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September 10, 2018 - 9:12pm

City Council moves toward vote on proposed sales tax accord with Genesee County

Acting on Interim City Manager Matt Worth’s analogy that the City will benefit from “a thinner piece of a larger pie,” the Batavia City Council on Monday night agreed to set a special business meeting to vote on a new sales tax agreement with Genesee County.

A revised sales tax arrangement with the county is necessary since the current 10-year pact – which gives the City 16 percent of the county’s 50 percent share of the 8 percent sales tax -- expires at the end of this year.

County legislators, looking at future big ticket items such as bridge replacements and a new county jail, balked at extending the existing agreement, setting the stage for negotiations between the two entities.

The proposed deal calls for the City to receive its current 16 percent of the county’s share through this year, with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

“This allows the City to increase in growth by up to 2 percent a year until the City’s portion of the pie becomes 14 percent,” Worth said. “So we go from 16 percent to 14 percent as that pie gets larger and larger.

At that point, once that floor of 14 percent hits, all the restrictions go off and there’s no more restriction of 2 percent growth. So if the sales tax goes up by 5 percent, and we’re at 14 percent, the City gets a 5-percent increase as well.”

In any event, the City’s share will be no less than 14 percent for the remainder of the 40-year contract, Worth said.

“The 14-percent floor is an additional safety net for the City to share in good years above 2 percent, once that threshold is reached,” he said, noting that historically sales tax goes up by 2.5 percent annually.

The County Legislature is expected to vote on the matter on Wednesday of this week, while City Council scheduled a business meeting to address the agreement in conjunction with its conference meeting on Sept. 24. From there, it goes to the state comptroller’s office for approval. If approved, it would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The new agreement, unlike the current one, does not include wording about allocations to Genesee County towns and villages because, according to Worth, the towns have no taxing authority and are not a “sign-on” to the contract.

“It is my understanding that the comptroller was not comfortable with the towns being referenced in the agreement, and that the county will have separate agreements with the towns and villages,” he said.

Responding to questions from Council Member Adam Tabelski and Interim City Manager Worth, Council President Eugene Jankowski said the new agreement should be a “stabilizing” factor in annual budget preparation.

“We’ve been in a holding pattern for the last couple years, not knowing if the agreement would go through,” Jankowski said. “We’re in a better position now.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted to send a resolution calling for the rezoning of the St. Anthony’s Church area on Liberty Street from residential to commercial to the City Planning & Development Committee.

City Church, which purchased the former Catholic church in 2016, filed a petition to reclassify the campus to allow for some activities (dance school, art school, community education classes, etc.) that could be considered a business activity and a non-conforming use in an R-3 district.

Should the planning board approve, a public hearing will be scheduled.

-- Approved the placement of 10 bicycle racks and six trash cans in downtown locations per a request from the Batavia Business Improvement District.

-- Voted in favor of two resolutions pertaining to the Ellicott Station project coordinated by Savarino Companies of Buffalo.

One grants a stormwater easement due to the fact that a major city storm sewer lies within the boundary of the project; and the other distributes a National Grid Urban Center/Commercial District Revitalization Grant in the amount of $250,000 to enhance the Ellicott Trail Project, which will run along the southern boundary of the Ellicott Station site.

-- Voted to submit an application for Transportation Improvement Program funds for the rehabilitation of four city streets – Harvester Avenue, Jackson Street, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue – that qualify under federal guidelines.

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