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January 21, 2015 - 5:16pm

Council response to budget muted and mixed after first work session

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Budget.

A budget that drops spending by $300,000, even with a tax increase, is a little more palatable than a budget proposal that increases spending and raises taxes, Councilman Gene Janokowski offered near the end of a budget workshop in City Hall on Tuesday night.

There's an element of the council that agrees with Janokowski's balanced take on the administration's proposed budget, with its property tax increase of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, said Council President Brooks Hawley after the meeting.

There are also those who side with Councilman John Deleo, who is having a hard time accepting the thought of any tax increase.

His senior constituents, many on fixed incomes, and his working constituents who haven't had a raise in pay in years are telling him to say no to a tax increase, he said.

"If I want to keep my seat, I've got to answer up to them," Deleo said.

In response, City Manager Jason Molino said the proposed budget continues the conservative revenue and expenditure projections that have been part of his administration's strategies for the past several years and have helped guide the city into calmer fiscal waters.

"We've stuck to the core fundamentals of budgeting," Molino said. "As long as there are no outliers, no huge unexpected expenses and no big dips in revenue, over a 10-year period, you can expect taxes to fluctuate within 3 percent, up to a 3-percent increase or a 3-percent decrease. Generally, residents can live with minor fluctuations in either direction, but what gets you into trouble (are) 4- and 5- and 6-percent increases."

He cautioned against using reserves to balance the budget because that's what puts municipalities in a bad spot and eventually leads to those big tax increases.

The proposed budget anticipates a continued slump in gas prices, cutting heavily into the 18 percent of the city's sales tax revenue that comes from fuel sales, and doesn't assume growing consumer confidence and greater buying power will necessarily lead to sales tax growth in the retail sector.

For the average homeowner, the tax increase and higher water rate will add up to only $27 a year in added expense, Molino said.

Deleo said he knows that doesn't sound bad, but his constituents want no tax increase under any circumstances.

Hawley said it's too early to predict how the council as a whole will direct Molino to modify the budget, if at all.

"I think the administration as a whole did a good job on the budget, but it's just a proposed budget and this is just our first meeting during the session," Hawley said. "We've still got a couple of months yet to look at it. There are some good things and there are some things we might want to change. For right now, I appreciate the administration coming here tonight and laying everything out in front of us."

The budget workshop is a chance for the city's department heads to explain expenditure requests and for council members to ask questions. The session went from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and included all departments except police and fire, which the council will hear from after Monday's regular meeting.

The proposed budget can be downloaded here (pdf).

Here are some highlights:

  • Proposed $318,558 on sidewalks for Redfield Parkway, Allen Street, Holland Avenue, North Street, Olyn Avenue and 27 curb ramps at these locations;
  • $201,800 on road resurfacing;
  • $217,050 on legal services, including $57,550 prosecutorial services;
  • Six upgraded computers and support subscriptions for city computers at $23,544;
  • Wireless service for City Hall and citywide IT support, $50,625;
  • The summer recreation program, $68,000;
  • New roof on the youth center, $25,000;
  • Total Youth Services spending, $194,715;
  • Budget for the Bureau of Inspection, $329,965;
  • In Public Works, a purchase of cab and chassis, $20,000;
  • The total street maintenance budget is $607,115;
  • Fuel costs, $66,500 for diesel and $21,020 for gasoline;
  • Total budget for the Public Works garage, $495,345;
  • The total cost of snow removal, $541,830, with $150,360 for sodium chloride, $20,800 for parts and equipment;
  • Powering the city's public lights, $220,000, plus another $16,000 to power traffic lights;
  • Replacing vandalized park equipment will cost $10,500 for Austin Park slides;
  • Tree removal and trimming parks, $25,000; tree replacement, $13,900;
  • Total parks budget, $217,150;
  • Street cleaning, $39,270;
  • The fire department proposed budget is $3.9 million, with $2 million in base salaries, $125,000 in overtime, $139,390 in holiday hours, a $35,000 one-ton utility vehicle, $21,000 in professional development and training, a $549,190 contribution to the state retirement fund, $188,430 for Social Security taxes;
  • The police budget is $4 million -- $2.1 million for base salaries, $220,000 for overtime, $12,000 for the emergency response team overtime, $85,000 for holiday pay, $63,360 for two patrol vehicles, $61,000 for gas, $44,870 for uniforms and body armor, $19,000 for travel and training, $38,000 for new officer training, $539,980 for the state retirement fund and $194,340 for Social Security tax, and $434,610 for medical insurance.
John Roach
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Every $50,000 in spending equals about 1% of the budget. Eliminate the new Assistant City Manager position, that costs a bit over $100,000 and there will be no 1.47% tax increase. No Assistant-no tax increase.

