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2023-24 budget

Residents are invited to learn about BCSD's $58.9M budget before vote

By Joanne Beck
BCSD board takes tour of Robert Morris

You know that old saying, April showers bring May flowers, and, of course, school budget season and related district resident votes.

Batavia City Schools will be reviewing its $58.9 million proposed budget during a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia. This is the time to ask questions, voice comments, or express concerns about the district’s spending plan.

The budget is an increase of $4,168,181 from the prior year, or 7.6 percent, with a related tax levy of nearly $19.9 million. That levy equals an increase of 1.02 percent, or $200,093, district officials said.

Despite a tax levy increase, officials predict that the tax rate will go down by 34 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. Based on that decrease, a home assessed at $100,000 would pay $34 less per year (with no change in assessment from 2022-23 to 2023-24).

Factors impacting the change in the projected tax rate, according to district administrators, including the tentative assessed values have increased slightly at 3.06 percent; equalization rates have decreased slightly, and the tax rate has decreased by 1.95 percent with a levy increase of 1.02 percent.

Other key points school administrators want to emphasize are that Robert Morris School was reopened this past year to be used for Universal Pre-Kindergarten and preschool; Community Eligibility Provision was extended through 2025-26; administrators are active in pursuing new grant funding for mental health, Community Schools, pre-school and a 21st Century Schools grant; and they are working on the next capital project.

Important numbers include student enrollment: Grades pre-K are at 72; Grades K through one, 340; Grades two through four, 482; five through eight, 592; and nine through 12, 641.

The average Class Size for UPK is 18; K through one is 17; Grades two through four, 20; Grades five through eight, 21; and Grades nine through 12, 20.

Staff numbers include:

  • Total Number of Teachers - 269
  • Teacher Aides/Clerical - 140
  • Maintenance Staff - 39
  • Nutritional Services - 25
  • Assistant Principals - 6
  • Principals - 4
  • Central Office - 7
  • Information Technology - 3

Revenue Sources for 2023-24 are:

  • State and Federal Aid - $33,174,343 (56.3 percent)
  • Tax Levy - $19,888,991 (33.7 percent)
  • Other Local Revenue $1,492,750 (2.5 percent)
  • Appropriated Fund Balance $3,536,895 (6.0 percent)
  • Other Local Tax-related Items $877,795 (1.5 percent)
  • TOTAL: $58,970,774 100.0 percent

Appropriation (Expenses) Budget:

  • General Support $6,471,769 11.0 (percent)
  • Instructional Support $34,372,758 58.3 (percent)
  • Transportation $2,753,845 (4.7 percent)
  • Employee Benefits $12,501,759 (21.2 percent)
  • Debt Service $2,735,643 (4.6 percent)
  • Interfund Transfers $135,000 (0.2 percent)
  • TOTAL: $58,970,774 100.0 percent

There are four propositions on the city school district’s ballot up for vote:

  1. The 2023-24 budget approval 
  2. Continuing placement of a student ex-officio on the board
  3. To fund a capital reserve of up to $10 million
  4. Election of two board seats due to the terms being up for incumbents Alice Ann Benedict and Barbara Bowman

Voting will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 16 at district residents’ designated polling locations.

A regular board meeting is to follow the budget hearing. To view it online, go HERE.

File Photo of Batavia Board of Education members, with Superintendent Jason Smith, taking a tour of Robert Morris before it opened last year for Universal Pre-Kindergarten and pre-school. Photo by Joanne Beck.

BCSD taxpayers can expect a 1 percent increase in the 2023-24 budget; 3 buses on the shopping list

By Joanne Beck


City school taxes are expected to go up again this year.

School officials and board members seemed relieved that the increase was brought down from over 3 percent to a 1 percent increase, but it still potentially means an extra $22 a year in property taxes on a home assessed at $125,000.

The Batavia school board approved the proposed 2023-24 budget of $58.9 million with a tax levy of $19,888,991 during its meeting earlier this week. That levy is below the tax cap limit, and the budget is $4.1 million more than the 2022-23 budget, or 7.6 percent.

The Batavian asked Superintendent Jason Smith why the district has an increase at all, given nearly $4 million of additional revenues and recouping state Foundation aid after its absence the last couple of years.

