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January 13, 2020 - 10:58pm

City manager sees 2020 as 'year of shovels in the ground'; tax rate projected to increase by less than 1 percent


In preparing for his State of the City and 2020-21 budget presentation tonight, Batavia City Manager Martin Moore likely didn’t have to “dig” too far to come up with a theme for his report.

With numerous projects relating to the City’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from New York State in the pre-construction stage, Moore said he is designating 2020 as the “year of shovels in the ground.”

“This needs to be the year of shovels in the ground – a year where we complete the downtown renovation projects, incentivize private investors to reclaim Brownfield sites (and) move some City Centre properties back into private ownership for redevelopment,” he said during City Council’s Business Meeting.

Moore previously had expressed a measure of frustration over the lack of movement on key DRI projects, especially the mixed-use redevelopment of Ellicott Station by Savarino Companies of Buffalo (which was announced in 2016).

He also pointed to other priority projects, notably fixing the City Centre Mall concourse roof and situating Theatre 56 into its space in the mall.

“We want to see the mall roof project (completed),” he said. “It’s under contract; the contractor is scheduled to be here in the spring, so we’re looking forward to seeing them on the roof and getting it fixed.”

He reported that Theatre 56 has paid its rent for the first six months and is working with architects, the Department of State and the Batavia Development Corporation on designs for “rehabbing the space that they are leasing from the City Centre.”

Moore also said at least two “storefront grants” stemming from the DRI are close to getting their permits from the state.

“We look to those moving forward and construction starting, so I think we’re going to see some shovels in the ground in different areas of the city … in addition to what (the Department of) Public Works is already going to be working on.”

The city manager said the preliminary 2020-21 budget calls for a tax rate increase of .97 percent – from $8.92 per thousand of assessed valuation last fiscal year to $9.01 per thousand.

That means that a house assessed at $70,000, for example, would have an annual City tax bill of $630.70.

Moore also said water rates will increase by 3.5 percent and the meter fee would go up by about 66 cent per quarter for “the typical customer.”

He said he was optimistic that the assessed value in the City would increase as more and more development comes to fruition, and supported his belief with a chart showing that more than $140 million in economic projects are in the pipeline from the $100 Million I’m All In! campaign initiated by former City Manager Jason Molino.

In connection to that program, he listed several primary DRI projects that are in varying stages of completion:

-- Ellicott Station (housing grant application submitted);
-- Carr’s/Genesee Bank (design underway);
-- Ellicott Place (design near completion);
-- Healthy Living Campus, YMCA (design near completion);
-- Theatre 56 (lease fully executed);
-- Downtown Building Improvement Fund (projects in design);
-- City Centre Revitalization (feasibility study underway);
-- Jackson Square (grant agreement executed; RFP creation underway).

Additionally, Moore said the RFP (request for proposal) process for a new police station on Alva Place will be starting soon.

Budget revenue projections show $17.8 million in the general fund, $5 million in the water fund, $2.8 million in the wastewater fund and $213,000 in the City Centre fund, for total revenues of $25.9 million. Property taxes are projected to bring in $5.4 million.

During a State of the City address prior to the budget report, Moore reflected upon some highlights in 2019, including the opening of the Liberty Center for Youth, successful completion of police academy training by several new recruits, purchase of the MRAP armored vehicle, awarding the Key to the City to Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia and City employees' work at the Community Garden during the United Way Day of Caring.

He also said he is committed to maintaining the City’s high standards in financial record-keeping and budgeting -- noting that it once again received an award for its budget presentation in 2019 -- and to improving customer service.

“Frankly, the business of the City is a moot point if nobody is living in the City,” he said.

In other developments:

-- DPW Director Matt Worth reported that the City will be getting state and federal funding to rehabilitate Richmond Avenue and Harvester Avenue in 2022, adding that the City’s share of the $2 million projects could be as little as $50,000.

He also said the City received a $554,000 grant to replace lead service water lines on selected streets, with the work scheduled to start in the fall.

-- Council approved a $20,000 revolving loan fund grant to GO ART! to help support repairs and renovations of the building’s foundation, roof and drainage, windows, fence, interior and elevator at 201 E. Main St. The total project cost is $218,300, with much of it to be funded by several grants.

Photo -- Batavia City Clerk/Treasurer Heidi Parker, left, performs swearing-in ceremony for Council members John Canale, Rose Mary Christian, Kathleen Briggs, Patti Pacino and Paul Viele. Eugene Jankowski will continue as president while Viele will serve as president pro tempore. Photo by Mike Pettinella. 

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