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September 23, 2013 - 9:25pm

Auditor finds city's financial position improves for fifth straight year

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Press release:

In a presentation to City Council on Monday Sept. 23, Freed Maxick auditor Laura Landers, praised the City’s sixth straight year of strategic financial management and continued progress. Landers addressed City Council as part of the City’s year-end review

Highlights from Lander’s presentation included the continual progress the City has been making in becoming more financially stable. The City completed its sixth consecutive year of the general fund revenues exceeding expenditures and both water and sewer funds continue to maintain healthy cash balances. Landers also mentioned the City’s commitment to building reserves for future capital improvements.

“Another year of successful operations is a significant win with the City of Batavia,” said Jason Molino, city manager. “After facing six years of tough decisions and thorough planning, City Council’s due diligence and conservative budgeting has helped create a stable foundation for the City to complete the important capital improvements, like the Richmond Avenue/North Street paving project that was completed this year.”

Third Ward City Councilmember John Canale, a member of the City’s Audit Advisory Committee, shared his thoughts on the City’s financial improvement, “Once again this year, we receive confirmation that the city is headed in the right direction financially. This year's financial audit reinforces the actions that city management and City Council have taken, and continue to take, to create not only a positive cash flow, but the ability to accomplish major infrastructure improvements, and much needed capital equipment purchases, while at the same time building our reserve funds for future city-wide improvements and emergency needs. The financial future of this City is looking very bright.”

Fourth Ward City Councilmember Pier Cipollone, also a member of the City’s Audit Advisory Committee, supported the City’s efforts with the following comments, “The audit report continues to show the progress we have made over the past six years. The financial health of the City forms the foundation for everything we need to do as we move forward, from infrastructure improvements to providing needed services. I look forward to working with Jason and City Council to continue this trend.”

In 2006, Freed Maxick’s presentation of the City’s financial position was significantly different than it is today. At the time, the City ran a general fund deficit of almost $1.2 million and had a negative fund balance of $2.2 million. Furthermore, the City’s water, sewer and ambulance funds continued to experience operating deficits for years prior.

The City’s financial position began to show signs of improvement when in June 2011, Moody’s Investor Services affirmed the City’s “A2” bond rating and assigned the City a “positive outlook.” Moody’s assignment of the positive outlook acknowledged a modest financial position by specifically identifying City management’s ability to restore financial health, establishment of specific reserve funds, negotiated manageable settlements with three of its unions, which included wage freezes and healthcare concessions and the adoption for the City’s Strategic Plan.

The City’s reassurance that they were on the path to financial recovery was seconded in July 2012 when Moody’s upgraded the City’s bond rating from “A2” to “A1.” The upgrade reflected the City’s improved financial position marked by five consecutive years of operating surpluses as well as the City’s practice of conservative budgeting of both revenues and expenditures.

“What makes this past year’s accomplishments so unique is the fact that we identified Financial Health as goal in the City’s Strategic Plan three years ago, and improving the bond rating was a major objective,” Molino continued. “Achieving that particular goal will now lay the ground work for the City to achieve future successes in other priorities such as economic development and neighborhood revitalization.”

The City of Batavia’s Strategic Planning process is the foundation from which the City’s Business Plan for services and annual budget are based. The intent of the Strategic Plan is to allocate City resources to best meet the needs of our residents, while balancing the environmental factors that may affect the City in the future.

The City’s Strategic Plan identifies seven Strategic Priorities: Financial Health; Governmental Efficiency; Economic Development and Job Creation; Neighborhood Revitalization; Environmental Sustainability; Public Safety and Health; and Involved Community Members. The Strategic Plan has developed a performance measurement system, by identifying 24 Key Intended Outcomes (KIOs), to measure annual results of City initiatives against the Plan.

Marty Macdonald
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Great job City Council and Mr. Molino.

Mark Potwora
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They did it by raising the tax rate every year..the tax rate in 2005 was $ 7.37 per thousand in 2012 the tax rate was 10.71 per thousand....The only thing they did was raise everybody taxes by over 30% to reach the goal..At the same time property assessments also went up...Thank the city tax payer not Malino or city council....

John Roach
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Mark,
You also know that they cut the workforce to do this. And the old council almost never fixed a sidewalk, this year they are spending over a quarter of a million dollars on sidewalks and some say that is not enough. Well, it cost money. Paving Richmond/North streets cost us around $300,000. If you want, you can cut back on repairs, that will lower taxes. We could not fix the Salt Barn, or not replace any more fire trucks. We can get rid of the Police Department.

If you want less, you pay less.

