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Batavia Town Board

State law opens door for Batavia Town Board to offer stipend for volunteer firefighter training

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night signed on to a recently launched New York State training stipend program for volunteer firefighters.

In a unanimous vote, the board passed a resolution that calls for payment of up to $500 in local training stipends for certain firefighter training for Town of Batavia firefighters.

“It’s long overdue and we’re very supportive of volunteer fire service,” Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post said. “We’re pleased to pass this resolution as quickly as we were able to.”

In March, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the start of the statewide program, stating that the goal is to strengthen and stabilize New York’s volunteer fire service. She said that $10 million has been allocated to help offset costs of required fire training courses.

Genesee County officials have been sounding the alarm over the past several years about the declining number of volunteer firefighters, calling for corrective measures that include compensation.

Tim Yaeger, county Emergency Management Services coordinator, acknowledged that Hochul is responding to “conversations with fire associations, coordinators, fire districts and the New York State Fire Chiefs over the diminishing number of volunteers in the state.”

“Those conversations led to this law going into effect last August 31st, where different amounts (of compensation) will be paid (depending on the specific courses taken),” he said. 

Per the law, the state’s Division’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control will administer the stipend to volunteer firefighters for completion of the following training courses completed on or after August 31, 2023.

The state’s program allots $750 for basic exterior firefighting operations course, $1,250 for self-contained breathing apparatus/interior firefighting operations course and $1,000 for fire officer I course.

Locally, the state’s General Municipal Law 200-aa authorizes fire companies to administer a local fire training stipend program of up to $500, subject to authorization by the governing board of city, town, village, or fire district (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

Yaeger said local governing authorities have the option – nothing is mandated – to give stipends to their volunteer firefighters.

“Some may not participate because of budgetary concerns or maybe they don’t have the money in their current budget and may have to wait until next year,” he noted.

He said local action is “basically kind of a thank you.”

“It’s a nice gesture to compensate those volunteers for their time away from their family – away from their obligations – for taking further training courses on behalf of their communities.”

Post said that although the Town Board’s action applies only to its fire department members in good standing, he said that “other municipalities will also have the means and authority to pass similar resolutions.”

“Volunteer fire associations have been pushing for this for a long, long time. They have been lobbying for some time of compensation for a while,” he said. “They spend more time training than they do responding. And it’s not a lot of money. It’s around $8 or $9 per hour when you work it out.”

A representative of the Town of Batavia Fire Department said fire officials "are going through the process" and would be able to provide specifics in the coming weeks.

Town Board OKs sewer main agreements on Park Road

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night voted to enter into agreements with Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. and Genesee Park Place Associates to install approximately 700 feet of new 12-inch sewer main as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project.

According to two separate resolutions, WROTB and Genesee Park Place have agreed to cover up to $260,000 for the installation of the sanitary sewer line that will connect to their existing sewer systems.

The town would be responsible for expenses greater than that figure and, toward that end, the board passed a resolution calling for the issuance of serial bonds of up to $340,000, with financing over a seven-year period.

Town Supervisor Gregory Post said the bonding process, initiated months ago, is necessary in case the town decides to pay off the debt in that manner.

In a related development, the board approved a change order with Concrete Applied Technologies Corp., the Park Road project general contractor, to install the sewer main. The approved increase of $294,425 brings the total amount of the contract with CATCO to $4,495,001.

Additionally, the board passed a resolution approving an increase of up to $275,000 in a contract with Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying of Rochester for construction inspection services for the Park Road project.

In other action, the board:

  • Authorized the transfer of a 4.66-acre parcel behind the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Evans Street to the Batavia Development Corp. for future development. Post said the town had acquired the land at no cost and that no money will change hands for the transfer, which he said will help facilitate the creation of the City of Batavia’s Creek Park project.
  • Adopted Local Law No. 3 of 2022 that amends the town’s vehicle and traffic law to establish 10- or 5-ton weight limits for trucks, tractors and tractor-trailer combinations on streets in the Oakwood Estates development off East Main Street Road and on Seven Springs Road from Route 33 to the Batavia-Stafford town line.
  • Granted a permit to Skylighters of New York, LLC, to put on a fireworks show on July 29 at the Genesee County Fair. The pyrotechnics display is scheduled to take place following the Demolition Derby, which gets underway at 7 p.m.
  • Reported that Assemblyman Steve Hawley will conduct a “town hall” session from 11:45 to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Batavia City Centre (City Hall).

Batavia City Council members defend decision to raise their pay for first time in about nine years

By Mike Pettinella

Update: 7 p.m. with legislators' insurance premium information

Time is money – and during 2022-23 budget talks, members of the Batavia City Council emphasized that it was about time for them to get more money for their public service.

The nine members of the lawmaking body voted healthy pay increases for themselves, effective April 1, noting that they hadn’t received a salary hike for about nine years.

The new salary for eight of the Council people is $5,000 – a jump of 43 percent from the $3,500 in the previous budget – while the new salary for City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is $7,000 – also up 43 percent from his previous stipend of $4,900.

Section 3-4 of the City Charter stipulates that “Council Members shall receive compensation with the Council President receiving 40 percent above the rate for the other Council Members.”

The combined total of the increases is $14,100.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, when asked about the impact on the budget, said, “Since the introduction of the budget, the proposed tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value has not changed.”

Contacted by The Batavia, Jankowski and Council member Robert Bialkowski said the increases are justified when considering how long it has been since the last raise and the amount of time and effort put into running city government.

“There’s a lot of work involved in being on Council -- from keeping up with all of the business on the agenda and addressing the concerns of our residents, who have put their trust in us,” Jankowski said. “I know that in my case, I have many more obligations beyond the monthly meetings.”

Bialkowski said he takes the job “very seriously” and believes that the pay should be even more than it is when compared to the Town of Batavia and Genesee County Legislature.

“If you do the job correctly, there’s a lot of hours involved,” he said. “I am averaging 20 hours a week on City of Batavia business and put in 40 hours alone just on organizing the Memorial Day parade.”

