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July 12, 2021 - 11:08am

Genesee's west side municipalities considering county legislature's sales tax/revenue distribution proposal

Governmental leaders in the towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu say they will be putting their heads together to determine how to proceed in connection with Genesee County’s new sales tax and revenue distribution proposal.

“We will be having a discussion in the coming days,” said Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. this morning as he contemplates the pros and cons of the county’s offer to either share a fixed $10 million in sales tax revenue with towns and villages, or a combination of sales tax and other revenue over the next 38 years.

As indicated in a story on The Batavian on Friday, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein presented their plan to town supervisors and village mayors last Wednesday at a meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

The amended strategy currently boils down to two options:

  • The first one being a $10 million annual distribution of sales tax revenue, contingent upon all the county’s towns and villages opting into an updated water supply agreement by mid-August;
  • The second one being that without universal update water supply agreements, the county would allot $7 million in annual sales tax distributions and pass annual revenue distribution resolutions for another $3 million – minus water surcharges to the municipalities that do not opt in.

Darien, Pembroke and Corfu have yet to agree to the revised plan.

Schneider, noting that the Town of Pembroke is proactive in “generating as much new business growth as possible,” said it is vital for his town to receive as much as possible in sales tax and/or revenue sharing.

“However, I don’t really like the fact that it’s a locked amount for 38 years,” he said. “With that, we don’t get to share in the growth, and we do include sales tax revenue in our budgets. We really don’t have a lot of power since we can’t collect sales tax.”

He said he also would like to see changes in the county’s Smart Growth plan, mentioning situations where some property owners are unable to hook into nearby water lines.

Schneider did acknowledge that the county is open to sharing more revenue over that period of time if conditions allow.

“I would think that if the county keeps more sales tax, then it would lower the tax rate or share more with the towns to take pressure off of the taxpayers,” he said, adding that Landers and Stein are scheduled to talk with Pembroke Town Board members at their workshop on July 22.

Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. mentioned that over the past 20 years, those three municipalities have been paying more for water than the other towns and villages due to the fact that the county has to buy water from Erie County “to supplement that because they can not move enough water efficiently through the county to get to us.”

“At this point in time, we’re paying $1.14 more (per 1,000 gallons) than what the rest of the county is paying,” he said, adding that no action has been proposed to provide an equalization rate to Darien, Pembroke and Corfu.

Ferry said that stabilization of the water rate would go a long way toward the Darien Town Board signing the new agreement.

“But as it stands, the agreement is a little tilted unfairly for the western side of the county,” he said.

Stein said that she spoke with Ferry over the weekend to clear up any misconceptions that he may have had.

“In a sales tax agreement, a distribution has to be straightforward and there can be no reductions to make the county whole for that water surcharge. There’s no allowance for that in a sales tax agreement per the (state) Comptroller,” she said.

As far as the $3 million figure set aside for voluntary revenue sharing based on the taxable assessed value of all the municipalities, Stein said that amount ensures there will be enough to secure the water surcharge from Darien, Corfu and Pembroke and the growth going forward for 38 years.

Stein said the county has to make sure it can make the debt payments on the bond due to the Monroe County Water Authority for bringing more water into the county as “unfortunately, there are still areas in our county that do not have access to public water.”

She said the most important aspect of the plan is that the county and City of Batavia are open to bringing towns and villages back into the sales tax agreement.

“This means that they have, for 38 years, a foundation of funding for their communities that currently they do not have,” she said. “This is a big win for every single town and village, and it allows for flexibility far forward into our future.”

Previously: Genesee County leaders present plans to distribute $10 million in sales tax/other revenue to towns and villages

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