“For context, our allowable tax cap is 8.42 percent, and the preliminary budget presented last week had just over a 3 percent levy increase.  Based on board feedback, the proposed levy has now been reduced to just over 1 percent.  There were a few factors driving this decision.  First, this budget calls for the addition of three school buses from our transportation contractor, which, if drivers can be hired, will reduce the time for our students (to be) on buses, which has been a source of community and family concerns and one which we have listened to,” Smith said.  “Second, our transportation contract will not be renewed at the end of next year, which means the entire contract is up for renewal and is subject to price increases.  We also fully expect the state mandate of electric buses and the related costs with this requirement to be passed down to districts by our future transportation contractor, further increasing costs. The district needs to plan carefully both now and for the future for these increased costs.”

“Additionally, we expect our tax cap for the 2024-25 budget to be negative, which would yield a tax decrease and reduced revenue, and the board and I are not interested in asking our voters to override the tax cap, which would require a 60 percent approval of voters, as opposed to a simple majority,” he said. “Seeking a just over 1 percent levy increase for the 23-24 budget will provide revenue for both the current and future needs of the district.

During this week’s board meeting, Rozanski brought up the option of leaving one or more of the six buses in the budget or removing them. He cut out three to show the cost savings and explained their need to the district. They would be helpful to alleviate some overcrowding on the current buses and, as Smith said, reduce the amount of time that students are on buses to and from school.

Board member Jennifer Lendvay questioned the validity of buying the buses if there aren’t drivers available for them, as Rozanski also indicated. As with employee shortages elsewhere, drivers have been difficult to find as well, he said. There were six buses in the initial budget, and three have been cut out for a reduction of $281,268.

The group ended up voting to accept the budget, which will be presented during a public hearing at 6 p.m. May 8 in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia.  District residents will then be able to vote on the budget, three propositions, and two board candidate seats up for election from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 16 at your designated polling site.

A 1 percent tax levy increase was made by cutting $427,746 from the preliminary levy of $20,316,737 through attrition of not replacing four retirements (saving $209,478) and the reduction of three bus purchases, for a total levy of $19,888,991.

Personnel expenses are to increase by $736,084 from last year to $20,845,750, and teacher support is to increase by $587,644 to $7,049,255. According to 2022 data, the average teacher salary is $61,263, plus benefits.

Total contractual costs (general support and teaching, operations/maintenance, interscholastic athletic) are slated to increase by $1 million, for a total of 5,481,864; debt service payments are going up by $781,547; and Rozanski also put 8 percent inflationary costs on the hook for overall increases. Total salaries for the district for 2023-24 are $27,894,975.

“So these 8 percent numbers are big numbers, but they’ve been pretty consistent,” he said. “We also had three to six STA extra buses in the first draft of the budget, to go back to pre-COVID levels where Jackson buses were just servicing Jackson students, and John Kennedy buses, John Kennedy students, all contingent upon their drivers being available. We’re still in trouble, we still struggle to find drivers, not only with STA but our other contractors. So this is an area that was looked at as a possible reduction. So we took out three buses and what's presented tonight, buses and monitors, each cost about $70-some thousand.”

The third proposition of the May vote is to establish a capital improvement reserve fund for the purpose of financing in whole or in part the “acquisition, construction, reconstruction, expansion, renovation, alteration, and improvement of building, facilities, sites and real property” by the district for not greater than $10 million.

“This budget also addresses smart and conservative financial planning for future capital construction and maintenance needs for all of our buildings, Smith said. “Finally, and most importantly, this budget preserves our academic and extra-curricular programs.”

File photo of Student Transportation of America, the bus company serving Batavia City School District, by Howard Owens.

City Council votes of 6-2 establish tax cap override and $33.5M budget

By Joanne Beck

In a seemingly predictable move, given City Council’s talks of late, the group voted Monday to adopt a law to override the tax cap limit and to approve the $33.5 million operational budget.

Both votes were six to two, with council members John Canale, Rich Richmond, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Al McGinnis and Kathy Briggs giving a yes and Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt a no.