Bialkowski also pointed out that Council members receive no additional reimbursement for their cell phones, mileage or office expenses, such as copying documents.

Jankowski said he understood that some people believe it should be voluntary, but stands firm to his belief that “if people do a good job, there should be some compensation.”

“Plus, the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find people to serve on boards and committees,” he said.


The nine members of the Genesee County Legislature received a 2 percent increase for 2022, said County Manager Matt Landers.

All of them will earn $14,225, except Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, who is paid $19,890 in consideration of her additional responsibilities. Each one also receives full health insurance (their share of the premium is 15 percent) or can take a “buy-back” of $2,600 if not accepting the insurance.

Legislators are required to attend about a half-dozen regular and committee meetings per month, plus all of them are county liaisons to “special assignment” committees.

Those special assignments include the Office for the Aging, Ag & Farmland Protection Board, Audit, Board of Health, Community Services Board/Mental Health, Cooperative Extension, County Park. County Planning Board, E911, Fish & Wildlife Management, Genesee Community College, Holland Land Office, STOP-DWI, Youth Board and Water Resources Agency.

“The legislators spend a considerable amount of time outside of legislature meetings at these at these committee assignments, and then there's also volumes of information that they have to prepare and read and review before meetings,” Landers said. “Beyond that, they are very involved (in day-to-day matters). I poll legislators on a variety of different RFPs (request for proposals) that we send out and they are involved in the hiring process, in many cases.”

Landers mentioned several task forces that are meeting now, such as fire protection, the new county jail and broadband.

“They are putting in plenty of time. They’re definitely not getting rich with the hours they put in,” he added.


Pay for Town of Batavia government officials is at the following levels:

Supervisor -- $40,000, same as in 2021.

Deputy Supervisor -- $18,000, same as in 2021.

Three Council members -- $12,000, an increase of $2,000 from 2021.

Town of Batavia lawmakers hire Earl, appoint several to planning, zoning, assessment boards

By Mike Pettinella

As expected, the Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night approved hiring Batavia native Kevin Earl to serve in the new position of counsel to the supervisor on a part-time basis.

Earl, per the resolution that was passed unanimously during a special meeting of the town board, is expected to work 20 hours per week at a starting rate of $51.52 per hour.

The resolution stipulates a six-month probationary period for the job, at which time an evaluation of performance will be assessed for an increase in pay or dismissal of duties.

For the past five years, Earl was employed as the Genesee County attorney.

During its organizational meeting, the board also made several appointments and reappointments to the Town Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Assessment Board of Review.


  • Jonathan Long: Reappointed through Dec. 31, 2028;
  • Steven Tanner: Appointed to replace Jeremy Liles, who resigned, through Dec. 31, 2025. Tanner had been an alternate member;
  • Brooks Hawley: Appointed to replace Lou Paganello, who resigned, through Dec. 31, 2023. Hawley had been an alternate member;
  • Jennifer Zambito: Appointed as an alternate, through Dec. 31, 2023;
  • Brittany Witkop: Appointed as an alternate, through Dec. 31, 2023.


  • Keith Boeheim: Appointed through Dec. 31, 2026;
  • William Sutton: Appointed through Dec. 31, 2023, replacing Witkop;
  • Michael Dana: Appointed as an alternate, through Dec. 31, 2023.


  • William Sutton: Appointed to replace Lynn Eick, who resigned, through Sept. 30, 2022;
  • Michael Dana: Appointed to replace Robert Shell, who resigned, through Sept. 30, 2024.

The town board also set the salaries for Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals members, as follows:

  • Planning Board chair, $6,910;
  • Planning Board secretary, $95-$153.58 per meeting;
  • Planning Board members (7), $99.65 per meeting;
  • ZBA members (4), $55.18 per meeting;
  • ZBA chair, $1,456;
  • ZBA secretary, $75-$82.78 per meeting.

BREAKING: Batavia Town Board votes to opt out of cannabis retail dispensaries, consumption sites

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board tonight, by a 3-2 tally, voted in favor of a local law to opt out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites in the town, likely triggering a public referendum to gauge the municipality's pulse regarding the New York's Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.

At their monthly meeting at the Town Hall of West Main Street Road, Council members Sharon White, Patti Michalak and Supervisor Greg Post voted for the resolution passing Local Law No. 7 of 2021 to opt out, while Chad Zambito and Dan Underhill voted against the resolution (and to opt in).

Kelly March of Clinton Street Road, (photo at right), appearing before the board for the second straight meeting to voice her support for the cannabis legislation, said she was "disappointed" in the outcome but vowed to press on through the permissive referendum process.

"I'm pretty disappointed, but I knew ahead of time they were not going to be passing it," she said. "But I wanted them to be able to look me in the eye and not pass it."

Asked what's next, she said, "We're going to do the referendum. We're going to work with the town board. We knew ahead of time that that would be the case, and they're very willing to work with us ... to help us through the process to that."

March said there is a broad base of support throughout the town and even to the tri-county area for the reformed marijuana laws that would ensure safe, high quality cannabis. She added that she was disappointed that some of the farming community "is not supportive of farmers, essentially."

As far as the referendum is concerned, she said that she is "going to do my homework" to get some legal advice.

"And we do have lawyers that are working with a lot of other towns and villages, you know, constituents that are doing the same thing we are right now. So, I'm very confident that you will have good guidance and people to work with," she said. "We've seen a really good uptake in people opening up and talking about cannabis now."

March said she had hoped to meet with Post prior to tonight's meeting, but that didn't happen due to scheduling conflicts. She said that Penelope Hamilton Crescibene, who also was at the Nov. 17 public hearing on the MRTA, did get answers to questions regarding taxation and banking, "which were grave concern to them."

Post did address March tonight following her brief statement that urged board members to consider her opinion when they voted on the resolution.

"I want you to know that you were heard," he said. "Regardless of our vote, this is in the hands of the people."

On another front, the board voted to extend the town's moratorium on solar energy systems for another six months as a special solar committee completes its work.

A public meeting on the town's revised solar guidelines is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Town Hall, immediately following a special town board meeting at 5 p.m.

