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Molino makes case for funding tax base growth in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

It takes money to run a city, and economic growth is what allows a city to provide services for its resident, City Manager Jason Molino believes.

As the City Council wraps up its 2015-16 spending review, Molino is hoping council members will take some time for a serious and in-depth discussion of the revenue side of the budget picture.

"The revenue side of the budget needs focus and we need to understand how to grow that so we enhance and sustain the local economy so that we can provide quality services to residents," Molino said in an interview today. "To sustain a budget we need to ensure a consistent and steady revenue stream. This means the tax base is growing and people have more disposable income."

Molino has written a memo for council members titled "Budget Sustainability (pdf)." It lays out the case for ensuring the city takes steps to improve the economic health of Batavia.

The budget discussion so far has focused mainly on cost containment. The council has taken little time to focus on revenue, Molino says in the memo, but the reason the budget reflects a $250,000 reduction in spending isn't because of cost containment goals. It's because of anticipated declines in revenue.  The city is being forced by local economics to cut spending.

That should give council pause as it considers how to handle programs meant to improve the economic vitality of Batavia, such as the Batavia Development Corp. and Vibrant Batavia.

"Public revenue needs an employed community, so the right question is not necessarily where should we be trimming the City workforce budget, but rather, the right question is: Are City resources optimally structured to reposition Batavia as a great place to raise a family, start and operate a profitable business, and in general, appeal to families," Molino writes in the memo.

There are troubling signs in Batavia's economic outlook, Molino notes.

  • The city's taxable assessed value of property is not growing;
  • Median family income is below average and poverty is high, according to Moody's Investor Services;
  • Three of the city's six census blocks are classified "highly distressed areas";
  • Five of the city's six census blocks are deemed "low-income."

"A balanced approach to the city budget needs to include strong initiatives that will provide cost containment, but also strategic direction that will improve the quality of life," Molino writes. "Growth in the tax base and resident income are the lifeblood to supporting municipal services, as well as improved quality of life for City residents. All of our focus must be on retaining our households and repositioning Batavia in the coming years to attract more households and businesses."

There are those who believe it's not the role of government to "create jobs" or focus on economic growth. Molino disagrees.

"If you look at the past 10 years, the amount of economic growth, the big job growth, has been the result of public-private partnerships," Molino said. "The ag park, seven years in the making, is the first industrial development in Genesee County in the last 50 years. That came about because of cooperation between the city, county and town, all of us working together."

A local government that is focused on streamlining the process and marketing a community's assets is going to have more success than one that doesn't, Molino said.

"I think the attitude needs to be what are the reasons we should be doing this and not what are the reasons we shouldn't be doing it," Molino said. "It's the responsibility of a municipal government to reposition the community. If you're completely absent from funding economic growth, the community is going to be absent from opportunities for economic growth."

The city's budget is roughly $16 million and that spending, which provides all of the municipal services residents have come to expect from their local government, is entirely dependent on how well the local economy does. Without investment, not only is growth difficult, but a precipitous decline is a real possibility.

While there's no portion of the property tax levy going into funding Vibrant Batavia or the Batavia Development Corp., the amount of money needed to keep those growth projects going is less than 2 percent of the city's planned spending.

"Sure, we can reduce spending by another 10 percent, but if you don't have a vibrant community and a vibrant business base, all you're going to have is a more depressed Batavia with less capacity to provide services to residents," Molino said.

If you've downloaded the Reacht App for your smart phone, at some point within the next day, we'll ask you this poll question: Should the city fund economic growth initiatives? To download the app, click here. Those who download it will be eiligible for a chance to win a $5 gift card from Southside Deli.

Rich Richmond

Molino said in part “there's no portion of the property tax levy going into funding Vibrant Batavia”.

This is simply not true. Money collected by the City from citizens is in the form of taxes and a smaller portion in fees.

This mentioned money not spent from the previous year is the same money regardless of what dedicated fund it was first placed in and regardless how many times it is shifted from fund to fund.

