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October 21, 2008 - 12:40pm

Batavia Daily News for Tuesday: County Legislature will tackle tough budget (Updated)

posted by Philip Anselmo in Daily News, genesee county, County Legislature.

Genesee County's tentative budget doesn't have much to recommend itself to a public already strained by a distressed economy. A proposed spending increase of 5.2 percent and an increase in the tax rate of 4.2 percent (41 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation) won't please too many folks, including the legislators.

County Manager Jay Gsell filed the $141 million proposed budget—and let's stress that: this is a work in progress, and the work has just begun—yesterday afternoon, according to the Daily News. Reporter Paul Mrozek says that Gsell expects that "lawmakers will work to reduce those figures before voting on the fiscal plan."

Gsell said this morning he is "cautiously optimistic" he and the Legislature will be able to get the tax rate down to its '08 level.

No jobs are expected to be cut, but 21 vacant positions may remain that way. Also, "all outside agencies" that benefit from some county funding, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension, will receive the same amount of funding as this past year—except for Genesee Community College, which was already approved for a $50,000 increase.

Mrozek does a great job with this article, extracting the budget essentials and not getting too technical on us. I only had one question that I couldn't find answered: if no jobs will be added to the rolls and no extra funding will be going to outside agencies—why the increase in spending? I put in a call to Gsell to see if we can get a quick answer to that. We should hear back from him by the end of the day.

(UPDATE 2:33pm): County Manager Jay Gsell phoned to explain why the proposed budget shows an increase of 5.2 percent in spending if there are no increases in funding for new staff or outside agencies. He said that it's true that the county will take on no new programs and no new services, but the increased cost of construction materials, fuel and the increase in the funding needed for county health care push up the total spending for the county.


In other news, snow tubing will not be offered at Letchworth State Park this winter. This is a very specific instance of how the state budget cuts will be affecting folks in the coming months. Reporter Matt Surtel writes:

The tubing cost the park about twice the amount of revenue that the activity generated (Park Manager Richard Parker said). He declined to give an exact figure, but said the economic realities kicked in, when the park looked at ways to cut expenses.

Some staffers may also feel the pinch as the park does not plan to take on as many folks as usual this winter.

We encourage you to pick up a copy of the Daily News at your local newsstand. Or, better yet, subscribe at BataviaNews.com.

