neutral for the county.

Johnson Controls would finance over 20 years $3.9 million in projects in the county and the county would make annual payments on the financing through its annual cost savings.

Cost savings over the first three years are guaranteed. Hens said the county can purchase guarantees in subsequent years but the experience of other agencies that have entered into such agreements is that once the cost savings are proven, it doesn't make sense to spend money to save money.

It's been 10 years since the County went through a federally funded energy audit, so Johnson came in about six months ago and reviewed all of the county's facilities, bringing in consultants from all over the nation with expertise in various relevant fields.

Hens has received a summary of recommendations. Some of the projects are easy, such as switching out all of the fluorescent lights for LED lights or putting vending machines on timers. They get more complicated when getting into boilers, HVAC systems, electrical panels, and breakers or air handlers.

"They went over all over buildings with a really fine-tooth comb and found a lot of things we didn't even know we had," Hens said. 

Many of the projects would typically be part of the county's routine capital budget for facilities but under the possible agreement, instead of tapping the capital budget Johnson would finance those projects, freeing up that portion of the capital budget for other projects.

The financing rates from Johnson, Hens said, are competitive and would save the county from entering the bond market.

He cited the City of Batavia and Byron-Bergen Central Schools as examples of local agencies that have had a successful relationship with Johnson.

Yesterday, the Public Service Committee reacted favorably to the proposal -- there was no vote taken -- so Hens is expected to come back to the Legislature next month with a written proposal and a proposed contract for a possible vote to move forward.

January 18, 2018 - 5:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in nursing home, genesee county, news, notify.

As the County wraps up expenses related to the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home, officials expect to have about $17 million available for funds dedicated to infrastructure, including roads and bridges.

"That's what we said we would do with the money and that's what we're doing," said Marianne Clattenburg, chair of the Ways and Means Committee at yesterday's meeting.

It looks like the proceeds of the $15.2 million sale of the nursing home to Premier Healthcare Management LLC is $10,033,000.

The county is also collecting $7 million in unpaid intergovernmental transfers (federal reimbursement for medical expenses for nursing home patients). This money will also be set aside for infrastructure.

There is still some wrangling with insurance companies, said Treasure Scott German, over money the companies think they are owned and money the county think it is due. There may be additional minor expenses to close out, but those payments will be handled through the general fund.

In other words, the budget line for the nursing home in the county's expense ledger is now officially closed.

January 18, 2018 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Weights and Measures, genesee county, news.

Changes are coming to Weights and Measures in Genesee County.

Starting Monday, Weights and Measures will no longer be a stand-alone department of county government. There will be a single employee reporting to an environmental health supervisor in the Health Department.

Also, once approved by the Legislature, Genesee County will start charging fees for Weights and Measures services.

Paul Pettit, director of the Health Department, said Genesee County appears to be the only county that hasn't been charging for the service.

The new fee schedule will bring in about $25,000 annually.

"The fees do not fully compensate the full cost of the program," Pettit said. "It's a revenue offset."

Article 16 of the Ag and Markets Law requires counties to have a director of Weights and Measures. The new inspector will have the title of director but not the duties of a department head. The Health Department will handle budgeting and administrative work for the inspector.

The county is responsible for inspecting weight and measurement devices throughout the county, such as gas pumps and meat counter scales and similar devices where fees are charged based on weight or volume, except on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, where there are no government inspection services.

January 4, 2018 - 4:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, genesee county, news.

legorgmeeting2017.jpg

Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, and John Hilchey, the three newest members of the Genesee County Legislature, along with the rest of the Legislature, took their oaths of office Wednesday night prior to the Legislature's organizational meeting at the Old Courthouse.

legorgmeeting2017-2.jpg

Robert Bausch, representing Elba, Byron, and Bergen, was chosen to chair the Legislature.

legorgmeeting2017-3.jpg

From left, Pam LaGrou, clerk to the legislators, Gary Maha, Gordon Dibble, Shelly Stein, Andrew Young, Bob Bausch, John Deleo, Marianne Clattenburg, Gregg Torrey, John Hilchey, and County Manager Jay Gsell.

December 29, 2017 - 11:52am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, town of batavia, genesee county.

Stating that “we’re not willing to sign it in its present form,” Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said this morning that the Batavia Town Board did not take any action in connection with an amended and restated water agreement with Genesee County.

The board met on Thursday afternoon but decided not to sign off on the document, a 40-year agreement for water supply between the county and the town.

Post would not say what aspects of the agreement were deemed unacceptable.

