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Committee backs increase in sales tax allocation to $8.5 million; Batavian Gerace hired to assist with water project

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee today acted upon a suggestion by the Pembroke Town Board to increase the amount of sales tax earmarked for distribution to towns and villages by passing a resolution amending the county’s sales tax allocation agreement with the City of Batavia.

Meeting at the county Emergency Management Services office on State Street Road, the committee approved a restated contract with the city – which along with the county is one of the two taxing municipalities in Genesee County.

The amended agreement ups the amount of sales tax revenue the county is willing to share with its towns and villages over the next 38 years from $7 million to $8.5 million.

It also drops the amount of other revenue the county will distribute – on a periodic basis – from $3 million to $1.5 million – keeping the total amount at the $10 million level that county leaders felt comfortable sharing.

This latest legislation, which is subject to final approval by the full legislature at its Aug. 25 meeting, was triggered by the recent opting in of revised water supply agreements with the county by the Village of Corfu and the Town of Pembroke.

When the Pembroke Town Board voted to opt in to a new water agreement last week – leaving the Town of Darien as the lone municipality to not sign on to a new deal, Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. proposed increasing the fixed sales tax distribution amount.

Genesee County, with a goal of equalizing water rates across the board and having the ability to raise the water surcharge as its Countywide Water Supply Project progresses, initially offered to distribute $10 million in sales tax money as long as all 17 towns and villages opted in to new water supply agreements. If not, then the split was going to be $7 million in sales tax and $3 million in other revenue.

Following today’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers acknowledged that Pembroke’s suggestion was well received by the legislature.

“The legislature was supportive of moving from $7 million to $8.5 (million) because it does help those towns and villages with their accounting issues that came to light by not being able to share revenue distribution into their B funds,” he said.

“So, the legislature was receptive to the opportunity to share extra sales tax as we understood the Town of Pembroke’s position, seeing that Corfu has already passed it and Darien had not passed it. Pembroke was left thinking what’s the advantage for them to sign the updated water supply agreement if there wasn’t going to be an increase over the $7 million.”

When asked about the status of the Town of Darien, Landers said he continues to speak with officials there and is hopeful that something can be worked out prior to the legislature taking up the final resolution next week.

In other developments, Ways & Means:

-- Approved a request by County Attorney Kevin Earl to extend the statute that spells out the county’s hotel/motel room occupancy tax by three months – through the end of the fiscal year – as the legislature attempts to sort out whether to pass a long-term revision that would include taxation of online booking platforms, such as Airbnb.

“It would be a major change if we did it right now,” Earl said, referring to drafting complex changes at this time. “So, what I’m proposing is to extend the current law to the end of the year … and, obviously, the final one that we propose would be for three years starting in January.”

Legislators have been grappling with this issue for several months, reaching out to Chamber of Commerce staff members for their input in how to capture a portion of the income being generated by increasingly-popular home-based lodging sites.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg agreed that it would be wise to wait before enacting a permanent bed tax law because “I don’t know if we’ve really come to terms with all that is involved …”

-- Welcomed Batavia native Justin Gerace on his first day as a county assistant engineer, with his primary responsibility focusing on helping to facilitate the long-term Countywide Water Supply Project.

A 2014 Batavia High School graduate, Gerace earned his associate’s degree in Engineering Science from Genesee Community College before transferring to the University of Buffalo. At UB, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Structural and Earthquake Engineering.


Last fall, he worked for the structural engineering firm of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger in New York City, but said he felt the call to return to his roots.

Previously, he was an intern for LaBella Associates in Rochester and for Arup in New York City.

“(County Engineer) Tim (Hens) informed me of this position .. and I thought it was a good fit,” he said. “I will be able to stay local and be near my family.”

Gerace acknowledged a “big learning curve” as he studies documents and visits water pump stations in and around Genesee County.

“I’m excited … I know there’s work to be done over the next 10 or 15 years,” he said, noting the county is moving into Phase 3 of the water project. “Just getting up to speed on all of the moving parts. It’s pretty daunting.”

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