Mark Potwora
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Doesn't make sense that the county might have to raise taxes..Why didnt the county manager propose cuts in spending and not have a tax increase..The same thing will happen with the city..We havent heard what the state is up to as far as taxes go this year..Then you have the federal government who has more debt than any one can imagition,and they are talking about cutting taxes..talk about crazy..How come the head lines dont read government is cutting spending..It always they need more and more money..When these hard times call for families to cut back on many many things.Our city,county,state,and federal government spent and ask for more..Companys are asking employees to forgo wage increases,pay more of thier health care.In fact they are just plain getting rid of them by the thousands,I dont see our local government laying anyone off..Plus they still raise property assessments..and took in more sales tax because of the high gas prices...
Charlie Mallow
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If you haven’t seen layoffs in city government, then you haven’t been paying attention. Instead of complaining, why don’t you do something about it Mark? How about you go and run for county legislator next year? I’m not joking, I'll vote for you. Who is going to solve these problems if you will not? You can look into people’s eyes during a public meeting and then show them the door. It’s easy, right?
Mark Potwora
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Charlie will you vote for me...If asking why is complaining then i guess i am..Do we not have a right to ask why..i would like to see more in the why of cutting first ,then see where we're at..i dont think its easy to show anyone the door.Do you think all these job loses in the privite sector was easy for those owners..But when you take on a leadership role thats what you have to do..And i have been paying attention ,How many people were laid off in the city of Batavia last year..I know what its like to be laid off,i've been there many of times...I know what its like to have your company sold three times..I know what its like to have a union contract that the companys claims they cant afford ,and then went and filed chapter 11 so that they could get it nullified,it sucks.But thats the real world,and the public sector employees have to realize that how it is..The population of Batavia is shrinking fast.So that should mean less services..I understand that..I will pay for my trash or some kind of pay per bag,i will forgo sidewalk plowing and take care of my own..i will deal with repairing my own sidewalks..I can handle a few less city parks .i would understand all that until we get our finances in order..In the privite sector they work on productivity,do more with less.Even in union shops.Its no more ,it not my job man..I wrote the city code officer about a issue just recently and was told i dont take care of that side of the city..what kind of answer was that..so what if one side of the city has more code issues that the other,He's not going to help out..point being we need to find a way to do more with less.. I do think you are all trying to do the best job you can for this city,and alot of good things are working..These are hard times for everyone.But if you think you can raise taxes and no ones going to say hey wait a sec.Show me some cuts before we go down the lets raise the taxes road..So i guess im just complaining.But i pay for that right....
Bea McManis
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Mark, You'd have my vote. We need people in local politics who aren't afraid to ask questions and keep asking them until answers are given. Go for it!
John Roach
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The city did cut positions. There are only about 17 people who work in the City Hall. This is a $25 million operation and while one or two more in City Hall might go next time around, you can only cut so much if you are a "city". Remember, nobody wants to change our status to a village except for a few people. If you insist on being a "city", then there are jobs that are mandated. We do not have a fully staffed police force now, should we cut it more? Do we cut the DPW? There really are not that many of them and they already cut the top job from the budget (the City Engineer).
Mark Potwora
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Whats the difference if were a city or a village..how can that help John..i would like to know..also i think the DPW is the best asset the city has..those guy work through all kinds of weather..They are the kings of multitasking.I would look at the fire dept again..maybe they can help out when needed to do code enforcement or maybe help plow during the winter..Or direct traffic when needed ..We need to pay some kind of taxes to maintain this city,but when you have a population of 15000 i dont think we can maintain like you say a city type government..Until someone figures out a way to grow the tax base,we have to shrink something. I started this about the county wanting to raise taxes.I am not to clear on what the county does for us here in Batavia to cause me too pay them the about same i pay in city taxes..Believe me ,i do think i get more for my money from the city..Hope someone can educate me on this..City plows my streets and the police protect me, and the city picks up my trash,what does the county do..
Charlie Mallow
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Very little. Everything you have a real need for comes from the city, garbage pickup, snow plow, police, fire, ambulace and street repair. The cities budget is far below the county and even the schools.
John Roach
