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Council passes $21 million budget, with tax increase, on 7-2 vote

By Howard B. Owens

It's now official -- city property owners can expect a 1.5-percent rate increase in property taxes.

On a 7-2 vote last night, the Batavia City Council approved the 2010/11 budget, which comes in at $21.7 million in expenditures.

The no votes came from Councilman Sam Barone and Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian.

"If this budget passes, the only thing we will be doing is squeezing and choking off the middle class," Christian said.

Christian's areas of concern, she said during the meeting, were legal fees, community celebrations, a drop in sales tax last month, the high cost of youth services and she called $527,000 for parks "outrageous." She also objected to the transfer of water funds to the general fund and said the contingency fund is much too low, especially since it's likely that police officers will win an arbitration case granting them retroactive pay raises.

Christian also complained that constituents in the Sixth Ward have reported high reassessments, from $7,000 to $11,000 more, for their homes.

"This is really going to hurt these people," Christian said.

During the public comments section of the meeting, before the budget vote, city resident Daniel Del Plato spoke vehemently against the proposed budget, saying city taxpayers couldn't handle any further tax increases.

"You're trying to get blood from stones," Del Plato said.

She also objected to a pay raise for non-union employees, which did pass in a separate motion on a 5-4 vote. Voting no were Christian, Barone and council members Bill Cox and Bob Bialkowski.

The council also approved plans to raise water rates and seek bonds to fund the start of a five-year or longer process of water infrastructure upgrades. Barone voted no on both resolutions.

dennis wight

nearly 40% of my mortgage payment goes into escrow for school and property tax...isn't that a bit ridiculous? I wonder how many properties will be in the city's auction next year..what a great deal for the city. Cut services, raise taxes, seize and sell property worth tens of thousands of dollars for an outstanding tax bill of a couple thousand dollars. Just doesn't seem right. Thanks for trying to stand up for us, Rose and Sam, without you we may be looking at a 8% increase or more.

Feb 23, 2010, 7:07pm Permalink
Karen Miconi

And So It Goes Again, The Only Thing Accomplished, By Certain Members Of Council, Was a Raise For Non-Union City Workers...?? My, My, My.... More $$$$$$$ going out, and a big fat "0" for the taxpayers of Batavia. I think the message is quite clear, coming from some members of council. (We could give a hoot, what you people think, or what happens to you all financially in these hard times) and (We will stand firm on "our" decisions). Its about tit for Tat. (We'll teach that firemans union a thing or two). Sad, Sad , Sad... Burn us once, shame on us, burn us twice, shame on YOU! I think we all have learned a lesson, the past few weeks....

Two questions I would ask Marianne, Jason, and Kathy, about the unfair treatment of Mike Pullinzi, and the public humiliation you bestowed on him and his family, would be "Would You Have Done That, To One Of Your Family Or Friends")? Oh and- Are there any "Renters" in the NIC? After all,they are, a part of our neighborhoods.

I still don't get why Rosemary Christian, is not head of council. She clearly gets it, and has the best interests of the taxpayers, and Our City, Batavia in mind, but didnt win? I guess the other canidates, had more friends, in important places.
Rosemary, Sam, Bill, Bob, and Dan. Thank You, for your knowlege, keen intuition, and perserverance. It has not, gone unnoticed.

Feb 23, 2010, 9:50pm Permalink

In these times when it's alot harder to pay weekly bills and manage on lower incomes; our city decides to raise taxes and squeezes the middle class, yet again. We need to run the city, like I run my household; if I can't afford it, I don't spend it.....get it. I know my council representative voted for this; and good luck next time getting my vote.

