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As city finance's improve, council balks at raise for manager

By Howard B. Owens

In the years since Jason Molino took over as city manager, Batavia has gone from an annual deficit of $1.2 million to a surplus in 2009-2010 of $475,800.

Yet, minutes after the City Council heard an audit report on the city's improving financial condition, the council split 4-5 on a motion to meet in a closed session to grant Molino -- among the lowest paid top administrators of any city in the state -- a modest raise.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked to postpone the discussion saying he had only recently received information that should be investigated before a vote on Molino's compensation.

When the council did go into closed session, Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian declined to join the discussion.

There are families in Batavia that are hurting financially, Christian said, and until the economy turns around, she can't support any increase in spending.

While the other council members huddled behind a closed door, Christian said she thinks highly of Molino.

"I am not opposed to Jason Molino by any means," Christian said. "I’m opposed to any more spending."

When the council emerged, a resolution was passed on an 8-1 vote granting Molino a 1.5-percent pay increase retroactive to April 1, 2010.

Molino makes $84,260. The top administrator in Beacon, with a population 2,000 less than Batavia, makes $123,000. In Cortland, with a slightly bigger population, the top administrator makes $101,000. Geneva's city manager makes $94,000. (See Through New York for salaries; for populations.)

Meanwhile, an audit report prepared by Freed Maxick & Battaglia shows that the city matched actual revenue with budgeted revenue in the recent fiscal year, after three consecutive years of exceeding revenue projections.

On the expenditure side of the ledger, the city, for the third-straight year kept spending below budget levels, with $445,000 saved in 2009-10.

Auditor Laura Landers (inset picture) credited the city with conservative budgeting, cuts in 2008-09, a decrease in health insurance costs, not filling vacant positions and deferring expenditures on aging equipment.

The city has been able to build a fund balance of $2.8 million over the past four years. In 2006, the fund balance was in the red $1.3 million.

The fund balance allows the city to build reserves for workers' compensation, insurance, capital projects, employee benefits and other reserves necessary to provide the city with a cushion against deficit spending.

Among the areas Molino recommends building up fund reserves for is the Department of Public Works and fire department equipment. He recommends reserves of $150,000 for DPW and $50,000 for fire. Within five years, Molino said, the fire department will need a new pumper.

"Right now, most of our equipment, if not all, is completely depreciated," Molino said. "Last year was the first time we purchased equipment in about seven or eight years."

While I was trying to take a picture of Christian alone in the council chambers, Chief Randy Baker came over and started talking with her, and then Jason Molino wanted to jump in the picture.

Peter O'Brien

Sounds to me like the city has the money to keep the Muckdogs here.... not that I want public ownership but at least the team would stay.

Sep 14, 2010, 1:35pm Permalink
jason reese

First, look at those smiles, deserving. I always say let the facts speak for themselves, several times, using this medium. But,when i'm wrong, i admit my mistake. Like Now.
The current City Manager revealed his game plan, said it would save the city money , and begin to pay off debts, lord and behold, he did.
Congratulations, think you can save the Muckdogs, again?
Yes, you deserve a raise.

Sep 14, 2010, 3:47pm Permalink

Jason isn't union. He isn't guarenteed a raise regardless of his level of performance. He has worked his tail off the past 4 years and he has done a lot of important work. The city is in a much better financial position then what it was when this mess was dumped on his lap.

I know that there are those who frankly dislike Jason. That's OK by me. I remember when I first met him right after he was saddled with everything. He was 26, in only his second position and he had only been in Batavia for a few months. I remember saying that he had the opportunity to do something really great, albeit making enemies along the way. Well you know what? He has done a great job with what he has. Congrats Jason!

Sep 14, 2010, 3:43pm Permalink
Mike Weaver

Hey Rose, if you don't give Jason a raise every once in awhile you'll lose him to a city whose council will pay him what he's worth.

He led us out of a big mess and continues to show a high level of competence. We need to make sure he doesn't look for employment elsewhere.

Sep 14, 2010, 7:08pm Permalink
B Graz

"In the years since Jason Molino took over as city manager, Batavia has gone from an annual deficit of $1.2 million to a surplus in 2009-2010 of $475,800."

Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

Good job Jason... no wait... you done good "for" doing your job. Give credit where due, and it appears that the City Manager is doing a good job by not over spending. But then one needs to ask, why are the streets getting in progressively worse condition while the city is accumulating a budget surplus? AND, why were certain city streets re-surfaced that were not in as bad shape as many others?? Why is there a full time city police officer driving around all day, every day simply to write parking tickets???

As one response indicated, of course the City Manager is not in a "union". If you want to see what a union affiliation would bring to this discussion, drive around town when the DPW crews are re-surfacing a street and notice how 1 or 2 are working while 3 or 4 are waiting/watching.