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As for taxes, the city gets 16.5% of the County share of the sales tax, no matter where the money is spent. If you spend a dollar at Wal Mart in the Town, Tim Horton’s on Main Street or McDonald’s in LeRoy, we get the same 16.5%. The only way for the city to get more tax money is increasing fees and property taxes. If a property is bought and fixed up, or a closed business is reopened, the value of the property goes up and so does the tax revenue. When Councilman Frank Ferrando says we need more revenue, he means more property taxes. True, if a new store opened up in the city, the county would get more sales tax and we would get our same share, so the total amount will go up. Problem is that most new business are service business, like a medical office or a bank. They don’t generate “sales tax”. And if you raise property taxes, they go someplace else, like K Mart did. City or a Village? It is my belief that if we were to become a village, many mandated programs that we have would go. We have mandates for senior housing, plumbing boards, police and fire protection, inspections and others. As a village, there some services the Town and County would have to provide if we didn’t want to. Since 1985, I have asked various candidates for city council to consider a study to see if we would save any money by becoming a village again. Only one, David Kline, would do it. He started to look into it, but moved out of the city before his term expired and before he could get any additional support from other council members. One council member, Barry Bower, fought the idea of even a study tooth and nail. Who knows, one day council might have a study done and we’ll know for sure, but I won’t hold my breath.
Howard B. Owens
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John, what would it take to do such a study? Have you ever heard of a term called "crowd sourcing"? It's the idea that a group of people can all contribute to a common cause. If we came up with a plan to do the study, maybe we could "crowd source" the study on The Batavian?
John Roach
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1)Contact UB. The business or political science departments might have a grad student who needs a project to do. 2)See if we can get a grant under the State’s consolidation study funding. If we got the grant, contract the study out. 3)Contract the study out anyway. This would be a better way to spend city money than Councilman Bill Cox’s idea of cleaning bird crap off building roofs. 4) There might be a qualified retired person right here who would do the study for just expenses. But they would have to have no vested interest in the outcome.
Charlie Mallow
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The City\Town is doing a consolidation study right now funded by the state that includes the possible elimination of the city as an entity and merger with our friends in the town. I am going to meet with the Center for Government Research on Monday in Rochester to discuss this. I am open to and very supportive of any ideas for shared services or merger with the town. The public will need to support this idea if we are presented with a viable solution for a merger to become a reality.
Jerome Grasso
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Charlie: are you sure that Mark gets very little in the way of services from Genesee County? If I list all county provided services, we will be here all night! Here are a few. If Mark has a drivers license, he goes to County DMV, if he has a mortgage, it was filed at the County Clerk's office. If Mark was the victim of a crime, a county prosecutor would handle the case. A county public defender would likely defend the accused. The county probation department, county jail, or Genesee Justice would likely be involved. Heck, the case might even be heard in Genesee County Court. If Mark travels on a new bridge in the City, it was replaced by the County. When Mark called the police, a county dispatcher answered. If he buys a gallon of gas or gets lunch meat at Tops, the pumps and scale were measured by the County Weights and Measures dept. If Mark votes or decides to run for office, you guessed it, the County Board of Elections! Got an aging relative, services provided by the Office for the Aging. Sadly, if Mark dies an unattended death, the County coroner will be called. If he jumps on the B-Line bus that is county as well. OK, my typing hand is getting tired, should I list the rest of the services? The county provides many services to city residents and I am trying to have a little fun with the list!
Jerome Grasso
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Charlie is correct: the City of Batavia and Genesee County are viewed on a state wide level as "ahead of the curve" on shared services and consolidation.
Charlie Mallow
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Good list to start with Jay. How about adding a county wide ambulance service?
Mark Potwora
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Thanks Jerome..Charlies right by the sound of it i get very little from the county..For one i dont go to the dmv,i do it on line it saves time and money,i dont use the B-Line bus service,i dont think many people do.I do have a mortgage but i also paid a mortgage recording tax.When i put gas in my car i pay a tax on every gallon i buy for roads and bridges.I didnt realize that every gallon of milk i buy is weighted on a scale in genesse county.So far none of my relatives have had to use the office of the aging.I've never used the court system.I also pay a 911 fee on my cell phone bill every month,doesnt that go for the dispatching system.I do vote ,so you got me there. So I guess at$10 per thousand that is one heck of a deal..So please point out more county services i get.I would like to know why we city taxpayers dont get a reduced rate,like maybe half off or something like that.
Howard B. Owens
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I can't wait to see Mark become a County Legislator. It should be quite entertaining.
Mark Potwora
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Howard,will you be my campaign manger..Will i get alot of coverage on here at The Batavian..hahah..
Howard B. Owens
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Oh, you make me campaign manager ... you're political career will be doomed. Even The Batavian couldn't save you.
John Roach
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I know Mark and he would do a good job as a legislator or councilman. He knows more about what is going on than some in office right now.
Jerome Grasso
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Mark: call me at home for the rest of the list! I left out a big portion of your county taxes which go to social services. Most of your county taxes go to services which are mandated by the state of NY. Not fair. Charlie: I would be glad to chat about ambulance service with you over coffee anytime. Let me know.
Charlie Mallow
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Sounds good Jay, we will talk.
Howard B. Owens
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