Feb 23, 2010, 9:21pm Permalink
Patrick Mruczek

I cannot believe these people. I urge everyone to move out of Batavia, find a way. If this council really cared about this community, they would downsize themselves to five council members. They ask everyone else to do more with less and yet they have the gall to say how much they have on their plate to take care of within their ward. Many of us, have two or three jobs at minimum wage in order to try and maintain a roof over our heads and food on the table. I for one am glad I'm leaving the armpit of New York. Again, I implore you to find a way to leave. If you can't, then by all means vote in order to change things. On the election stage, your vote means so much more on the local level then in any other arena in politics. We should not be treated like a bunch of mushrooms, fed a bunch of horse manure and left in the dark. Being a disabled veteran on a limited income, leaves me with very few other options but to leave. I can't reduce my insurance anymore on the home, we have a strict budget we do, but these next round of increases has put us over the edge. Maybe someone can organize a "get out of Batavia" campaign so that we can all find somewhere else to go - Alexander, Bethany, Town of Batavia, etc., just a thought. So many bad decisions, a prime example - closing the police station at night. I am sure that the lady that got her face pummeled at the police station would agree!!! This council just will not listen to the people, so there are only two choices again. I have made mine - good luck with yours.

Feb 23, 2010, 10:55pm Permalink
John Roach

Last meeting two weeks ago, only one person spoke about taxes.

This Monday two people spoke. One wanted no tax increase and one wanted MORE, for street repair.

That's a total of 3 people who bothered to show up.

Feb 24, 2010, 6:26am Permalink
dennis wight

John, i think people have come to the realization that it doesn't matter what the public wants, decisions have been made before the public gets to voice its opinion. Raises for city employees??? Give me a break!! Tax us more and give it to someone else, seems like the way of this country lately.

Feb 24, 2010, 6:44am Permalink
John Roach

I think it does matter.

There were 3-4 times the people could have said something, but they didn't.

When only two people spoke at the last meeting, and one wanted MORE taxes, to fix streets, and one wanted none, what was Council to think? That was 50-50.

You look at the budget, and except for the pay raise for 6 full time and 11 part time people, and the Youth Department, there was very little that could be cut.

I spoke before about cutting the Youth Department, but nobody else did.

And on water rates, remember, Monroe County sets the rate. We have no say in the rate increases, none.

Feb 24, 2010, 7:10am Permalink


I know that you have a personal disdain for the youth department, but I think it's time that you and Ms. Christian represent real fact.

The Youth department's TOTAL budget is 153,000 in which much of that is reimbursed to the city, meaning NO cost to the tax levy! As a whole without that reimbursement, that equates to 1.2% of the TOTAL budget!!!

When John, will we have a conversation about REAL tax relief and start talking about the departments that could actually GIVE us that change!!!!!! TWO department equal 50% of our Budget, yet no one has the stones on this council to call that into question? The Police and Fire budgets did not go down compared to last year! Why? As a matter of fact, How much did the little raise that we gave the unions last year was part of the reason of this increase?

I ran on a Police/Fire consolidation while everyone else dodge and skirted that issue. You and I spoke John about the challenges, but neither one of us left saying it couldn't be done! The money that could be saved would be HUGE on the levy. THAT's REAL CHANGE!!! When will that conversation happen, John?

We are looking at a bull in the eyes and all this council wants to do is trim his nails!

Feb 24, 2010, 8:31am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I bet if 12 or so people had shown up to the council meeting last night and spoken out against any part or all of the budget as proposed, the outcome of the vote might have been very different.

What I'm saying -- it doesn't take much, especially with four media outlets there covering it -- to put some pressure on any elected body.

It's often said, if you don't vote you don't have any right to complain. I'm not sure I agree with that. But I think it can be more truly said -- if you don't show up to the public meetings where these things are decided, your ability to legitimately complain is greatly reduced.

If you don't like the council decisions, I can think of no legitimate reason as to why you're not showing up to the meetings and making your position heard.

Writing comments on The Batavian can be a great way to vent and possibly educate some fellow citizens and get them on your side of the issue, but unless you're showing up at the meetings, your ability to make a difference are greatly diminished. There's just no substitute for showing up.

Feb 24, 2010, 8:38am Permalink
Karen Miconi

Howard,and John, I for one, will never attend a council meeting. To me, it would be like walking into a "Lions Den", or a Black Widow Spiders Nest. I also will never break bread, with people I dont trust, and would never grovel at their feet.
Some of council are like Wild-Cats backed into a corner. They are scurring around, trying to find money, to pay for all the lawsuits pending against the city. It is because of their negligence, and lack of action, lack of knowlege, selfishness, narrowmindedness, and blatent disregard, that the taxpayer have been "Tied to the Whipping Post". Whats the use? Its a losing battle... I find myself, a very disapointed "Voter". My Vote Made "NO" Difference. I shouldnt have bothered. I thought these people were appointed to work for us, the people of Batavia... Boy was I wrong.......