“It is a complex issue; a work in progress,” he said.

County Manager Jay Gsell also would not elaborate, saying only that county legislators will discuss the situation next week and “continue our conversation with the Town of Batavia.”

As reported Wednesday on The Batavian, amendments to the water agreement focus on making sure municipalities are aware there is no unlimited supply of water and giving the county the flexibility it needs to increase the surcharge that municipalities pay as the demand for water increases.

Per County Attorney Kevin Earl, the restated agreement includes a provision that the county has to give 120 days prior notice to towns and villages of a price increase and, as part of the master plan, explain why an increase is warranted.

Phone calls to Earl and Batavia Town Attorney Andrew Meier were not returned as of the posting of this story.

December 27, 2017 - 12:51pm

Lawyers for Genesee County and the Town of Batavia are in the final stages of drafting an amended and restated water agreement – a document that, if completed in time, will be considered by the Town Board at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

According to Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl, the amended agreement that will govern the Town’s water usage will focus on making sure the municipality (and all towns and villages in the county, for that matter) understand that the county is unable to supply an unlimited amount of water and that the county has the flexibility to increase the surcharge that municipalities pay.

“The county needs the flexibility to increase the surcharge (currently at 60 cents per thousand gallons of water) and ensure that everybody pays the same price,” Earl said. “The restated agreement will have a provision that the county has to give 120 days prior notice to the towns and villages of a price increase and, as part of the master plan, explain why an increase is necessary.”

Earl is working with Batavia Town Attorney Andrew Meier on finalizing the agreement.

County Manager Jay Gsell said that the next phase in the distribution of water calls for an increase of about 2.5 million gallons per day on top of the 8.1 million gallon currently supplied to county users as a result of agreements with the Monroe County Water Authority, Erie County Water Authority and the City’s water treatment facility.

“We’re estimating a surcharge increase of 60 to 80 cents per thousand,” Gsell said, “which is to be used for water system improvements only and to pay off the debt service of $20 million from 1999-2000.”

Gsell noted that future phases over the next five to 10 years are expected to increase the supply to 15 million to 20 million gallons per day.

Should municipalities approve the amended and restated agreements over the next several weeks, the earliest date of any surcharge increase would be June 2018, Earl said, due to the 120-day notice provision.

Earl said the many industrial development projects in the county will drive up the demand for water in the future, and that the county is planning to spend the money required to meet the demand.

Those projects/sites include the STAMP (Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park) site in the Town of Alabama, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Buffalo East Tech Park, and increased need in areas such as Bethany, Alabama, Darien and Town of Batavia, as well as the possible replacement (to increase the capacity) of the City water plant.

December 4, 2017 - 12:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county, Old Engine House.

Update: Monday, Nov. 4 -- 2:15 p.m.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said that county legislators want to take a closer look at the county's downtown facilities before making a decision about the future of the Old Engine House.

"They want further discussion and also want to walk through the downtown buildings," Gsell said. "At this time it is best to slow down a little bit, (cancelling) the public hearing and in the aftermath of the City Council's reaction (to the proposal to redevelop the Engine House). Now is not the best time to move forward and ask for a million dollars if we don't have all of our ducks in a row."

Gsell said that he believes that more Restore New York funding will be available in 2018, and also mentioned outstanding funds from previous state and regional economic development initiatives.

He said that should Genesee County move to relinquish the Engine House, public defenders currently working there would be relocated (likely to the adjacent Genesee County Court Facility) and that facilties management employees would "move to the highway department (on Cedar Street) eventually anyway."

As far as Genesee County holding on to the building, Gsell said that it would need much renovation, noting that there is no close-by parking, no access to the second floor and that it is not handicapped-accessible.

"It should be mentioned that when the county purchased the property, it was the parking lot that was important (to serve the courthouse buidling)," he said. "The Engine House was an afterthought; a building that was bought through a tax lien from the city for $250,000 in 1996-97."

Previous story:

"I spoke with the county manager and at the present time the county is not prepared to dispose of the property."

With that statement this morning by Batavia City Manager Jason Molino, the public hearing scheduled for 5 o'clock this afternoon to consider a proposal to redevelop the Old Engine House has been cancelled.

When asked if Genesee County's change of heart puts an end to the idea of turning the former restaurant into a commercial/residential site, Molino would not offer any more information.

A call to County Manager Jay Gsell has yet to be returned.

At City Council's most recent meeting (Nov. 27), board members voted to set the public hearing for the application of a $1 million grant to redevelop the county-owned Engine House on Main Street.