“Just as I’ve said in the past, I’m opposed to this, I think it can be avoided,” Bialkowski said. “The county is giving us $392,000 additional sales tax revenues. I’ve had contact from many taxpayers and voters, and they’re very upset with this. So that’s my position and opinion.”

Likewise, Schmidt isn’t in favor of the budget and override and has previously mentioned that she’s voting for her constituents.

“I’ve had many voters asking me to vote no, and I am going to do so,” she said Monday, questioning some budget logic. “So we don't want to use the county money because it's one-time money. But we did use the one-time, Alliance money for raises. So next year, I don't know how we're going to cover those raises. But we're using one-time money for raises but won't use one-time money for the tax cap override. So that's just my comment.”

Jankowski emphasized that the tax rate was lowered last year, and overall, he feels that the city has been doing a good fiscal job.

"We're not using $110,000 out of retirement reserves, which we were kind of forced to do the last two years, we've broken away from that. We're not using VLT money to supplement the budget because we got burned one time. And it was hard not to do during COVID. We were struggling with everyone else. But we were able to get off of that. So that's a huge step in the right direction,” Jankowski said. “We've lowered our debt service by 9%, which has put us in good financial condition to bond the new police station, the LED streetlight conversion, the ice rink chiller, the Zamboni and three upcoming major water and sewer infrastructure improvements,” he said. “So I think we're on the right track to provide the services that people expect in the public safety and things like that. Even though, at this point, we're still taking $454,000 out of the fund balance to kind of cover the budget this year.

“So I think we're doing pretty good, I'm really happy with it. All the people I talked to understand the situation we're in to give us their full support. And I have had one or two people that have concerns, and after talking to them, they understand where we're at,” he said. “So I just wanted to make that clear because, you know, there's some negativity here. I'm not happy about this tax cap, either. But I think under the circumstances, what we're achieving here, and how we're doing it, I think is the proper way to go.”

Viele agreed with Jankowski, and Briggs said that she’s had a few phone calls, but “once I explained it, they were fine,” she said.

The tax cap override means that the city will be able to collect a $6.6 million tax levy for the $19.4 million general budget. City taxpayers won’t see an increased tax rate, as that will remain flat at $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value.

Council was unanimous in its vote to approve the 30-cent water rate increase, which, along with an increased water meter rate and capital improvement fees, will tack on about $60 more for an average home of four people.

Two City Council members speak on behalf of citizens about budget, none show at public hearings

By Joanne Beck


An apparent unexpected discussion came up just before City Council’s vote Monday evening to move a proposed tax cap override to a business meeting for final approval to create the required local law.

Council members Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt each said they would not vote to move the tax cap override for a final vote on March 13, but neither offered amendments to the proposed $33.5 million 2023-24 budget.

Both council members said they had constituents who were not happy about the budget and override, and they, therefore, were not going to vote for it.

“I've heard from many, many constituents that have serious concerns over this. So I don't support it,” Bialkowski said during the group’s conference meeting at City Hall. “But if we run short, we'll have to learn to live with it, just like the average homeowner does. You know, people are really concerned about their taxes.”

Schmidt added that the people she represents are not in favor of the budget, and maybe it’s time to give a little.

“I’m not in favor of it either. My constituents are not in favor of it. And I can't vote yes on something that the people and the citizens of the city don't want, because I feel like I work for them,” she said.

None of those constituents, nor anyone else, showed up to speak during the three public hearings regarding the budget, tax cap override and water rate increase.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski has recommended the override as a way to make budgetary ends meet this year by collecting more than the 2 percent property tax levy of $6.6 million. If council does not approve the override, it will have to cut more than $456,000 from the budget, Tabelski said.


Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. wondered aloud why, if these two had issues, they did not bring them up during two prior budget workshops. There was also a third one tentatively scheduled, and no one said they wanted or needed it at the time, he said.

“If you had complaints from citizens … Why weren’t any amendments made or attempts to me to address those concerns during the budget process? I mean, we had a month to do this, and if somebody notified me, as a representative, I would have come to the group and said, I have people concerned about this specific part of the budget. And they don't like this part. Is there any way we can reduce that? Or what would it cost to reduce it, there was plenty of time to ask and have those questions answered,” Jankowski said. “As I understand it, from my research, if we were to make the tax cap … we'd be taking money out of necessary savings accounts to cover the costs.”