Previously: Two advocates speak out about opting in for cannabis dispensaries

Two advocates speak out about opting in for cannabis dispensaries

By Joanne Beck

Kelly March is a mother of three teenagers, a local business owner, and someone who believes in following state mandates. 

The Batavia resident is also a patient advocate and cannabis ambassador who encouraged Batavia Town Council members Wednesday to opt into allowing cannabis retail dispensaries.

"When you opt out, you’re not making it safer; you’re giving the legacy market license to flourish,” March said during a public hearing about proposed cannabis legislation that would allow dispensaries and on-site consumption of the product. 

March was one of two speakers and about a half dozen quiet supporters at Batavia Town Hall. She supports the reformed marijuana laws that would ensure safe, high quality cannabis in this area, she said. 

Otherwise, by opting out of the move, Town Council members are side-stepping legal ways to provide and sell marijuana, she said, and opening up opportunities for those that sell on the “legacy market.” Legacy is the more acceptable term nowadays for the previously used phrase “black” market, she said. 

“By banning the legalized market, it will increase use by the youth,” she said. “Batavia is a community rooted in farming. We have cannabis now … We want the right to be able to pursue our own business, just like distilleries in the area.”

March foresees craft cannabis products available, just as craft beer, wine and liquors have become popular. Aside from the business end of the issue, she also spoke of the Compassionate Care Act, which has gradually been adopting less restrictive policies so that patients have an easier way to access medical marijuana. Right now patients have had to deal with “a plethora of issues,” she said, including affordability and access due to dispensaries being at greater distances.

A medical card-carrying patient herself, March knows only too well the hassle of driving two hours to obtain relief through cannabis treatment, she said. Having to figure out what to do with one’s children while visiting a dispensary only compounds the problem, she said. 

March founded her business, Genesee Cannabis Club, in 2018. It provides educational programs for women to empower them as part of the work force, she said. There is no down side to allowing for dispensaries locally, she said. 

“I urge you to please think about it,” she said. 

Although Penelope Hamilton Crescibene is not a recreational cannabis user and was once “petrified” of all the pitfalls she heard about marijuana, she has become a vocal advocate of its use. Batavia was her sixth board visit to address issues of opting out of cannabis dispensaries, she said. 

“People are afraid of this change. The old fear-mongering is alive and well,” she said to The Batavian. “I get calls all day long from people needing help." 

Crescibene was diagnosed years ago with rheumatoid arthritis and the auto-immune disease of Sjögren’s syndrome. Once on heavy loads of prescription opioids to lessen the pain, she eventually turned to cannabis. Within 30 days she was off all opioid drugs, she said. 

“I learned all about the science. I learned about this plant,” she said during the hearing. 

The East Pembroke resident is director of community engagement for The Cannabis Community, which shares information through “education, awareness and access.” She is also a medical adviser for Empire State’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as NORML, and wants to help inform individuals and groups about this topic.

There have already been cannabis sales locally, she said, and people are driving on the roads.

“We already know people are using this,” she said. “If it was legal, we would be able to grow it like apples. If you give the option of opting out, you are saying ‘you’re welcome to stay and continue your illicit sales.’  You’re also opting out of taxes.”

She urged the board to help address the stigma associated with who uses marijuana: the majority of people are patients medicating their health conditions, she said, versus the stereotypical notion that minorities are using it more heavily than other populations. 

“Let’s start working together and start educating,” she said.

During a previous meeting, Batavia Town Board voted to have the public hearing to obtain community member feedback on the resolution. One option is to enable the municipality to opt out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites through New York’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.

Supervisor Gregory Post had said he didn’t think the town had enough information from New York State to “enter into something that we could never get out of.” He suggested that the town take more time in making an affirmative decision. The board can always opt in at a later time, he said, once more details are available. Post had also expressed concern regarding the vote of five board members, citing that it probably “isn’t a clear and transparent representation of the whole community.”

The board will vote on the resolution at a future meeting. 

Photo above: Penelope Hamilton Crescibene speaks during a Batavia Town Board public hearing to opt in or out of cannabis dispensaries.

Advocates Kelly March of Batavia and Penelope Hamilton Crescibene of East Pembroke advocate for allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption, per the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in New York. 

Batavia Town Board receives feedback about its future vote on cannabis dispensaries during a public hearing Wednesday evening at Batavia Town Hall. 

Photos by Howard Owens. 

Public hearing on cannabis dispensaries, consumption sites scheduled at Batavia Town Hall tonight

By Mike Pettinella

A public hearing on the Batavia Town Board's recent passing of a resolution to opt out of New York's Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act is scheduled for 7:10 this evening at the Batavia Town Hall, 3833 West Main St. Rd.

The board, at its Oct. 20 meeting, scheduled the public hearing with the aim of opting out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites until it receives more details from state officials in charge of the program.

According to the new law, if municipalities opt in, they will not be able to opt out at a later date, but if they choose to opt out before the Dec. 31 deadline, they would be able to opt in in the future.

Should the board pass a local law to opt out following tonight's public hearing, it could result in a permissive referendum organized by residents who disagree with its decision.

Previously: Town Board looking to opt out of marijuana dispensaries, consumption sites due to lack of information

Town board OKs measures to support Park Road project

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night voted in favor of several resolutions pertaining to the Park Road Improvement Project – a $4.3 million reconstruction of the busy street that runs between Lewiston Road (Route 63) and Oak Street (Route 98).

Approvals of resolutions by the board at its monthly meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road are as follows:

  • An amendment of a bond resolution of July 21 that increases the amount to be borrowed from $3 million to an estimated maximum cost of $4.3 million “to reflect the full nature of the costs of the project and to handle the higher than expected bids received.”

Town Supervisor Gregory Post said the issuance of serial bonds makes the most financial sense, especially since a large portion of the project cost will be reimbursed by the federal government and New York State.

“This gives us temporary cash flow to be able to pay the bills with the bond money and not having to take it from town accounts,” Post said. “Right now, we’re earning interest on 99.9 percent of the town’s money.”