Another way of looking at it is that the only reason we will have a tax increase is to pay for the new Assistant Manager.

Robert Brown
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Eliminating the Assistant City Manager position is a great start.

Rich Richmond
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I agree with both John Roach and Robert Brown. If the City Manger wants an assistant he should pay this 1.47% luxury tax out of his own pocket.....not ours.

Brian Graz
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Want to cut the city budget and reduce taxes? Take a lesson from the Town of Amherst.

1) Eliminate the paid/professional fire department.
Compare:
- The City of Batavia has approx 15,000 population, and is 5.2 sq miles large, and spends $3.9Million.
- The Town of Amherst has approx 123,000 population and is 53.5 sq miles, has 10 fire companies, and they are ALL VOLUNTEER.

2) Reduce the police department.
Compare:
- The City of Batavia has 30 police officers.
- The Village of Amherst has 8x the population and 10x the area of Batavia, and has 150 police.

#######################################################################

TOWN OF AMHERST FIRE DEPARTMENTS:
Town of Amherst
East Amherst Fire Department 9100 Transit Road East Amherst NY 14051-0055 688-2121 www.eafd.org/

Eggertsville Hose Company 1880 Eggert Road Eggertsville NY 14226 836-8942 www.eggertsvillehose.com/

Ellicott Creek Fire Company 45 South Ellicott Creek Rd. Amherst NY 14228 691-7439 www.ecvfd.org/

Getzville Fire Company 630 Dodge Road Getzville NY 14068-0111 688-0117 www.getzvillefire.com/

Main Transit Fire Department 6777 Main Street Williamsville NY 14221 632-9710 www.mtfd.com/

North Amherst Fire Department 2200 Tonawanda Creek Rd. Amherst NY 14228 691-7131 www.northamherstfire.com/

North Bailey Fire Company 966 Sweet Home Road Amherst NY 14226 836-9571 www.northbaileyfire.com/

Snyder Fire Department 4531 Main Street Snyder NY 14226 839-3440 www.snyderfd.com/

Swormville Fire Company 6971 Transit Road East Amherst NY 14051-0707 688-7055 www.SwormvilleFire.com

Village of Williamsville Fire Department 5565 Main St. Williamsville NY 14221 632-9710 www.hutchinsonhose.com/

Robert Brown
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The Town of Amherst also has an Open Government Advisory Board which is making great strides at improving government transparency and citizen inclusion. We could learn a lot from a town that dwarfs our little city...

John Roach
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Brian, your ideas would take much longer to put in place than the 2 months we in the City have. Good ideas, for later.

The issue is this year, in about 8 weeks or so when they vote. Right now, Molino has his usual five votes to pass a tax increase. Their slogan seems to be that it's less than your cell phone bill.

Only two council members right now have said no to a tax increase.

Remove the Assistant Manager, you remove the tax increase.

Raymond Richardson
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"1) Eliminate the paid/professional fire department.
Compare:
- The City of Batavia has approx 15,000 population, and is 5.2 sq miles large, and spends $3.9Million.
- The Town of Amherst has approx 123,000 population and is 53.5 sq miles, has 10 fire companies, and they are ALL VOLUNTEER."

I have to disagree with this theory.

While volunteer fire departments are more cost effective than a paid department, the volunteer departments are suffering a major blow themselves:

Lack of volunteers.

There was a time when turning 18 in a rural community was considered a right of passage to join the local volunteer fire and ambulance service; however, that right of passage is dying off as the interest among 18 year olds of this generation is not as strong as it was when I turned 18 and joined my community's department.

Switching the Batavia fire department from paid to volunteer is not the answer.

Eliminating the Ass. City Manager position is the better choice.

Lisa Woltz
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I totally agree with Raymond. As a retired VF/EMT, you can't get enough of the volunteers to answer calls during days and nights. You have to consider these people have to go through training and have to find time to show up for the mandatory times due to jobs. Volunteers don't just become readily available to replace those which you choose to take jobs away from these men and women. I'm all for the volunteers.
There is also another problem with EMT volunteering. A Basic EMT trains calls that don't require giving IV's and medicine. So then you need an Advanced Life Support EMT. A basic will need a more skilled person for life threatening calls which require these calls. One of the other problems in this field is growing- getting EMT's to stay in the field due to "burnout" or the same as firefighters, getting to mandatory classes

Brian Graz
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Hmmmmmmmmmmm... I wonder how in the world the Town of Amherst survives then???

Maybe an alternative is to privatize the FD, just as has already been done with Ambulance and Trash... and the County is looking to do with the Nursing Home, and should do with the Airport. It's a pretty sure thing that when government runs anything it becomes too large, too bureaucratic, and too inefficient.

As for Lisa's point about EMT service, I thought Mercy Flight handles that now for the City.