Michael Pullinzi
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Plus don't forget, everyone is now paying more by paying for their own trash collection. Every one of my mortgage payments went up this year. The trash collection removal was supposed to reduce our taxes, but we pay more taxes and have less services now. Mark is correct the only thing that has been managed is the taxpayes who are paying more and getting less.

John Roach
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Mike,
If you are paying more, and still use ARC, who was paying the difference before? And what less service? If you still use ARC, the service is the same, you just have to pay the true cost yourself, but it is the same service. And both Mark and I are now paying less for our trash pickup, but we do not use ARC.

Mark Potwora
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Wrong John i am not paying less....My taxes went down 170 dollars... I pay 200 dollars for trash...If any thing it might be a wash...But at least i have choice..I have no problem with that...My point was before city council gives them self's pats on the back ,that it was only thru higher taxes that allowed this positive report..Its only thru higher taxes that they fix the sidewalks and streets. It was by taking more money from all property owners over the last 6 years that made any this happen..Also look at the increase in pay for all city management over that same time period..Thank the taxpayer ......I didn't see that come out of the audit...

Tim Miller
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Mark - maybe the credit should be shared.

Sometimes it takes balls for an elected official to do what is needed, such as raise taxes if the previous administrations had left crumbling infrastructure and dangerous situations. They did what they felt was necessary to bring the city's infrastructure up to snuff.

And sometimes it takes balls for citizens to not revolt at the idea that (as John noted) it costs money for these things.

I'm not a resident of Batavia, and only visit sporadically, so I cannot say that my scenario above is accurate. But to an outsider it doesn't look unreasonable.

John Roach
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Mark
Sorry, I thought you went in with a neighbour like others did. I went per bag and average $3.24 every two weeks.
Tim, you are right, it is both.

Michael Pullinzi
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Paying more taxes John, not for trash. I know you are one that touted separating trash into a separate system and are happy with the change, but you are definately one of very few that feel it has been a good change for the City. Time will tell. On your question of paying more and getting less let me try to explain it to you this way. If I charge you $10 for a Orange, Apple, Pear, and Banana this year and next year charge you $12 for a Orange, Apple, and Pear and tell you to go buy your own Banana from Tops that is is comparible to the trash separation. Paying more and getting less. Get it now? :)

John Roach
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Mike,

And if you are paying more now, as you say you are, then who paid the difference before? Somebody else was paying your share and I don't feel bad that now you have to pay your fair share. I don't feel bad nobody has to pay for me. And I am not at all sorry that two new companies have started up that give us a choice.

To use your example, you paid $10 for that Orange, Apple, Pear and Banana. Now you pay $9 for the Orange, Apple and Pear, but have to pay $1.50 for that Banana at Tops. Who was paying that extra .50 cents before since you now pay the true cost on your own? Pay for your own Banana and stop asking us to pay your way.

Michael Pullinzi
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I tried to simplify things for you John, but you still don't seem to get it. Great that you are saving a few dollars, basically because your house is assessed more than most citizens and because you are able to generate only one bag of trash every two weeks, but it is not all about you. You hawked this new system as a tax lowering plan for all. I disputed that and as it turns out only a few with high assessed homes are saving anything significant. The majority are paying more taxes and now have the burden of separate trash disposal on top of that. I understand you like it, I'm not complaining because I am paying more as you keep trying to spin it, I'm complaining because most are paying more so YOU can have a small discount and because you basically lied when pushing this plan as a benefit to all when the reality is it benefited you and a small number of others. I'm arguing the point for the majority of citizens. I understand you are saving a few dollars and don't care about the burden it puts on some elderly, or new families starting out, or for those not having large value homes. But it's not all about you or your saving a few dollars. Government is for the people not just John Roach and should be for the greater good of a community and not just a few. Majority rules and, in time, we will see how the majority of tax payers feel about this boondoggle you have supported.

John Roach
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Mike,
As for the elderly, they all would have paid less with that Allied contract ($100 per year), which most people were against . In fact, with Allied, almost everyone would be paying less, but we would have been required to have totes and no choice. And even now at least one new company offers a senior discount

If you really believed garbage should be publically funded, you would have pushed for it to be done by municipal employees, not a private organization. And you would have gone to your own Batavia Town board and would have said the same to them, garbage in the taxes and no choice in service. While the geographical size and population size of the Town and City are different, the principle is the same. Or you would support a lowest bid contract, property tax based, with no favorites and no preferred vendors for both the City and Town. Tell me when you will go to the Town Board for this, I want to be there.

And true, this November people can elect the ones who promised to work for ARC's return as the only option, and back in the property taxes , the Democrats.

Just so nobody gets the wrong impression, Mike and I have know each other since the 80's and agree on most issues. This is not personal, just philosophical on what is and what is not a government, taxpayer funded, responsibility.

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