  • A revised supplemental agreement with the state Department of Transportation that puts the total construction cost at $3,248,915 with the federal share at $2,599,132, the state share at $435,000 and the local share at $214,783, and to include a local share for the watermain and street lighting betterment at a total cost of $1,108,085.

Renovation of Park Road has been part of the town’s plan since December 2009, when it signed the original agreement with the DOT.

  • A contract in the amount of $4,077,000 with Concrete Applied Technologies Corp., doing business as CATCO, of Alden, as the lowest bidder as the general contractor for the project.

Work will consist of the installation of new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road overlaying of pavement and installation of sidewalks on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98, and installation of new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

  • A contract in the amount of $11,200 with Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., of Rochester, to assist the town in the design of the street lighting electrical system and review the estimate of the project.

The board tabled a resolution to amend an agreement with Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., raising the contribution of the parent company of Batavia Downs Gaming from $350,000 to $486,870 for enhanced aesthetics near the facility.

The resolution stipulates that WROTB make three equal yearly installments of $162,290.

Post said negotiations with WROTB are continuing.

In late August, WROTB directors approved allocating $488,000 for the enhancements due to rising costs of conduit, light fixtures and trees.

WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said he hoped to forge a contract with the Town of Batavia for Batavia Downs to maintain trees, street lights and sidewalks, and for snowplowing of that portion of the road.

In other action, the board approved:

  • A contract for $13,250 with Ciurzynski Consulting, LLC, of Attica, for architectural and engineering sub-consultant services for improvements to the Town Hall and highway garage.

Post pointed out several issues with the Town Hall, including heating/air conditioning problems and flooring and the need to reconfigure work space, and with the highway garage, including replacement of the roof and insulation to facilitate cold storage to warmer storage.

  • A contract for $9,500 with Wendel Companies of Rochester to assist in updating the town’s solar law.

Currently, the town is enforcing a moratorium on solar projects while a committee works to formulate a comprehensive solar ordinance. Chaired by Town Council member Chad Zambito, the committee is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 23.

Batavia Town Board sets public hearings on sewer upgrades, Park Road project, solar moratorium for July 21

By Mike Pettinella

After swinging and missing on a pitch to obtain a grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal for the replacement of 5,300 feet of water main as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project, the Batavia Town Board is still staying in the batter’s box.

It remains steadfast in its commitment to upgrade the municipality's sanitary sewer pump station at the Valu Plaza on West Main Street.

On Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers scheduled a public hearing on the Community Development Block Grant funding for 7:05 p.m. July 21 (the board’s next meeting) at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

“The application is for upgrades and repairs of the sanitary sewer pump station at the West Main Street plaza,” said Town Supervisor Gregory Post, adding that he’s not sure of the cost at this time. “We’re working on that (cost projections) as we speak. It’s a rushed application because we were denied our last application for Park Road and another round of funding is coming out.”

Missing out on the Park Road grant is disappointing, he said, but as the project moves forward, the town is looking at a bond resolution to pay for the approximately $900,000 cost of replacing the water main.

“We’re going to bid on Park Road in the next few weeks and we’re bonding that,” he said. “Once we receive the bids, we’ll develop a construction schedule based on that.”

A public hearing on the bond resolution for the Park Road water main and the entire capital improvement project also is scheduled July 21 at 7 p.m.

The resolution calls for the issuance of serial bonds not to exceed $975,190, offset by any federal, state, county and/or local funds received.

The $3 million Park Road rehabilitation will take place from Lewiston Road (Route 63) to Oak Street (Route 98).

Work will include new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road, while pavement will be overlaid and sidewalks installed on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98. The project also calls for new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

Additional property enhancements of up to $395,000 at Batavia Downs Gaming will be paid for by the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

Solar Moratorium is Extended

In another development, the town board called another public hearing – this one for 7:10 p.m. July 21 to extend a moratorium on solar energy systems for up to another six months. The current moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month.

“We felt it important that we still had the moratorium in place while we work on getting our new (solar) law enacted,” Post said. “So, we’re setting a public hearing to extend the moratorium until such time that we have the legislative process complete.”

Post said the process of enacting new solar regulations has taken longer than expected “due to the extraordinary depths the (town’s solar) committee is diving into to make sure that this is well researched and well thought out. We want to make it more wholesome for the entire community and not leave anybody out.”

Post mentioned some recent developments in the solar arena that could affect the town’s handling of ground-mounted and, potentially, large-scale solar systems.

“The state’s solar agency (Office of Renewable Energy Siting) is being challenged in the courts, and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) was found out to have hired a consulting firm that also has solar and wind energy customers as clients,” he reported. “That could be a conflict of interest – hiring somebody for a million dollars that is working for solar and wind energy companies.”

Furthermore, Post said he saw that Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, which owns the rights to a pair of side-by-side 5- and 4-megawatt solar systems on Ellicott Street Road, was sold to a Stockholm, Sweden-based investment company called EQT earlier this week.

“Solar is a hot topic and we just want to do our job and make sure we do it as well as everything else,” Post said, adding that he hopes to have the town’s new solar law in place by Labor Day.

Batavia Town Board signs off on engineering piece of plan to widen Route 98, north of Thruway

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night voted in favor of a resolution supporting the initial phase of a five-year plan to widen Route 98 (Oak Orchard Road) and possibly to construct a roundabout at the intersection of West Saile Drive, north of the New York State Thruway interchange.

The town has entered into a “federal aid local project agreement” with the state Department of Transportation – a contract that calls for 80 percent of the work to be paid through federal funding and the other 20 percent to be paid with town money.

Per the resolution, the town board authorized and approved the preliminary engineering phase of the project at a cost of $187,000, with $149,600 to be reimbursed by federal aid and $37,400 as the local share.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain indicated the municipality will handle at least 50 percent of the project design and engineering in an effort to keep some of the funding in the town’s coffers.

Mountain said he anticipates the work being completed in 2023.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a proposal from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. to pay the town for additional property enhancements in connection with the Park Road Reconstruction Project scheduled for this fall.