Brian Graz
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John's point about there being enough votes ready to increase taxes comes as no surprise. If you recall, the Batavian did a survey before the elections and the 3 Republicans who won told Howard that they would choose raising taxes over cutting spending. The people get the government they deserve.

http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/qa-city-council-candidates/40094

John Roach
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Brian, you did not exactly tell the truth, The 3 Republicans that won last year did not say they would choose raising taxes over cuts to "spending". They did say they would pay for necessary increases for public safety and road, sewer and sidewalk repair, but not all "spending". Stop the spin.

And facts show you wrong again. Both Jankoswski and Deleo (2 of the Republicans you mention) voted against the budget last year because of spending and Deleo has said he will not vote for a tax increase this year.

Jim Urtel Jr
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Well, I guess you could always move to Amherst and join the fire dept.

Brian Graz
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John , you say I'm spinning the truth, well let's re-visit the actual question and candidates replies. When put in the proper context of the question Howard asked, NOT one of the three GOP candidates in question responded that they would choose cutting taxes. You can play semantics and fool some, maybe most people, but not all. I choose to be in the latter group.

Howard's Question to ALL:
If the choice came down to either A) raising taxes and maintaining the city's own police department and/or fire department; or, B) consolidating police protection with the city or going to some form of volunteer fire department, which option would you choose?

Deleo's Answer: "I would support keeping our own police and fire departments. With the recent crime problems in some parts of the City, this is no time to rely on only the Sheriff. Who knows what may happen in the future, but right now, today I want to keep our own."

Hawley's Answer: "I am very supportive of our local police and fire departments. I feel that it is important to keep them intact. As long as they are providing a service that is adequate and meets the needs of the residents of Batavia at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers."

Jankowski's Answer: "My choice would be “A” if necessary. The many people I've talked with during my campaign have made it very clear to me that public safety is a number one priority. I will represent them as promised and do everything possible to provide a valued service in proportion to the money spent. I agree that these are important services. Taxpayers want their Police Department to remain intact and centrally located, preferably downtown. In certain areas of Batavia there is the potential for fire to spread quickly from building to building. I've personally witnessed the quick response of the Fire Department minimize damage and save lives. Both are valuable resources and should be maintained at the proper levels to remain effective."

http://thebatavian.com/scobokamrochesterrrcom/city-council-large-candida...

http://thebatavian.com/scobokamrochesterrrcom/city-council-large-candida...

http://thebatavian.com/scobokamrochesterrrcom/city-council-large-candida...

John Roach
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Brian, you tried to make people think they were against cutting all spending and would raise taxes to do it. That was just not true.

I said they supported necessary spending on public safety and things like sidewalk and road repair. And you show I was right. Now, why did you try to spin this in your other post by? It was misleading.

And, as FACT showed, two of them voted against the budget because of non public safety spending last year.

Mark Potwora
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Eliminating the asst.manager does have the votes..Last year 5 council members said they didn't want the asst manger..Deleo,Jankowski,Hawley,Briggs and Chistian..Hawley changed his vote claiming he didn't want to hold up the budget over the hiring of asst.manger......Seems to me now is the time to write that wrong.....

Mark Potwora
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Just to refresh everyones memory....

http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/council-passes-budget-5-4-after-hawl...

Some good comments..

Peter O'Brien
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$23000 for 6 computers? Are you serious? Offer it as an internship to a GCC student to buy the computers as parts and build them over the course of a semester for less than the cost of the parts which shouldn't be more than $700 for office machines. Add in software and you might hit $1000 a machine.

Peter O'Brien
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For the record, I am still here because I lost my job after being injured playing sports.

But we still plan to move after I finish my degree at GCC

Raymond Richardson
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"As for Lisa's point about EMT service, I thought Mercy Flight handles that now for the City."

It's Mercy EMS, not Mercy Flight.

Mercy Flight is the helicopter service used for severe trauma cases, to cut down travel time to a city hospital.

In so far as the list of volunteer fire departments you mentioned, in your first post to this forum, I believe all of them were started as volunteer departments, and several of them have paid fire fighters; as many volunteer fire departments statewide are a combination volunteer/paid department.

Brian Graz
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Ray,
Better do some research before correcting others.

Mercy EMS is part of Mercy Flight, Mercy Flight Western New York being the name of the entire operation.
http://www.mercyflight.org/content/pages/mems

Also if you took the time to check 1st, the Town of Amherst is served by Ten 100% Volunteer Fire Departments. They are dispatched by The Amherst Central Fire Alarm Office which has 11 paid employees, but this is not part of the Amherst volunteer firefighter system, but rather a central command that serves 150 square miles of territory in the Towns of Amherst, Clarence, Newstead and the Villages of Williamsville and Akron.

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