Mr. Molino is engaging in the classic pea and shell game or as I call it “a sucker’s gambit”.

The pea shifted between the walnut shells is still a pea.

Mar 6, 2015, 6:13pm Permalink
Brian Graz

"... people have more disposable income." = So they should pay more in taxes.

"It's the responsibility of a municipal government to reposition the community. If you're completely absent from funding economic growth, the community is going to be absent from opportunities for economic growth." = Socialism 101

Batavia Development Corp. and Vibrant Batavia, needs to be taken out of the purview of local government and instead left to the private sector. Let those who want and could benefit from those programs fund them.

If Molino has such a need for overseeing a larger community, then perhaps he should move on to a larger community. Batavia needs a manager who understands and agrees to make the most of what is here and what is reasonably available. Like a responsible family, budget to live within your means.

Mar 6, 2015, 7:58pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Batavia Development Corp. has not in the last three years produced any improvement to Main St....the Mall is still dead and the other side on Main is still dead...It is to me is a wasted venture..That money should be used for city infrastructure..The streets in Batavia are in bad shape..East Ave,is a good example.It was just repaved a few years ago and is full of pot holes. .

Mr.Malino talks about the ag park and its growth..Alpina is laying off people and has half the employment it promised when asking for its tax abatement's.For the millions of tax payer dollars poured into it i don't think we got much bang for our buck..

Poll after poll show that the taxpayers of the city of Batavia do not want to fund his pet projects..And those are the people who count...Most in Batavia didn't want the Asst manger,VB or the BDC to be funded.City council should do what the taxpayers want and not what Mr.Malino wants ..If those on city council choose not to listen to the people they represent then it is time to vote them out of office........

The city of Batavia can't even remove the snow from Main St. and Mr.Malino wants funds for BDC,VB,and the asst.manager.......

Mar 6, 2015, 10:36pm Permalink
John Roach

Molino failed to point out that out of the VLT money he wants to give the BDC, at least $70,000 goes to help BDC pay just one person, handpicked by Molino.
That VLT should go towards the new Police station.
Molino also is not being fully truthful about Vibrant Batavia (VB). The money e wants to give them will come from what he calls "surplus money" left over from last year. That was out tax money he decided we should not get back, but give away.

Molino also wants to give VB $45,000 this year, and then have VB give the City back $5,000 to help replace a slide that was damaged at Austin Park and taken out of the budget this year. Yep, give VB money so they can give it back to us. That way he can say he tried to hold down taxes and VB can say look what we did for you. On top of that, we pay somebody to work for VB to take our own money and give it back to us, and then give 5% of the money to a Rochester group to oversea this.

Molino has to go and lucky for us, this year we have people running for Council that will fire him if they win.

Mar 8, 2015, 11:27am Permalink
Mark Potwora

John Roach problem is our ward 1 councilperson Doeringer does not listen to what the majority of his district wants.He is a cheerleader for VB..He needs to recluse himself from voting on its funding...He has been a poor excuse for a councilperson of ward 1...

Mar 8, 2015, 12:16pm Permalink
John Roach

Mark, while I agree Doeringer clearly does not care what the majority of people want, his being a cheerleader for giving our money away does not mean he should recuse himself.

On the other hand, we can vote him out in November.

Mar 8, 2015, 12:47pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

John ..He sits on their yes i think he should recluse himself..Conflict of interest..Just like Malino does...and Julie Pacatte..Even those the last two listed can't vote on funding , they work for the city and push this personal agenda that uses our tax dollars..

Mar 8, 2015, 2:26pm Permalink
John Roach

Mark, I know. But many council members sit on committees that end up having money spent on them (BID) for example.

And it is not a conflict of interest. That only comes into play, as you know when their is a direct financial gain possible. The resolution is to vote out anyone who votes for this VB money, the VLT money to go to the BDC and keeping the Assistant Manager.

Of course, the Charter calls for an Assistant, but it does not say it has to be a separate, stand alone, job. It can go back to the way it was.

Mar 8, 2015, 2:55pm Permalink

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