The project, which will rehabilitate the road from Lewiston Road (Route 63) to Oak Street (Route 98), will improve traffic and aesthetics for those coming to Batavia Downs Gaming and its hotel, as well as other businesses in that section of the town/city.

In March, WROTB directors passed a resolution in favor of payment to the town of up to $395,000 for the installation of sidewalks, a promenade, tree-lined area, street and parking lot lighting, landscaping, road work, valet improvements and infrastructure.

Major work to be contracted out by the town includes new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road; pavement overlay and sidewalks on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98, and new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

Requests for bids for the state-funded venture are expected to go out in August.

  • Passed a local law establishing a Town of Batavia Remote Work Policy following a public hearing on the matter (at which no one from the community spoke).

“We’re committed to working remotely as a majority of our staff has been doing that, so we just needed to consolidate what we propose and advise to make sure that everyone is doing what is appropriate,” Supervisor Gregory Post said.

Filed the with the Department of State, the document outlines guidelines, terms and conditions for town employees who work from a location other than our offices and provides an agreement between remote work employees and their department head.

Sections of the policy include eligibility (getting prior approval, subject to a list of stipulations); work expectations; schedule; equipment (computer, software, cell phones), and insurance/compensation/benefits.

  • Agreed to the issuance of serial bonds not to exceed $500,000 to purchase a jet/vacuum truck for the highway, water and sewer departments. The expense would be added to the town budget, potentially to be part of the tax levy.

Town board seeks moratorium on solar energy systems, sets public hearing for Jan. 20

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board this afternoon called for a “timeout” as it attempts to keep up with the changing landscape of the solar farm industry.

During a special meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, the board passed a resolution to hold a public hearing to consider Local Law No. 1 of 2021 entitled, “A Local Law, Establishing a Town of Batavia Moratorium on Solar Energy Systems.”

The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The board also voted to declare lead agency status with regard to an environmental review per the State Environmental Quality Review Act and will prepare an assessment form for this action.

Supervisor Gregory Post said that several key changes have taken place since the board passed the town’s solar ordinance five years ago.

“This is something that probably was going to be addressed during the course of the past 2020 year along with a revisit to our comprehensive plan and other things that were budgeted in our planning budget,” Post said. “We continue to work to be an energy efficient community – and have received a lot of grant money as a result – but so much has changed and now is the time for a review.”

Post pointed to the following aspects pertaining to community and large-scale solar projects that must be considered:

  • New York State Article 10

“In my opinion, solar farms also serve as an ag protection plan in that the ground remains fertile and available for farming in the future,” he said. “But now, New York State has jumped in with Article 10 and started taking over towns' rights.”

He said that “giant corporate entities” are taking thousands of acres without local participation or control, specifically mentioning huge projects in Byron, Oakfield and Elba.

“I’ve also talked to the Town of Le Roy Supervisor (James Farnholz) and he was expressing some frustration in that they had spent an enormous amount of time and energy to come up with a solar law, only to have the governor and the state change it almost on the same day they were prepared to adopt it,” Post offered. “And it caused them to have to go back and revisit it.”

The supervisor said there’s much to learn about Article 10 (and a new state regulation to replace it).

“That’s another reason to hold things up until we all are better understanding of the Article 10 process and the changes to Article 10, and the experiences of other communities that are in Article 10,” he said. “Planning and zoning board members need to be educated about this stuff because it is a big deal and it is bound to be more time consuming than expected.”

  • Building More Than What is Needed

Post said the recommendations of so-called experts has led developers to “overbuild capacity.”

“They’re building solar and wasting energy because the price to develop solar now is so cheap … instead of building what you need, they build 130, 150, 200 (megawatt) -- maybe three times what you need, and if you don’t have a place for it, that’s all right because it’s cheap to build,” he said. “That wasn’t the thinking five or six years ago.”

  • Battery Storage

Post said the advancement in battery stations likely have expanded the solar farm feasibility map.

“At the outset, we were comfortable that there would be very few places available for solar development because of the need for the connectivity to part of the grid that was able to handle the output,” he explained. “There was essentially a limitation on the number and locations of solar because National Grid’s network wasn’t able to connect all these farms – it had to be where there was capacity and those places on that map were limited.”

Now, Post said that he and the town’s engineering staff suspect that the mapping has changed.

“With these battery things, maybe you can store it up and feed it back in little bits and quantity. So, we have to address it,” he said.

  • ‘Hidden’ Costs to Municipalities

Post said increasing administrative costs are cause for a discussion about whether a tax should be imposed upon solar farms, which (to varying degrees) already are subsidized by tax dollars. Currently, the town does not tax property owners who are leasing land for solar.

“Again, five years ago we didn’t expect there would be any cost to service a solar farm. They got a driveway cut, and they don’t request any services from the town. There’s no need for police or fire or highway or water or sewer. Essentially, it’s like driving past a field of alfalfa – there’s nothing there. So, we weren’t looking to exploit that because we didn’t anticipate any costs,” he said.

Today, the town is “really seeing how expensive the administration of these applications is – with the engineering review and the decommissioning bonds and our attorney’s fee, and just the overall cost of the community’s resources because we are stretched thin,” he advised.

Post said he had no opinion either way but sees the need to get people to the table to look at the cost issue.

He said the moratorium will not affect solar projects that are in the pipeline – it should be noted that the town has permitted numerous solar farms thus far – and that “anything new coming in can wait 90 days or so.”

“Once the public hearing is held and we pass the moratorium, hopefully we will have more public participation … and hopefully we will be in a better place with COVID and have a better idea of our revenues,” he added.

Grant from state program triggers Town of Batavia's water district consolidation initiative

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night took the first step toward consolidating all of town’s water districts into one by passing a resolution to accept a $45,930 grant from the New York State Department of State’s Citizens Reorganization Empowerment Implementation program.

Town Supervisor Gregory Post said that the grant will cover the costs of engineering services provided by staff and outside consultants to put together a plan to combine the town’s 30 or so water districts and improvement areas into a single water district to be known as the Town of Batavia Consolidated Water District.

“This is something that we have been working toward for the past 15 years, and the grant gives us the opportunity to get it started,” Post said. “In fact, I have advocated for this for the 35 years that I’ve been involved in town government.”