Molino receives a reasonable compensation, Batavia is not a booming city. The economy is still going to get worse regardless of what your financial gurus tell you, and the tax money spending has got to STOP... at ALL LEVELS.

As far as saving the Muckdogs... are you shittin' me? Yea, let's waste some more taxpayer money on something that only a handful of residents care about!!!

Sep 15, 2010, 10:51pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Right on B Graz...The man did his job so lets give him more money..Good question about the roads..Lets all remember they raised the tax rate and upped assessments to get to this surplus also...So lets thank the tax payer for paying more ,and give us all a raise..Thumbs up for Rosemary for at least thinking about the taxpayer of this city..

Sep 16, 2010, 12:33am Permalink
John Roach

B Graz,
Just on sidewalks. They cost a lot of money and people don't want taxes raised to pay for repair. It really is that simple.

I think the best way to get the sidewalks fixed is the way it used to be done. You give each property owner the option of fixing them on their own or having the City do it.

If the City does it, the cost is spread over 10 years on your taxes.

If the property owner does it, make them very aware it has to be done right and to code (specifications can be given).

Most people are not going to do it on their own, but might hire somebody, creating a few jobs. The City does not have a work force big enough, so it would contract out, also creating a few jobs. But it gets done.

But the owner is going to have to pay one way or the other. And you know very well that even in good times, they will not want to. They always seem to think this stuff gets done for free.

When the City stopped directly taxing for the sidewalk repair, they told us the City would do it, "for free". Since nothing is free, nothing got done.

And, if you get your way of all tax money spending being stopped, their will never be any sidewalks fixed.

Sep 16, 2010, 6:58am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Even an unskilled widget maker or ditch digger can usually anticipate an annual cost-of-living raise.

Unskilled workers are "just doing their jobs" and they get raises. And these are positions that are relatively easy to fill and just about any warm body can do the job.

In skilled positions, businesses know -- don't reward your top employees, you're going to lose them.

The city has had good city managers and bad city managers. That should pretty much prove this is a skilled position that not all people are capable of "just doing their job."

There's no middle ground here: Either the top executive is doing a good job and should be rewarded, or he's not doing his job and should be fired. There's no middle ground of "he's just doing his job and should be thankful he has a job."

Reality just doesn't work that way.

I've never known an executive who would stay in a position where if they did a good job they weren't rewarded.

Sep 16, 2010, 9:24am Permalink
Mike Weaver

You hit the nail on the head Howard. Mr. Molino has demonstrated a high level of competency. And ambition. If the city won't at the very least adjust his salary to match cost of living adjustments he WILL go find another community that is willing. And our community will have to roll the dice again and hire a new manager. Given the poor performance of the last one, and the good performance during difficult times for this one, I'd prefer we keep the one we have. Even if that means a raise every now and again.

I don't like increases in city expenses any more than the next guy but Mr. Molino has shown himslef to be a good captain in very poor seas. That ability isn't common. Or inexpensive.

Sep 16, 2010, 10:49am Permalink
Frank Bartholomew

I wouldn't object to Mr. Molino being compensated in the same range as others in his profession. But before we start the parade, the budget was balanced thru higher taxes and assessments. In the current state of this economy, the reality is, no one gets paid what they're worth. And I would be willing to bet there aren't many munincipalities knocking down Mr.Molino's door.

Sep 16, 2010, 11:16am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Thats my point also Frank..They make it sound as if Malino did this all by himself..They did alot of this by raising taxes..What has the Asst manager Kuzon been doing all this time..And why do we pay her more..Whats next give her a raise also..Shes the one that doesn't even have to live in this county...

Sep 16, 2010, 11:47am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

"I’m opposed to any more spending."

Where was this when the firefighter contract was approved behind closed doors? And on the facade of the building?

Sep 16, 2010, 11:55am Permalink
B Graz

What a bag of lunacy that's being waved around here... "don't reward your top employees, you're going to lose them". Oh yea, keep the ball rollin' [down hill]. Just like the Wall Streeters who got millions in bonuses after their companies blew it BIG TIME and then were saved {bailed out} by us tax payers because the Wall Street cartel cried "if we don't reward our top employees, we're going to lose them". WHAT BS!!! I say good riddance. Where are they gonna go in this faltering economy and cash in big? And if some find a nitch, God bless them... let the tax paying suckers in that community [or market] foot the bill. In my world, where many have not gotten a raise in 2 or 3 years, and the price of a can of kidney beans at Save-A-Lot has gone from $.33 to $.59, I say "again" to the government(s) "stop spending more... stop increasing taxes"! And if you don't get it then just keep on believing that the Carl Paladino's are not for real too.