The proposal was not eagerly received, however, as some council members questioned the process -- stating that they weren't given enough advance notification -- and one questioned the selection of Thompson Builds of Byron as the developer.

In a memo to Council, Molino reported that a Restore New York Communities Initiative grant was available for the project, but it could only be applied for by a city, town or village -- not Genesee County. The city manager also stated that the county was willing to declare the property as "surplus" and was on board with its redevelopment.

The plan, as outlined by Molino after discussions with the Batavia Development Corporation, Genesee County and Thompson Builds, was to convert the 14,425-square-foot buildilng for business use on the first floor and residential use on the second floor.

In the end, Council voted to set the public hearing, focusing on the prospect of returning the property to the tax rolls.

While it was reported that the building is vacant, it actually houses offices for the public defender (the Genesee County Court Facility is next door) as well as the shop for the county's facilities management divisiion, which also is in close proximity to key county-owned buildings.

November 17, 2017 - 4:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, RTS, Announcements, genesee county, bus service, Black friday.

Press release:

To make it easier for customers to access shopping destinations on Black Friday, Nov. 24, Regional Transit Service is providing free basic route bus service in Genesee County, and in Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Wayne and Wyoming counties during regular business hours.

The free service will be available during RTS’ regular business hours on basic route service and will not apply to any deviation, dial-a-ride or other premium services. Anyone requesting service beyond the basic route service will be charged the regular fare.

Who:  RTS Genesee, RTS Livingston, RTS Ontario, RTS Orleans, RTS Wayne and RTS Wyoming

What:  Free basic route service on Black Friday

When:  Black Friday, Nov. 24, during regular business hours

For all other information, visit www.myRTS.com.

November 16, 2017 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tourism, genesee county, business, news.

Sports is a booming business for tourism in Genesee County, according to Kelly Rapone, tourism marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce.

Between soccer at Batavia Sports Park, the Darien Lake baseball and softball tournaments, golf getaways, and various other competitive sports events that attract people from throughout the region and the Northeast, Genesee County hotels are often selling out during the spring and summer, Rapone told members of the County Legislator's Ways and Means Committee yesterday.

"Every weekend, I would say, from May right through July, we are booked up, our hotels, for sports," Rapone said.

That helps contribute to one of the major funding sources for the Chamber of Commerce, the county's bed tax.

Last year, the bed tax fell a little short of projections but Tom Turnbull, chamber president, said it looks like the revenue will exceed the $420,000 target, despite a rainy June.

Revenue was up 3 percent in the first quarter, 3 percent in the fourth quarter, but down 1 percent in the third quarter.

"The big factor there is probably Darien Lake," Turnbull said. "They are a big contributor to the bed tax and it was a rainy summer. Their numbers were, I know, down a little bit, but still 1 percent is not too bad."

The fourth quarter should make up for it, Turnbull said, with a projected increase of 17 percent.

Rapone said the golf packages the chamber sells fell off significantly in June, from leading to the booking of 93 room nights a year ago to just 29 this June.

"You can see, they all kind of shifted out to later in the summer and then we did another push for fall packages," Rapone said.

The chamber's budget for 2017 expected $66,000 from New York in matching funds for the "I Love NY" tourism promotion program, but the chamber received only $64,400 this year. That is the number the chamber will budget for 2018 and hope for an increase in that amount.

The chamber also generates its own revenue through a visitors guide, dining guide, coupon book and the golf packages. The budget anticipated $106,000 in revenue from these sources and the actual revenue for 2017 will be at least $108,000. The chamber will budget $110,000 for 2018.

Rapone said the county may see an increase in Chinese tourists, with a shift away over the next four years from bus tours to more individual travelers.

This year, the chamber hosted a group of 16 Chinese travel guides who were touring the state.

She also talked about how the Chinese pay for things. There is only one national credit card and that isn't always accepted by businesses in the United States.

"A Chinese traveller would never pull out his Chinese credit card to pay for something if he thought there might be the slightest chance it would be denied," Rapone said.

So what they carry is a card called Union Pay. What a lot of merchants don't understand, she said, is if they can accept Discover, they can accept Union Pay.

She said she visited a deli over the summer and the owner complained that the Chinese who came in never bought anything. She told him about Union Pay. The next week, he had all the signage up in the store to show he accepted Union Pay.

"It's the simple things that make us more welcoming," she said. "Like, they don't like ice in their drinking water. They want their water and tea at room temperature."

November 2, 2017 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget, news.