Post said that consolidation will save the town money in the areas of water district management and administration, and will pave the way for an asset management and capital improvement plan in a cost-efficient manner.

“I expect that we will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in future administrative costs, while also putting us in line with state regulations,” he said.

Post said it behooves the town to start this process now as much of the water pipeline that was constructed in the early 1970s is nearing the end of its lifespan. He also said the town was called out by the state Comptroller for not keeping separate accounts of each of the town’s more than 30 water districts.

“By consolidating into one, we will be able to spread the cost of debt through all town water users and meet state requirements,” he said, noting that the town did merge a few water districts previously.

“Many users haven’t paid any water debt in 20 years; they’re just paying for the water. But those in the newer districts won’t be able to get water if the old pipes fail. Consolidation would equalize the cost across the board, and everybody will reap the benefits.”

Currently, residents in about 15 water districts are paying some level of debt service via a special district tax.

The supervisor said the town would be in a better position in terms of economic development as well by “leveraging all commercial, industrial and residential areas into a common resource.”

Post did acknowledge that the move to consolidation could be somewhat controversial, but it would be “unaffordable for those in districts with aging pipelines that become not suitable to have to pay 100 percent of the costs (to repair or replace them).”

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said his staff will begin work next month on drafting a report detailing the consolidation plan and hopes it will be ready by this summer. He also said public information meetings will be scheduled.

“We want to make sure that everybody affected by this is part of the process,” he said.

In other developments:

  • The board approved a resolution appointing James Kirsch to the position of assessment aide at a wage of $26.78 per hour and not to exceed 15 hours per week, effective Dec. 21.
  • Town Clerk Teressa Morasco reported that the 2021 town/county tax bills will go out on Dec. 31 and, due to COVID-19, residents paying by check or money order are encouraged to mail their payments to Town of Batavia Tax Collector, P.O. Box 108, Warsaw, NY 14569 (going to the town’s bank) or utilize the drop box located by the Town Hall’s front door on West Main Street Road.

If paying by cash, payments will be accepted at the drive-up window from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Town of Batavia prepares for public hearings on budget, sewer and water rates

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board is gearing up for the possibility of some public comments by testing their Zoom videoconferencing capability.

Following Wednesday night’s monthly board meeting at the Town Hall of West Main Street Road, Supervisor Gregory Post, Deputy Supervisor Dan Underhill and Council members Patti Michalak, Sharon White and Chad Zambito worked with Clerk Teressa Morasco to get their laptops in sync in case they have to add a remote component to the public hearing on the 2021 budget.

The public hearing on the $5,101,886 preliminary spending plan (which includes the highway fund) is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Town Hall, unless the board changes the location due to COVID-19-mandated occupancy restrictions.

As reported first on The Batavian last week, the board raised the allocation of its unexpended fund balance to balance the 2021 budget from $135,899 to $552,358 after receiving news that Genesee County authorized a final $1 million revenue distribution payment for 2020 and pledged about $1.7 million for 2021.

Thus, town residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on a general fund budget that calls for a tax levy of $1,236,000 and a property tax rate increase of 40 cents (16.4 percent) from $2.45 per thousand of assessed value to $2.85 per thousand of assessed value.

That’s an easier pill to swallow than the 88- or 89-cent increase that came up during previous budget discussions.

Breaking down the general fund, appropriations are $4,068,163 and the estimated revenue is $2,279,805. The highway fund adds another $1,033,723 in appropriations, equaling the estimated revenue.

Add in the special districts (sewer, water districts combined and fire) and the total budget comes to $11,837,477, with an estimated revenue of $8,548,384 and tax levy of $2,736,735.

The town's volunteer fire department budget of $1,086,528 is achieved totally through property taxes.

The preliminary budget also sets public officials’ salaries as follows:

Supervisor, $40,000; Deputy Supervisor, $18,000; Council members (three), $10,000; Town Clerk/Tax Collector, $72,370; Highway Superintendent, $19,707; Town Justices (two), $28,000.

Post said he wasn’t sure how many residents would attend the public hearings, but wanted to be prepared in case more than 25 show up. He also mentioned the county’s announcement of a 31-cent property tax decrease for 2021 and the fact that the town/county tax rate combined was increasing by only 9 cents.

The budget public session will follow a 7 p.m. public hearing on the sewer rate for District No. 1 and District No. 2 in the town, and a 7:05 p.m. public hearing on the water rates.

The town’s proposed sewer rate for the period of May 2021 to February 2022 is staying the same at $7.09 per thousand gallons while the proposed water rates for the same period are at $6.20 per thousand gallons for the base rate – a 3.4-percent decrease -- and $5.02 per thousand gallons for the agricultural rate – a 1.6-percent decrease.

A special meeting to adopt the budget, and the sewer and water rates is set for Nov. 5 at the Town Hall.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a resolution for a solar energy system decommissioning agreement for a 8.99-megawatt, 20.45-acre ground-mounted solar farm at 5230 Batavia-Stafford Townline Road.

Filing of the decommissioning bond is part of the process to obtain a special use permit from the Town of Batavia Planning Board.

The town calls for decommissioning bonds for solar farms because “should the company go under (in this case, Borrego Solar System LLC, of Lowell, Mass.), we don’t want a bunch of solar panels sitting on 20 acres of land,” Post said.

The solar project, which first came before town planners in August 2019, is slated to be placed on a 52-acre parcel, featuring 43,355 solar panels in a fenced-in area of 19.94 acres with an additional half acre to be used for an access driveway. It also will include four utility poles.

  • Approved a resolution adopting Local Law No. 3 of 2020 to override the state tax cap for fiscal year 2021, something that the town has done for several years.

“This authorizes us to fund operations to the degree we need to fund them with local money when we don’t get state money,” Post said.

  • Approved levying unpaid water and sewer charges against property owners’ 2021 tax warrants. As of Monday, more than $146,000 is owed to the town in overdue water and sewer bills.