Schmidt said she only more recently became aware of the county’s revenue distributions, including $392,000 for the city. Why can’t the city put those funds toward the shortfall, she said.

Tabelski explained that auditor recommendations are to keep a fund balance of 15 to 25 percent, and she is not leaning towards pulling any of that out to pay this next year’s bills. As for using the county’s unanticipated revenues, it’s not good practice to use a one-time amount just to meet the tax cap, she said, because then what happens next year?

“We’ll find ourselves right back here,” she said.

The city has gone through lean times, Jankowski said, especially during the pandemic and related drops in revenue. And now is not the time to pick the bones.

“And I'm not happy with inflation, I'm not happy with everything that is going crazy and the costs. And I get a chance to meet with a lot of the department heads. I do this every year. And it's about as lean as I believe we can get it and still provide the public safety and the services people expect for living in this community,” he said. “I think we have a balanced budget, that is a balance between necessary public safety and services that people are accustomed to, as well as trying to keep it as reasonable as possible.”


Councilman John Canale hates to use COVID as an excuse, and it isn’t one, he said, but rather, is a calendar marker. Those were very uncertain financial times that shifted council’s perspective, he said.

“And if I remember, right, we as a board, although Tammy wasn't here at the time, I do think we as a board decided, you know what, we just have to react to the environment as it happens to us," Canale said. "So we're going to do it on a year-to-year basis. Yes, we have to look down the road as we always have, that we need to survive on a year-to-year basis right now.

"It's just like many municipalities are in the same position that we're in. If I remember it, we all kind of casually agreed that, yeah, we'll just take this thing a year at a time until we started to get out of it. You know, get into the clearing a little bit. Well, we're not even clear,” he added.  “We are all very opposed, I think, to overriding the tax cap. I certainly don't want to have to do it. When it means that we can still continue to provide all the services like you say — that we have grown accustomed to having provided for us as taxpayers — and our only choice is either to drain funds that we shouldn't really be draining that we've worked so hard to build up or override the tax cap, which is nothing that any one of us put into place. That's our state that has required that of us. This is one of those years where we're still not in the clearing yet. I think that was the only decision. That was a viable decision.

“I feel pretty proud to say we’ve maintained the tax rate,” he said.


To the contrary, Schmidt doesn’t feel proud of the status quo, she said, not when other municipalities have lowered their tax rates. The city property tax rate is $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, and that’s to remain the same.

“Can we ever just throw a bone to the citizens?” she said. “They are on the top of the organizational chart; we work for them.”

Council voted 6 to 2 in favor of moving the budget and override to the March 13 business meeting for a final vote. Members Kathy Briggs, Al McGinnis, Rich Richmond, Paul Viele, Canale, and Jankowski voted yes to no votes cast by Bialkowski and Schmidt. All members agreed to move the proposed water rate increase of 30 cents per 1,000 gallons to the same meeting for a vote.

File Photos of Bob Bialkowski, Eugene Jankowski Jr., John Canale and Tammy Schmidt, by Howard Owens.

Monday's public hearings give time for input on budget, tax cap override and water increase

By Joanne Beck

A total operating budget of $33.5 million and tax cap override are not necessarily a done deal, City Councilman-at-large Bob Bialkowski says

Both of those issues are on the agenda for public hearings at the council’s next conference meeting. It’s set for 7 p.m. Monday, in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

Council had two budget workshops earlier this month to review the proposed 2023-24 budget, ask questions and make potential suggestions or amendments. No amendments were made to the spending plan, however, a final vote has not yet been cast, Bialkowski said.

“I’ve had a lot of constituents complain about it,” he said to The Batavian.

He hopes that citizens attend the hearing to make their feelings known for the record.


In her memo to council, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that a general fund of $19.4 million balances revenues and expenses and includes considerations for increased costs of 8 percent inflation, double diesel fuel, $400,000 in employee wages, $300,000 in retirements, $475,000 in health care and 15 to 40 percent hikes in utilities and materials, including salt, gas and electric.

Employee expenses include nonunion raises effective April 1 for 15 positions ranging from secretary to the city administrator to city manager.