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Feb 25, 2010, 1:41pm Permalink
Sara Burk-Balbi

I believe that the only way to make changes is to stand up and tell Council what you believe. Granted the best way of doing that is showing up to meetings. If you are not comfortable with going to the meetings, then the next best way is to send letters the our elected officials and local media groups. I think that it is sad that many of the residents in our City have this give up attitude. We have to as a community voice our opinions. We have to get excited about living here in Batavia and speak up for what we are believing. Last summer during my campaign, Phil and I met so many people who were wanting change, real change! We need these people now to start standing up to Council so that next year, the City Tax Payers will not be looking at another Tax increase!!!

Feb 24, 2010, 9:33am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Karen; I love this song, thanks. Not many people know this, but Gregg Allman used to (or maybe still does) own a house somewhere off of Hertel Ave in Buffalo. I said hello to him and Cher in the Eastern Hills mall around Christmas time in the late 70's. They told me thanks, but didn't want to hang around and talk for obvious reasons. He had the house because he could do things like walk through a mall, go to a bar etc and not be noticed often. True story, a friend of mine met him when he did some work on his car at a shop on Hertel Ave.

Feb 24, 2010, 10:34am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

I am truly baffled by this feeling of hopelessness when it comes to local government. It’s nothing more than an excuse for a pure lack of real interest. With our National or State Government, I understand and share your concerns, they are both completely broken.

Making a rational pitch to individual Council members or if you’re so inclined a speech during a Council meeting will get you results. At the very least it will get you more information about why something is happening.

Feb 24, 2010, 10:57am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Charlie..The city budget seemed like a done deal when Malino presented it with a 3% increase in taxes.Frank Frerrando asked that it be cut down to a 1.5 %..So Malino came back and took out money that was to be added for equipment..That was the budget processes as i see it...Their was no other council involvement..All we here is we can't cut anything ...All they did was give out some raises...So why wouldn't the public feel hopeless..Many taxpayers called and wrote against this..How many called and wrote for the increase..I'll bet it seems as business as usual at 1 City Center....The tax rate needs to come down and all they plan is to just keep on raising taxes.....

Feb 24, 2010, 11:15am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Mark, there is only one way to bring down the tax rate. Eliminate services or consolidate them away. The minute you want to talk about cutting jobs in this town, the outrage and yard signs come out.

Who in their right mind would talk about cutting something for real in this town? Oh, that’s right Phil did during the last election and he got smoked.

Feb 24, 2010, 11:27am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Don’t think for one second that fact is lost on those who won the election last year. It is better for local politicians to fain outrage and grandstand about insubstantial cuts than make the tough ones that need to be made.

Feb 24, 2010, 1:37pm Permalink
John Roach

To a point Charlie is right. What would you cut?
Cut Police? No public support
Cut Fire? No public support
Cut Youth? Read Phil's comment above
Cut Snow Plowing? Try to get to work
Cut Street repair? There are already too many pot holes.

And most of the increase in the budget was for union raises, legal fees for things like being sued by the Mall merchants and utility increases (gas, electric, water, etc).

Already the DPW is down staff and so is the Police Department. Dispatch was moved and the ambulance service eliminated.

Not a lot of room left, so they cut money for equipment which could come back and bite us.

Feb 24, 2010, 11:50am Permalink
Mark Janofsky

If council put together viable consolidation plans for the various departments and put it on the ballot, this would be a resolved. The people decide without the political suicide.

Feb 24, 2010, 12:17pm Permalink
Mark Janofsky

Dave O, I grew up in North Buffalo in the Hertel/Parkside area. In the 70’s, 1 or 2 times a year, I would see Greg and/or Cher at the drug store at the corner of Hertel & Parkside. I’m pretty sure they didn't own, but stayed with friends. The place they stayed was at the end of Parkside Ave., sandwiched between Medaille College, Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Scajaquada Expressway.

Feb 24, 2010, 12:30pm Permalink
John Roach

At 8:31 AM, today, you said you ran on that issue, and you lost. That tells me there is no public support.