Proposed county budget lists 31-cent property tax rate decrease; Town of Batavia increase now at only 39 cents

By Mike Pettinella

A decrease in the Genesee County property tax rate and a much smaller than anticipated increase in the Town of Batavia property tax rate.

That’s the latest word from the managers of both municipalities who shared developments from today’s meetings with the legislature and town board, respectively, concerning their 2021 budgets.

“We’ve had several budget meetings with our county legislature and at this point and time I’m ready to propose a county budget that has a decrease in the (property) tax rate of approximately 31 cents down to $9.80 (per thousand of assessed value) from $10.11,” said first-year County Manager Matt Landers.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post had encouraging news as well, reporting that his current budget calls for about a 39-cent increase – from $2.45 per thousand to $2.84 – which is considerably less than the potential 88- or 89-percent increase that was bandied about a couple weeks ago.

“Everyone should thank the county legislators for their hard work to make it possible for the revenue distributions they have just made,” Post said, referring to a final 2020 payment of $6 million and a pledge to distribute $10 million in 2021 to the county’s 13 towns and six villages. “Now, we feel much better about taking $550,000 from our fund balance to make this happen.”

Both budgets are tentative and subject to change, but in all likelihood any modifications should be slight at this point.

Holding the Line Paved the Way

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she was hoping that her colleagues and management would be wrong in August (when they predicted a dire outcome).

“I’m glad we were, so we could increase this amount up to 10 million dollars,” she said of the 2021 revenue distribution, which is $2 million more than previously announced. She then applauded the efforts of everyone involved, noting that she appreciated their “work and consistency and your sticking with us.”

Landers echoed her sentiments, pointing out that the moves the legislature has made over the past six months, under the direction of Stein and former County Manager Jay Gsell, “have helped put us in a (good) position and helped me to put together this budget.”

“We’ve been able to fund our roads and bridges to the level that I’d like to fund them in 2021 … and they made a lot of good decisions … on furloughs, hiring freezes, deferring capital projects, deferring acquisitions.”

In order to lower the tax rate, Landers is proposing using about $2.3 million of the county’s $15 million fund balance. He said that is necessary due to a projected 20-percent (or more) cut in aid from New York State.

“We still don’t know if there’s going to be a stimulus for governments,” he said. “The stimulus isn’t anything I am looking toward for revenue replacement; the stimulus would benefit Genesee County primarily in that it would provide revenue to the state, and the state would not have to cut us.”

A 20-percent cut in state aid translates to a $2 million hit to the county’s budget, which will come in at around $144 million.

Sales Tax Numbers Better Than Anticipated

“As you saw in the resolution tonight (at the legislature meeting where the revenue allocations were approved), we’re going to budget $10 million of revenue distribution to our towns and villages in 2021,” Landers said. “We are projecting a small reduction in sales tax, but not anything that we would have thought six months ago. There were estimates that sales tax would be down 30 to 40 percent, but now we’re projecting a 5- to 10-percent reduction in sales tax.”

With sales tax numbers better than expected, the county is able to provide $10 million next year to support the towns and villages.

Landers said he and department heads went through the budget line-by-line during a couple Saturday morning workshop sessions and he “feels comfortable at this point submitting a budget that has roughly a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate, with a levy increase of approximately $400,000 (due to an increase in the county’s assessed value).

“I wish we could do more; I wish we could reduce taxes more,” he said. “It’s one of those (situations) where I’m glad we could come to a consensus with the legislature. I’m glad that we’ve got a balanced budget that I’m going to be proposing and once it goes from my hands to the legislature, it's their ability to modify it and amend it as they see fit.”

He said he expects the legislature to “tweak a thing or two,” but is relieved to have made it this far in the budget process.

“I’m glad to get through my first budget session. I never envisioned putting one together in a pandemic and a financial crisis, but I am glad that we are able to have a stabilized tax rate for Genesee County citizens,” he said. “I understand that it is going to utilize a little more fund balance than we like to, but that’s what the ‘rainy day’ fund is for. If we potentially didn’t have a 20-percent reduction in our state aid, we might have been able to have the possibility of further reductions (in the tax rate), which would have been great.”

Landers said the county’s fund balance is at 12 to 13 percent of its general fund expenditures – the proper level according to guidelines from the state Comptroller’s office.

The spending plan will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Old County Courthouse. It is slated to be adopted by the legislature on Nov. 23.

Town Supervisor Breathes a Bit Easier

Post said he expects to get a good night’s sleep tonight for the first time in months after coming out of a budget workshop this afternoon at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The town received word that it would be getting another revenue check from the county in the amount of $1 million this year and just shy of $1.7 million from the county in 2021.

While the $1.7 million is less than what board members originally had hoped for, it is enough for them to be able to allot $550,000 from the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

“That, plus the fact that our investments are beating the market rate by a factor of six times, puts us in position to do that,” Post said, letting out a sigh of relief.

He attributed the town’s ability to weather the economic storm to its collaboration with the county, City of Batavia and Genesee County Economic Development Center that has resulted in developing “multiple streams of income.”

“This all started 12 years ago … by incentivizing businesses that provide sales tax revenue,” Post explained. “All of these entities have collectively applied those principals to our community and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The town board has indicated it will conduct a special work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20, prior to adopting a preliminary budget on Oct. 21. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Supervisor Post lays it on the line as Batavia Town Board grapples with 2021 budget

By Mike Pettinella

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post this afternoon left the door open for a downward adjustment of a proposed $2 million tax levy in 2021, a dollar amount that would nearly double the property tax rate charged to homeowners in the municipality.

Speaking at a special meeting at the Town Hall to release the tentative budget, Post summed up an impassioned, 50-minute response to town resident Michael Shultz, who questioned such a large tax increase, by emphasizing that “this is a starting point.”

“In three weeks, it probably will be a different budget as we have more information to get,” Post said, referring primarily to a third quarter revenue distribution from Genesee County and a report on town spending for the same period.

“Whatever we can do, we’d be willing to reduce the tax rate without endangering our ability to respond to the next disaster (the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the New York State economy),” he added.