Press release:

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That the Genesee County Legislature will meet at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main Street, Batavia, New York on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. for the purpose of holding a Public Hearing on the Tentative Genesee County Budget for 2018.

Further Notice is hereby given that a copy of said Tentative Budget will be available in the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature, 7 Main Street, Batavia, New York where it may be inspected by any interested person.

Pursuant to Section 359 of the County Law, the maximum salaries that may be fixed and payable during said fiscal year to members of the Genesee County Legislature and to the Chair, thereof, are hereby specified as follows:

  • Members of the Legislature $12,117 each
  • Chair of the Legislature $15,943
October 26, 2017 - 7:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county, news, notify.

The 2018 budget County Manager Jay Gsell is filing contains a property tax rate increase of six cents, to $10.13 per thousand of assessed value.

The manager's budget only becomes law if the County Legislature fails to pass a budget before the end of December.

At a meeting of the whole yesterday, no member of the Legislature expressed outright support for the increase and several said they oppose it and want to hold the rate at $10.07.

To do that, legislators will need to appropriate another $186,000 from reserve funds or find an equal amount of spending to cut.

Gsell's budget already calls for spending down the reserves again by $1 million.

“We’ve got the money, we should use it," said Chairman Ray Cianfrini. "I don’t think we should be hitting the public with another tax increase. Right or wrong, I think they think perception-wise that the Nursing Home money is money we have to apply toward this. I’m just throwing that out as my recommendation.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said, “You’ve got to remember, people’s assessments went up, so their taxes are already going up.”

Both John Deleo and Ed DeJaneiro expressed opposition.

"I don’t think I could vote for a budget unless we went to $10.07," DeJaneiro said.

Now that Gsell has submitted the manager's budget, legislators will have two weeks before a public hearing to make their suggestions for fine-tuning the revenue and spending plans.

The county's spending plan for 2018 calls for a total expenditure of $130,180,842, which will be paid for by a combination of state and federal reimbursements and local property and sales taxes along with miscellaneous fees and use taxes.

The property tax levy under Gsell's plan is $29,492,783. That's an increase in the levy of $268,120, which is within the state's two-percent tax cap mandate.

That mandate is being made tougher by Albany. The Raise the Age law passed earlier this year -- which will bring more 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes into the Family Court system -- was written to withhold funds for reimbursements for additional expenses from the law to counties that fail to hold the line on the two-percent cap.

This is also the first year the county is not saddled with the expense of the Genesee County Nursing Home, with its 160 jobs (full-time equivalents) and $16 million budget, which was draining as much as $2 million from local taxpayers each year.

There remain 540 FTEs on the county's books. Personnel is the largest expenditure for the county, but the pressure of the expense has been mitigated the county's share of the state's pension program remaining flat for 2018, more employees falling under Tier IV of the pension program, and the cost-savings success of the county's health coverage program, which now has employees contributing 10 to 20 percent of the premiums.

Unfunded state-mandated expenses continue to eat up a good portion of the tax levy. The 8-9 programs cost local taxpayers $22,315,765, or 76 percent of the levy. Medicaid is $9.4 million of that expense.

In all, Department of Social Services provides health aid to 12,500 senior citizens, children and adults in need at a cost of $95 million (most of which is covered by State and Federal expenditures).  About 60 percent of the expenditure is for long-term nursing care.

Other unfunded mandates include indigent defense, pre-K/elementary handicapped education services, probation, mental health, the jail, Safety Net, family assistance, child welfare and youth detention, according to Gsell's budget message.

Another mandate Gsell knocks in his message is the requirement from Albany that counties give raises to district attorneys. On April 1, the DA's salary will go up to $193,000 and there's nothing local elected officials can do about it.

"This is merely a reflection of the unilateral and paternalistic attitude of Albany and the disregard for local county government fiscal constraints," Gsell said.

The most significant personnel change in the budget is the addition of a compliance officer, who will report the county manager and oversee compliance with state and federal regulation related to the more than $11 million in grants the county receives so that revenue isn't inadvertently jeopardized. 

"(The position) has been strongly recommended by our outside/consulting corporate compliance attorney and our independent auditors," Gsell said.

As for proceeds from the sale of the nursing home, DeJaneiro wanted to know if the state could mandate what the county does with the money. Gsell said that is one thing the state leaves entirely up to local discretion.

There are still accounts to settle related to the nursing home, so the final total of the proceeds (profits) from the $15 million sale is not yet available, but whatever the amount, it will likely be placed in the capital improvement fund.