There are a some people who agree with you, but they are a small minority right now.

That does not mean it can not be done, and the public might change its mind in the future. But right now, I don't hear majority support for dropping our Police or Fire Departments.

But, while not scientific, the poll yesterday seems to show majority support for consolidating Youth Services

Feb 24, 2010, 12:21pm Permalink
Mark Janofsky

About a year ago there was a “study” done by the county assessor. The study stated well over a million dollars would be saved by county wide (county, city, villages, towns) consolation of this activity. Now that the County’s, Town and City of Batavia’s assessors have or will be retiring, is this being looked at? I would think the county’s replacement would come from one of the municipal positions around the county. It seems like the perfect time to do it.

Feb 24, 2010, 12:44pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

John how about making all these tax exempt properties pay for the services they receive..Trash pick up for one,that is a good part of the budget...I don't think the city needs to plow every side walk in Batavia..The homeowner is spose to do it..They don't have the city plow their driveway,so why should they plow their sidewalk..The police and fire are big costs to the city ,how are they trying to control those costs..Maybe we need to have stiffer fines for some of these crimes that need police attention as a way to pay for the police force.We need to have more of a county wide police dept...What happened to all the talk about making the fire dept part volunteer..Like Charlie said alot of grandstanding..But i would say that with out some way to stop the tax increases every year ,the city will never grow its tax base which is the only way to increase revenues with out taking more from all of us..

So what are they going to do next year at budget time..Same thing just raise more taxes...We are over assessed in this city. Just on our street alone John all the properties that sold last year,were all sold for less then they were assessed at..Thats a huge ripoff right there ..Back in 2006 the tax rate was 7.75 today its 10.18 on top of higher assessments.Thats an increase of over 25%in less then 5 years.What wrong with this picture...Like Phil said where is the action.There is none....

Feb 24, 2010, 12:47pm Permalink

So John my losing the election is now a public referendum on Police and Fire consolidation? Really? That is a weak arguement.When was there a poll asking that question I wonder?

The poll yesterday asked if the two agencies should merge? The same question was asked if we should merge the City and Town? We got the same response! The average person associates merger with cost savings! I know I would, but when you look at the proposal that was put out by the Consolidation committee, there wasn't a lot of savings!!! JUST LIKE THERE WOULDN'T BE FOR YOUTH SERVICES!!!! You avoided the part of my comment that showed actual cost didn't you?

Mark points out good stuff! All of those questions are pretty obvious, but what is being asked? NOTHING is happening that will amount to real reform. I'm tired of talk, I want some movement!

Feb 24, 2010, 1:24pm Permalink
Mary E DelPlato

People like me have become apathetic to the circus meetings that effect us because why waste time and breath. I remember a meeting that the room was filled to capacity and Mrs. Jamalkowski and Bob Radley and many others spoke in opposition to a tax increase. City council ignored thier pleas and voted to raise them anyway. So,duh!!!!!This is why no one really cares to fight. LOL what a joke! I really want to leave but my family is all I have. I just may have to travel to visit.

Feb 24, 2010, 1:52pm Permalink
John Roach

You were the one who said you ran a election on doing something about the Police and Fire Departments. And you lost (I lost before also).

In my opinion, an election is a referendum, or a "poll". Your idea/platform lost, so it is fair to say there is no public support.

Don't be too defensive. I never said you were wrong about the Police and Fire, just that right now there is no widespread support.

As you pointed out, those two departments are 50% of the city budget. As time goes on and the costs increase more and more, people might come around to your way of thinking. Consider yourself just ahead of your time.

I'd do away with the sidewalk plow except for downtown. The Business district pay extra taxes for that kind of service, so that's fair. On top of that, many of the sidewalks on the south side are too narrow for the plow, so they are paying taxes and not getting the service.

I favor a fee system for garbage, so that non profits pay, like you do. But since it is now under property taxes, many get to write it off on their Federal income taxes. And many, like don't want their favorite non profit to have to pay. Again, this has come up before and more people like it the way it is than you and me.