City Council conducted its usual annual performance appraisal for the city manager, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said, per conditions of the manager’s contract. He would not provide any additional comments about the manager’s performance. Her raise is set to go from an initial $112,000 to an adjusted 117,600 and then to $121,128 for the 2023-24 budget year, based on “highest union” numbers.

Positions of human resources director, assistant manager, police chief, and fire chief, and public works director are slated for an $8,000 increase from the initial 2022-23 figure to 2023-24 budget year, for salaries of $111,687 for the first three positions, respectively; $106,453 for fire chief; and $96,194 for DPW director.

City Council recently approved increases for police personnel that would incrementally boost salaries by 3 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second and third years as part of union negotiations. Council members, including Jankowski, Tammy Schmidt, and Kathy Briggs, had agreed that the increases were warranted as ways to attract and retain quality employees and remain competitive with other similarly sized cities.

If the council approves the budget, which requires a larger tax levy than allowable by state mandate, the tax cap override would also have to go to vote and be approved by at least a 60 percent yes vote of council. The proposed tax levy is $6.6 million, however, Tabelski is recommending a stable tax rate of $8.94, which is the current rate. She has said there are to be no new assessment increases this year — unless substantial improvements have been made to one’s property — which may be of little consolation for those still adjusting to the last two years of hikes. Bottom line is that a flat tax rate has meant a bigger property tax bill due to a higher assessment.

There is a third public hearing regarding new water rates, meter fees, and a capital improvement fee. The proposed water rate increase is 30 cents more per $1,000 gallons of water. This measure is to cost a typical family of four $60 more per year, Tabelski said.

There is time allotted for public comments during the meeting. Sign up with the city clerk before it begins.

To view the agenda and related documents, go HERE.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

Five weeks and two budget talks later, city tax cap override still on the table

By Joanne Beck

More than a month ago Batavia City Council was given a $33.5 million budget proposal that included a $6.6 million tax levy, a required tax cap override and built-in budget sessions to see where cuts could potentially be made.

Five weeks later, the group voted to put the same 2023-24 budget and tax cap override on the calendar for public hearings that begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 in Council Chambers at City Hall. Throughout the budget workshops, no council member suggested amendments to make cuts to the proposed $33.5 million financial plan.

One public hearing will be to establish a local law authorizing the city to override the state-mandated tax cap to collect more than the set limit of real property taxes. This law would need a vote of at least 60 percent of City Council to pass. It would then take effect immediately upon filing with the secretary of state.

The second public hearing is more directly related to the budget, naming the amount to be levied of $6.6 million. If passed by council, it will take effect on April 1.

As City Manager Rachael Tabelski explained in January, the tax cap is an “arbitrary formula given out by the state.” And with expanded roles of a full-time recycling officer and full-time ordinance officer, increased health care, retirement, utility, and other costs she believes are essentials, it was either overriding that tax cap or making “significant” cuts, she said.

“I would say this is this year's request,” she said. “The city would do everything in its power to maintain under the tax cap in the future.”

City Council, in its unanimous vote, agreed. Members Bob Bialkowski, John Canale, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Al McGinnis, Kathy Briggs, and Tammy Schmidt have also agreed to a cumulative 8 percent raise over three years in a negotiated contract with the city police, though Bialkowski has raised a couple of questions about salaries and an extra day off. 

This next year's budget also includes a water and meter rate increase of 30 cents more per 1,000 gallons. That increase is to begin April 1, and will tack on about $60 more per year to the bill of an average family of four, Tabelski said.

The property tax rate would remain flat at $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, although most assessments were raised over the past two years in the city, for an overall higher tax bill. For example, if a home is assessed at $90,000, and it is now assessed at $100,000, the flat tax rate times the higher assessment will cost the homeowner an additional $89.40 per year.

Recruiting by the numbers, councilman asks for salary details

By Joanne Beck

In early January, council members approved a one-time salary adjustment, three years of increases, an extra holiday, and a $1,500 stipend as part of negotiations for the city police contract that was set to expire on March 31.