DeJaneiro suggested it go to help pay for repairs to roads and bridges and Gsell said that is one possibility, but the county is looking at the state soon requiring the county to build a new jail with a potential price tag of $43 million.

As expenses continue to go up every year in a county budget that for years has held the line on tax increases and cut personnel and services year-after-year, one concern for legislators about the tax cap is if they don't raise the property tax by six cents, then the amount they can raise taxes in future years if dire circumstances require it is diminished.

To get around this Legislator Bob Bausch asked if the county could raise the rate by six cents and then on the tax bill immediately turn around and rebate property owners the six cents per thousand, thereby increasing the total amount of the levy without actually taking more from taxpayers.

"I think it’s sort of a gimmick," DeJaneiro said.

Bausch replied, "Of course it’s a gimmick. The whole thing is a gimmick," meaning the state's arbitrary tax cap.

"Fight gimmicks with gimmicks," Legislator Andrew Young observed.

No vote was taken on the budget. There will be another budget discussion next Wednesday.

October 19, 2017 - 3:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county, news, notify.

As County Manager Jay Gsell gets closer to pitching his proposed 2018 budget to county legislators, the focus in budget talks is on what staff positions will be created and which will be eliminated.

New positions might include a compliance officer, a first assistant district attorney, and a program coordinator in the Department of Mental Health.

On the way out are a child care worker in Social Services and a youth program specialist in the Youth Bureau.

Many of the positions being eliminated are reclassifications of jobs within the same department. For example, in Mental Health, two part-time clerk-typist positions become one full-time position. Public health is eliminating a principal financial support specialist but adding an administrative officer and part-time senior financial clerk-typist.

If a first assistant district attorney position is created in the District Attorney's Office, which is expected to go to Melissa Cianfrini at a salary of $111,783, an assistant district attorney position, with a salary of $91,915, will be eliminated.

The headline new position, however, is the compliance officer. The potential salary is $87,694 and the position will report to the county manager. The compliance officer will make sure the county is meeting all federal and state requirements for privacy, disability accessibility, health record privacy and other codes and regulations that are often tied to the grants the county receives from state and federal agencies.

“If Tim Yaeger or somebody wants to apply for a Federal grant, a Homeland Security grant, or some other kind of grant, they can the requirement of the grant, hand it to the compliance officer who can digest it and make sure we are currently meeting the requirements or what kind of changes do we need to make administratively to make sure we’re going to meet requirements,” said Matt Landers, assistant county manager.

There are millions of dollars in grants at stake in the county if the county fails to meet compliance requirements. 

The qualified job applicant will have a four-year degree and at least two years related work experience, or a master's degree and two years experience.

The Youth Bureau is eliminating a position because there's no guarantee the federal government is going to continue to fund Americorps. That program ends at the end of the year and the current director of the program will spend January and February winding down the program and then will be out of a job.

The Sheriff's Office is also asking to add two new positions, an assistant to the director of emergency communications, at a salary of $67,109, and an emergency services dispatcher, $43,128.

From the current budget draft, Gsell must trim $257,831 to arrive at a tax rate of $10.13, which keeps the tax levy increase within the tax cap limit. Without further cuts, the Legislature would need to approve a tax cap override. If the Legislature wants to get the tax rate down to this year's $10.07 per thousand of assessed value rate, Gsell will need to find $460,000 in additional spending cuts.

Gsell will present his draft budget and his annual budget message later this month.

October 13, 2017 - 5:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, infrastructure, genesee county, news.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today wrote to Gov. Cuomo and New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Matthew Driscoll asking for increased funding to repair and secure dozens of local bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient by a recent report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

“Securing infrastructure funding at the local level is like pulling teeth every year in Albany,” Hawley said. “Just because we are a more rural community compared to New York City doesn’t mean our local roads, bridges and highways take any less punishment.

"If anything, our bridges wear down more easily because many more residents drive and our agriculture and small business vehicles are constantly shipping more goods across the state.”

Statewide estimates to make all the necessary repairs are $27 billion, with 23 percent of Genesee County bridges and 16.2 percent of Orleans County bridges categorized as structurally deficient.

“This is about giving peace of mind to our bus drivers as they bring our children to school, our parents making the morning commute to put food on the table and  our small-business owners working hard to transport their goods to market,” Hawley said.

“Government’s top priority should be the safety of its residents, and that starts with roads and bridges in which we have confidence, allowing residents and tourists to travel safely. Securing funding to make this a reality is a must, and I will fight in the coming weeks and months to make that happen.”

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