Feb 24, 2010, 2:33pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Come on John, people don't vote based on a candidates stand on issues. Batavia is no different than anywhere else in this country. People vote for someone they know, whoever had campaign ads they liked, or they just vote for the party slate. Elections are popularity contests, not referendums.

Feb 24, 2010, 2:41pm Permalink
Karen Miconi

Can someone please explain what the "Tea Party Movement Groups" are all about. What do they represent and what are they fighting against. Maybe we should start a "Tea Party" of our own, here in our Beautiful City. Imagine That...

Feb 24, 2010, 6:11pm Permalink
terry paine

Tea parties started around the time Ron Paul started his presidential campaign. This was originally a grass roots movement with no central organizer. These groups were mostly Libertarians that believe in personal property rights,and that government's role should be limited to defending our shores (not empire building around the world)
Since the last election both the term "tea parties" and the term libertarian have been greatly watered down by angry republicans that lost their power. These ousted republicans are now chanting for smaller government which is hypocritical given the record government growth and interference over the course of their stint in power.

I have a question for defenders of our current failing system. With the current tax burden on a household ranging from 50-60% of their income, what do think should happen to someone who doesn't need most of these services and can't afford the increases.

Feb 24, 2010, 6:11pm Permalink
Karen Miconi

Terry, I dont think they care, if families cant afford it. Thanks for the heads up on the Tea party Business. Someone told me, that the movements are spreading, and the American People are starting to fight back, against corrupt government. I hope so, cause thats what its going to take. Unity

Feb 24, 2010, 6:16pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

The problem, in my opinion is that organized libertarians aren't really libertarians. I can't pick a political party to join, they all seem to harbor some agenda I can't get behind.

Feb 24, 2010, 7:09pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

He's great. I like that he doesn't take part in the pension program, and won't vote for anything that isn't specifically addressed in the Constitution. Gettin' a bit long in the tooth though.

Feb 24, 2010, 7:33pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Ron Paul's dirty little secret, though, is he gets is pork hidden in bills he votes against that he knows are going to pass.

Feb 24, 2010, 8:49pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

That was pointed out to him. He says that if the money is going to be spent, some of it might as well go back to his constituents. I see that as valid. He is just being practical. I remember, Howard, you writing a while back that pork is still pork even if it's our pork. I think as a representative, he can't be idealistic always. This system is a mess.

Feb 24, 2010, 9:28pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Between Ron Paul, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romeny (as the candidate favored by the beltway establishment conservatives, who hate Paul and Palin), the GOP presidential primary in 2012 might be very, very entertaining.

Feb 24, 2010, 10:22pm Permalink
bud prevost

Dave said "The problem, in my opinion is that organized libertarians aren't really libertarians. I can't pick a political party to join, they all seem to harbor some agenda I can't get behind."

I encourage you to learn more about the Modern Whig party.

Feb 25, 2010, 6:54am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Howard wrote, “Ron Paul's dirty little secret, though, is he gets is pork hidden in bills he votes against that he knows are going to pass.”

I used to think Ron Paul was a person of honor. That’s all I need to know about the man. If this is true he is a politician through and through. Dirty to the core.

Feb 25, 2010, 9:25am Permalink

I disagree with you Charlie. I know that you are not a fan of Federal spending, but I have heard you say time after time; "If you don't go after grant money, somebody else will." Same concept for Ron Paul.

He has been apart of groups trying to remove ear marks and it has failed. Why shouldn't his constituients benefit from some of that money?

Feb 25, 2010, 9:43am Permalink
Dave Olsen

And it's not a "dirty little secret" either, he's pretty upfront about it. I can't blame him for not advertising it, but when asked, he answers. Straight answers about anything by politicians are rare enough. Although, I think Charlie is being sarcastic.

Feb 25, 2010, 11:59am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Phil, you should know me better than that. That is the same thing people used to pick on me for.

Regardless of your feelings toward the wasteful spending, there is no excuse for your community not to get its fair share. The best thing to do is vote no but, make sure if it passes there is an even distribution of the pork.

Feb 25, 2010, 8:44pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

If you don't like taxes your only choice is to get out of Batavia. Then they will have no one to tax, no stupid government programs to run, and no money to provide services or pay overpaid city union workers.

Feb 26, 2010, 11:29am Permalink

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