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September 3, 2020 - 8:54pm

Genesee County sets revenue sharing figure at $8 million for towns, villages in 2021

The Genesee County Legislature is proposing an $8 million revenue distribution to its towns and villages in 2021.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein on Wednesday said that is the revised offer for revenue sharing, noting that it represents about a 44-percent decrease in what the county originally had planned to distribute, before COVID-19 disrupted its financial outlook.

“At our last conference call with municipal leaders, I think it was on Aug. 22, we gave them a number – eight million dollars to be shared for the 2021 budget, so they have a number,” Stein said. “So, if that is something that would be easier for them to comprehend and to see, our county manager is ready to put that out in an email form to folks so they can have something they can budget to for 2021.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the legislature had envisioned allocating $14,294,065 but had to revise its thinking due to the negative effects of the coronavirus on the economy.

“We will be providing a specific figure – based on the $8 million proposal -- for each town and village to budget off of shortly,” he added.

Stein repeated the refrain she has used since the county, in May, decided to rescind the county treasurer’s authority to make voluntary quarterly revenue distributions to the towns and villages – effectively ending agreements with the municipalities passed in 2018 and 2019.

Despite that action, the county made distributions of $1.1 million and $2 million to the municipalities in the second quarter of 2020, following a (pre-COVID-19) $3 million distribution in the first quarter.

“We are all in this together,” she said. “We’re all working through this in the same way but it’s still ‘mud’ until we get out of it.”

She said payments are determined by the taxable assessed value of each community.

“(It’s) a process that has been used in the past – so that seems like a fair and equitable way to distribute it,” she said. “We all need something from which to budget to, and realize how difficult it is without any foundation to build a budget from – so absolutely.”

Stein said that the picture could brighten (or become dimmer) as revenue comes in this fall, but was quick to point out that the closure of Six Flags Darien Lake throughout the summer is a major blow.

Landers said he is hopeful the county could do more to help keep town and village property tax rates as low as possible.

“This is a conservative estimate of what the county will be able to provide in funding for 2021 to the towns and villages,” he said. “As the county’s budget season progresses, we will re-evaluate that amount.”

He provided a snapshot of distributions since 2018, explaining that the county budget is comprised of a variety of different revenues, from state and federal reimbursements, property taxes, sales tax, fees for service, interest income, etc.

“When the county determines what it can share in revenue, it is looking at the overall financial picture,” he said.

  • Distribution in 2018 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,335,643.41.
  • Distribution in 2019 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,368,445.17.
  • Distribution in 2020 -- Genesee County has not distributed any sales tax to towns and villages because it only shares sales tax with the City of Batavia for the next 40 years. Genesee County has distributed $6,179,543.09 in other revenue to towns and villages for the first two quarters – a 7.6-percent decrease from what was originally planned.

News that the county has provided a tentative distribution amount will make the jobs of town supervisors and village mayors a bit easier as they devise their budgets for 2021.

“We have been calling upon the county to put a number in writing, and if it is $8 million, then that’s a step in the right direction,” said Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz. “Without something to go by, it’s not possible to put a budget together.”

Farnholz, who took office in January after two years on the town board, said the Town of Le Roy budgeted $1.2 million in revenue sharing from Genesee County in revenue in 2020.

A 44-percent decrease would put that figure at $672,000 for 2021.

“If I know that we would have to mitigate $300,000 or $400,000 or so, it puts us in a much better position, considering that we have $1.6 million in reserves, he said. “But it needs to be in writing -- what number is the county willing to share? -- so that we can budget.”

The retired Le Roy Central School teacher said most of his counterparts at the town and village levels agree that a working dollar amount is necessary.

“Our position is that we’re even willing to take a little bit more of a hit (due to the county being stuck with so many state-mandated costs),” he said. “Back in May when this started, we had a discussion – one of the plans put forward at a GAM (Genesee Association of Municipalities) meeting was whatever percentage in revenue the county is down, the towns should be down the same percentage.”

He said he had a conversation with Stein prior to learning that the $8 million was a solid number.

“I told Shelly, this is business. When we conduct business – when I go buy a car or Stein Farms goes and buys a tractor, we have an agreement that has dollar figures attached to it. I don’t think Bob Johnson (Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac in Le Roy) is going to give me a Chevy if I promise to pay him just on good faith,” he said.

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