In an effort to retain employees and become more competitive with cities comparable to Batavia, the deal was struck to bump up salaries with a 3 percent increase the first year, followed by a 2.5 percent for each second and third year, Assistant Manager Erik Fix had said.

The total budget impact for the three-year deal is an extra $296,220.

At that time, Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked if the extra holiday would cause any issues with overtime for officers, and Chief Shaw Heubusch didn’t believe it would. During this week’s meeting, Bialkowski said that he’s been waiting for a list of police salaries and has not received them yet.

Councilwoman Tammy Schmidt told him about the online site of seethroughny, which lists salaries for any government position in New York State. Bialkowski still wanted to obtain a current list from management, he said.

"Remember why we did this,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

Jankowski wanted to remind Bialkowski and others that the reason they approved the raises was to align the salaries with comparable areas to attract quality candidates for vacancies and retain current employees.

The city of Geneva has been previously used by officials and consultants for comparison to Batavia. Geneva has a population that is smaller -- just under 13,000 -- and a median yearly wage larger -- $44,000 -- than Batavia. Top pay in Geneva for the police/fire departments is $125,633, with many salaries falling within the $70,000 to $90,000 range.

Batavia’s population is about 15,000, with a median yearly wage of $33,000.

Batavia’s highest salary is $141,275, and has a few in the $50,000, $60,000  range, and several in the $70,000, $80,000, $90,000 and $100,000 range.

More specifically, a longtime, upper level position of sergeant is in the $140,000 range, and a police officer that began in 2020 makes $68,382. Another officer that began in 2022 makes $50,815.

With the new contract in place, that new officer will go to $52,339.45 in the first year, to $53,647.94 the second year, and $54,989.13 by year three, for a total raise of more than $4,000 over three years. For an officer making $68,682, that will put him at $73,999.16, or $5,317 more, by year three. Obviously, the higher the salary is, the more the cumulative raise will be.

This part of the 2023-24 budget has already been sealed with council's vote to approve the contract. A public hearing for the budget and related tax cap override has been set for 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at City Hall.

Filel Photo of Councilman Bob Bialkowski by Joanne Beck

City budget talks wrap up with no amendments, tax cap override on the horizon

By Joanne Beck

During Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s review of his department’s budget Tuesday evening, he was asked how often the shared heavy-duty MRAP vehicle is used.

The city and county share the maintenance costs of this six-figure vehicle; it is often purchased and deployed for military use. The acronym stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected.

And while it could be likened to that pricey classic Mustang that sits in the garage year after year collecting dust and costing a small fortune of insurance and maintenance costs, but impresses during the high school reunion, the MRAP does more than ensure a good impression.

“It goes out on every single call. And during the blizzard of 2022, it went out and saved lives, so it did exactly what it was meant to do,” Heubusch said during City Council’s workshop at City Hall. “We really thought it would be used for a flood, and it was a blizzard, but it worked perfectly.”

You may recall the stories about those hundreds of motorists — even including some fire trucks and ambulances — stuck and stranded in the drifting hills of snow throughout the western end of Genesee County in late December. That MRAP ate through it all to get to people and extract them from the life-threatening elements.

Transportation-related costs include fuel at $57,000, repairs at $11,000, tires for $8,800, towing, at $1,000 and rust undercoating at $2,500 for a total of $80,300 in this next year’s budget, he said.  Salaries and benefits expenses absorbed the biggest amount of the budget, with a $2,674,860 for regular and $220,000 going towards overtime costs, plus holiday, longevity and shift differential pay for a total $3,038,830 for police personnel expenses.

There are three vacancies, including one position that’s “frozen,” Heubusch said. The department will be recruiting for those other two positions, and to fill two retirements that are forthcoming later this year, he said. Finding candidates continues to be a tough job in itself, he said.

“It’s disheartening,” he said. “The number of people taking Civil Service tests is dwindling very, very rapidly.”

His review of the $4,323,847 budget also included repair and maintenance costs of the current police station — an expense he hopes will be the last “at 10 West Main St.,” he said, referring to the reality of a new station being built in the next year; and training as a way to stay up to date with “the latest and greatest,” including a two-week sniper course. Community policing and events have a cost of $12,440, associated mostly with overtime due to these events meaning overtime for after-hours events, he said.

