City manager: Passage of budget with zero tax increase sets tone for economic progress
City Manager Martin Moore optimistically proclaimed that the City of Batavia is “open for business” following the passage of the municipality’s 2019-20 spending plan tonight.
“We need to be able to send a message to the rest of the state of New York and the rest of this area of the United States that we’re open for business – and I think that this budget does that, and I think very successfully,” Moore said after City Council voted 8-1 in favor of the $27.4 million budget.
The budget calls for $5.2 million to be raised by taxes, but keeps the property tax rate at $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as last year’s rate. At that rate, owners of a house assessed for $70,000, for example, would pay an annual city tax bill of $627.20.
Moore said no tax increase “was really, really important, and the other thing that I felt good about was our ability to sustain services by not increasing taxes.”
While holding the line on taxes is admirable, it isn’t good enough, said Council member Rose Mary Christian, who cast the lone “no” vote.
“I am hearing a lot of opposition … some people are against the nonprofits that we’re contributing to, the celebrations and (repair of) the pillars on Redfield Parkway,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been hearing from people.”
Christian also was the only dissenter when it came to voting on the water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Water rates and meter fees are going up by 3.5 percent and capital improvement fees are increasing by 10 percent – the same as last year’s increases.
She said her quarterly water bill, for two people, is $142 and mentioned that some single families are paying over $100.
When Council President Eugene Jankowski said that “the bill for my wife and I is $90 every three months,” Christian responded by saying “we must be washing too much or something.”
Moore responded to questions from The Batavian about Batavia’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant and the status of the Ellicott Station project – two ventures that have been in the works for quite some time.
“Five of the eight (DRI) projects are moving forward with either agreements in hand or being reviewed by the various parties,” he said. “I know that a couple of them are in design right now.”
Regarding Ellicott Station, he spoke in generalities, saying that the parties involved “are working on the financial proposals and they’re very close” and that he will be meeting with them in the next week or two.
The city manager said he was excited about the micro-grant program with the Batavia Development Corporation, noting that they’ve received 23 or 24 applicants for Main Street (downtown) grants.
“Some of those applicants BDC will take and try to get Main Street money and hopefully get even more capital improvements on Main Street,” he said. “I’m feeling very optimistic that our first set of projects will be ready to go and start construction sometime this summer.”
City Council passed a number of resolutions, including:
-- Authorizing the City to apply for a pair of National Grid grants – an urban center/commercial district revitalization grant of up to $250,000 to assist in the repair and renovation of the City Centre and a Main Street grant of $100,000 to assist in the rehabilitation of a City Centre parcel to be used by the Batavia Players.
-- The awarding of three contracts relating to the Water and Wastewater Treatment facilities.
One is for Daniels Farm of Waterport, which will pay the City $114,000 over the next three years to harvest fathead minnows from the facility at 5 Treadeasy Ave.
Another is with seven different companies which will supply chemicals needed for the operation of the water plant.
And the third is with A.D. Call & Sons of Stafford to remove and dispose of liquid lime sludge from the plant over the next two years at a cost of $6,850 per each of the two times it is required.
-- Permitting a shared services agreement with the state Department of Transportation that would allow for the City and DOT to assist each other with equipment, materials and manpower on a limited basis (maximum value of $10,000) with an emergency declaration by the governor.
Council also approved the All Babies Cherished 5K walk/run set for 9 a.m. to noon on June 8, starting and ending at Northgate Free Methodist Church’s city facility at 350 Bank St.
Moore reported that the City has received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Insurance Services Office that it has been approved to continue participation in the Community Rating System at its current Level 7 rating.