Sep 17, 2010, 12:33am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Paladino is running for one reason, to make more money than he already has from the system. There would be no Tea Party movement if the Elected Republicans had kept their promises instead of bankrupting the country. Now their party is in shambles and broke into two pieces, split between the sane and the insane. Teabaggers want to tell us how “angry” they are but, it’s nothing more than a campaign stunt.

Sep 17, 2010, 8:02am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Nice use of the pejorative. Thanks for belittling people into a sexual act. And out the window goes all respect I had for you.

Sep 17, 2010, 8:17am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

John, daddy's boy is running for the same reason. Andrew is Albany.

Peter, I have no idea what your talking about or think I was referring to.

Sep 17, 2010, 8:56am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Peter, I didn’t name the movement. A bunch of social conservatives who see nothing wrong with sharing pictures of animal porn did.

I’m not the type that passes judgment on other people's sexual preferences. What people do with their farm animals is their business; just don’t put it in my inbox.

Sep 17, 2010, 9:42am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Charlie, "the movement" never named itself "teabaggers." The progressives did that. It's a pejorative Progressives prefer to use to belittle Tea Party adherents. Further, while social conservatives are part of the Tea Party movement, it's not a social conservative movement. It's about limited government, not bedroom monitoring.

Sep 17, 2010, 9:42am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Sorry Howard, the movement is lead by “THE” social conservative, Palin. The star of the movement is woman who spews her moral convictions about masturbation. These people are the far right social conservatives.

Sep 17, 2010, 9:53am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

The Tea Party movement is lead by no one. Sarah Palin et. al have attempted to insert themselves into it. Carl, included. These people are users, not leaders.

FWIW: I'm not defending the Tea Party or affiliating myself with it; merely being factually accurate.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:06am Permalink
John Roach

You support things the "Teabaggers" mostly support: Smaller government and lower taxes.

While individual Tea Party members may believe in additional things (Like many Dem and Rep, they don't all agree on everything), what part of their basic message don't you agree with?

Sep 17, 2010, 10:10am Permalink
Frank Bartholomew

I beleive any ship that has Palin any where near the bridge, is headed straight for the rocks.The country spoke load and clear it didn't care for her, so what makes anyone think anything has changed since McCain/Palin. The only changes I see are the ones you pointed out. Palidino has a better chance at winning the lottery, just another nut without a shell.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:19am Permalink
Dave Olsen

John, trying to paint the tea party movement as anything but an internal Republican Party group who doesn't like the party straying from the far right, is not correct. They talk about Democrats and Independents only in terms of supporting Republican candidates. I can't speak for Charlie or anyone else, obviously, but for me, the part of the basic tea party message I can't agree with is: "Republicans are the answer"

Sep 17, 2010, 10:21am Permalink
Chris Charvella

"It's about limited government, not bedroom monitoring."

Howard, you better get that memo off to Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. I think she'd beg to differ.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:27am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

John, your right, their basic message is something I completely agree with. They throw me overboard when they wheel out the social conservatives and start talking about how “angry” they are. The movement looks to be filled with a bunch of social conservative nuts. Rand Paul, Paladino, Palin and this Christine O’Donnell are the face of the movement. These are people that I wouldn’t want to be seen walking down the street with much less vote for.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:35am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Howard, Sarah Palin is the defacto leader of the New Republican Tea Party. She showed up and held hands with every one of these cooks, that’s leadership.

The Republicans are in a civil war. When they are done they will be left with two unelectable pieces. I think that anyone who believed the Republicans where going to see big gains this year should see the writing on the wall by now. Unelectable Tea candidates and main stream Republicans with only partial support of their party is what they are bringing to the table. I see this backfiring big time.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:47am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

John, you know me better than that, I would NEVER support Andrew or any of his Albany ilk. He lost me the minute he decided to abuse his power as Attorney General and put the screws to Paterson.

Sep 17, 2010, 11:12am Permalink
John Roach

Fair question, which Charlie didn't answer.

I'll go with Palidino over Cumuo. It's one hell of a choice, but while Palidino has enough baggage to fill a moving van, Cumuo is the ultimate insider Albany boy.

I believe he was a major part of the housing mess and I just do not want to vote for another NYC area guy

Sep 17, 2010, 11:37am Permalink
Chris Charvella

By the way, I know bestialist isn't a word, it's just that Webster hasn't come up with a term for 'guy who shares horse porn via email.' 'Failadino' isn't a word yet, maybe we can just use that, 'mailadino' could work too.

Sep 17, 2010, 11:43am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Why not a third party candidate who isn't a racist, sexist, bestialist freak show?" Good suggestion, Chris. Cuomo and Paladino are not the only guys running for Governor. Neither would be a good one.

Sep 17, 2010, 11:47am Permalink
C. M. Barons

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Sep 17, 2010, 12:59pm Permalink

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