And then there’s the category that seems to make everyone smile: the K9 unit, for $950, and the officer handler’s costs within the personnel category. The dog and handler spend their time together, and attend monthly training so as to maintain what they’ve learned, Heubusch said.

“The handler is compensated for caring for the dog,” he said. “He’s a working dog, so he’s always working.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was on the police force for several years, said the job takes someone who loves canines. No matter how special the K-9 four-legged is, it can still get messy, and needs to be tended to, he said.

“He does wonderful things,” Jankowski said. “But he’s a dog.”

No one on council had any amendments to make for the budget, which, as it stands, is headed to exceed the tax cap with a total of $6.6 million to be raised by taxes. The tax rate is to remain unchanged at $8.54 per $1,000 assessed value.

The city does not have plans to raise assessments again this year, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. Assessments for many properties in the city were hiked for the last two years in a row, which made property owners’ tax bills increase even when the tax rate itself did not go up.

So if your assessment went up from $90,000 to $100,000, and the tax rate is a flat $8.54 per $1,000, that will mean an increase of $85.40 per year.

A public hearing about the budget has been set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 at City Hall.

File Photos of Police Chief Shawn Heubusch, from the City of Batavia; the MRAP, by Howard Owens, and K9 dog Batu and Handler Stephen Quider receiving a donation on behalf of Batavia Police Department in February 2022, by Howard Owens.

City ambulance? How about an ambulance in the city: suggested during budget talks

By Joanne Beck


Monday evening’s city budget talks took a step back in time, slightly dé·jà vu in reverse when it came to the city fire and police departments.

City Councilman Paul Viele suggested the possibility of having one ambulance on reserve just in city limits.

“For police and fire reserves, I want to see some research on response times for the (Mercy EMS) ambulance. If they're not good, I’d like to maybe see if we can get one ambulance for the city, that just takes care of the city limits. Its response time isn't that good,” Viele said during the workshop at City Hall. “There's one incident, the kid got bitten by a bee. And there was no ambulance, and they throw the kid in the police car to bring him to the hospital.”

“We’ve got to have a backup pickup truck thing for the hospital. You know, I don't want to spend $250,000 on an ambulance. But just something to keep someone alive at the hospital. If your wife is having a heart attack, and there’s not an ambulance, you’re going to be pissed off.”

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that she could check with Mercy EMS to see if some type of arrangement could be made to house an ambulance within city limits. Mercy has a current contract with Genesee County to provide ambulance service countywide, which means that wherever an emergency occurs, the ambulance responds to that municipality within the county.

“There is the option for the city to contract for one soul ambulance from Mercy to be staged in the city at all times. What that costs, what negotiations are, I don't know. And opening negotiations in this manner probably isn't the best way to get a good price, because now it's public,” she said. “But I think we have a lot more to explore. I don't disagree with you, that if an ambulance isn't available for our families in the city of Batavia, that's a severe issue, or if our kids were out in sports fields. And that poor kid, I can't even imagine.”

The service throughout the county is strapped as it is, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

“I mean, the county is struggling with staffing and ambulance and shortages. They're struggling now. So I don't think it's by design, I think it's just manpower, we'd have to find out,” Jankowski said. “But I knew they were struggling. They couldn't even get in the volunteers.”

The dé·jà vu factor here is that the city at one time operated its own ambulance service within the fire department. As a cost-saving measure in 2008, a prior City Council and city management agreed to shut down city ambulance operations in lieu of a private company taking over the service.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski recalled how “complicated” the process was at the time, and it involved fire department staff and public protests and concern. The city cannot simply operate its own ambulance due to health certifications, he and city management said, but perhaps an ambulance could be housed inside city limits if Mercy agreed to such an agreement.

Tabelski said that both the police and fire chief can talk more about this topic at a future meeting, as, per a related report, there is a “critical lack of services from ambulance not only here but across the state,” she said.


Top Photo: City Councilman Paul Viele, and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. talk about the 2023-24 budget during a workshop Monday at City Hall, and above, City Manager Rachael Tabelski, left, Assistant Manager Erik Fix, far right, city staff and council members work through the proposed budget line by line. Photos by Joanne Beck.

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