Councilwoman Patti Michalak quickly finished Post’s statement by saying, “because next year could be worse.”

Town board members – as is the case in municipal governments across the state -- are facing unprecedented tension as they attempt to balance a spending plan of $4,075,787 in the general fund and $1,033,723 in the highway fund.

General Budget Breakdown

Post’s tentative general budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins on Jan. 1, calls for $2 million to be raised by property taxes, while using $135,899 from the town’s unexpended fund balance. Revenue is estimated at $1,939,888.

The general budget is more than $1 million less than the 2020 budget and, not coincidentally, the town is currently experiencing a $1 million shortfall in revenue due to cuts in state aid and in sales tax and other revenue from Genesee County.

In 2020, the town board allocated $992,310 from the unexpended fund balance to balance the budget. Measures put into place to reduce the tentative tax rate for 2021 could include using more than the $135,899 currently being proposed.

Should the tentative financial plan remain as is through the budget process, the property tax rate reportedly would jump from $2.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $4.61 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. On a home assessed at $80,000, for example, the tax bill would go from $196 to $368.80.

Shultz, a longtime resident of the Town of Batavia and one of four people in attendance, said when he read about a potential 89-percent increase (actually 88 percent) he was “taken aback.”

“Greg, I read your various news releases this summer and I was fully prepared for some bad news as probably my neighbors were as well,” Shultz said. “And, I expected maybe 25, 30, worst case scenario 35 percent.

Resident Said He Was Shocked

“I was totally taken aback this morning after the disastrous debate last night to read ... and (to) see a probable or potential 89-percent increase was a really shock. I’m quite frankly surprised that more of our neighbors aren’t here.”

After Post replied, “I’m sure they’ll show up eventually,” Shultz continued on, admitting that he had “very limited knowledge of how the municipal budget is established.”

“I worked for 59 years in the private sector (with a background in forest products and gypsum mining and manufacturing),” he said. “Many of those years as a plant manager at a number of facilities across the United States and Canada, and when we got into hard times like this, we got a memo – a very simple one-page memo from the corporate office -- and it said, ‘Here’s your bottom line. You do whatever you gotta do to fill it in.’ ”

Shultz surmised that putting together a budget for a town of the size of Batavia – which continues to expand its wealth through economic development and investment – has “boundaries that are much different than that.”

The resident took the approach that he didn’t understand the process, wanted to learn and “if I can, in some way, participate and help.”

He then thanked Post for his efforts.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of people wanting your job. They’re not going to be running for office, so you can be comfortable with that,” he said.

Many Factors to Consider

Post said he appreciated Shultz’s “perspective,” before embarking on a monologue that touched upon topics such as: how sales tax is distributed to the City of Batavia and towns and villages in Genesee County; how state mandates make things “mindbogglingly difficult” for counties; the town’s history of zero or very low tax rates; lack of revenue from court proceedings due to the COVID-induced shutdown; town employees who are working two or three jobs; and the board’s ability thus far to cut $1.4 million in spending compared to the 2020 budget.

The supervisor said the days of relying on Genesee County’s revenue distribution likely are over.

“We have been so reliant on sales tax revenue for two or three generations .. for as long as I can remember," he said. "The biggest chunk of the Town of Batavia’s revenue has not come from property taxes, it has come from sales taxes."

He said for years he would ask, “What is the future of sales tax distribution?”

“And I never got an answer. So, that was the answer,” he said. “They don’t have a crystal ball either, and the county is in the hardest situation because they cannot bust their tax cap without losing several million dollars – maybe tens of millions of dollars in state aid. They’re no different than a school district.”

The town has received a little more than $1 million in revenue distribution from Genesee County in 2020, much less than the $2.31 million that was anticipated. He doesn’t foresee the number coming anywhere close to what was budgeted.

“Where do I get the other million dollars?” he asked. “I don’t have any other place to get it. There is no money tree in the backyard. I can’t expect the federal government or the state government to come through with anything anytime soon. They’ve had six months and they haven’t budged.”

Post said that the town has been a capable steward of its assets, boasting a five-star rating with 90 percent of its cash invested every day and utilizing friendly refinancing terms to save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He also boasted of the town’s practice of sharing services with other towns in several areas, including assessor services, building inspection and secretarial work, and praised a full-time staff of 25 employees for “working two jobs and many of them three jobs.”

Calling Out New York State

Post, who has been in the public sector for the past 14 years, said he believes the state’s financial policies are on the brink of collapse.

“This is not a failure of the county government or mismanaging, not a failure of the town not looking far enough down the road; it’s a consequence of the failed policies of this state in supporting local communities when the s--- hits the fan.”

After Post concluded his talk -- and before taking a couple more questions about payments in lieu of taxes and whether the town receives traffic ticket revenue (the answer is a portion stays with the town) – Shultz said he appreciated his transparency.

“It was thorough and I’m sure my neighbors and I understand a little better. So, thank you for all you do and let’s carry on,” he said.

The town board will continue working on the budget with an eye on adopting a preliminary spending plan by Oct. 21. A public hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Photo: The Batavia Town Board conducted a special meeting this afternoon to talk about its 2021 tentative budget. Town resident Michael Shultz is seated in foreground. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Batavia Town Board to distribute tentative 2021 budget on Wednesday

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board has scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday to distribute the tentative budget for 2021.

Board members will meet for a work session at 4 p.m. Tuesday and also will convene for another work session following the special meeting on Wednesday, Town Clerk Teressa Morasco said.

The special meeting and work sessions will be held at the Town Hall at 3833 W. Main Street Road.

Batavia town supervisor reports possible $1 million budget gap for 2021

By Mike Pettinella

Town of Batavia board members are facing a potential $1 million budget shortfall as they work to develop a spending plan for fiscal year 2021 that begins in January.

“Genesee County has allocated $8 million for revenue sharing next year, of which the Town of Batavia would get $1.3 million. That’s a million dollars less than what we budgeted to receive from the county in 2020,” said Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post after Wednesday’s board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road. “We have to make that up by reducing the budget and increasing other revenue streams.”

To make matters worse, Post said the town has received about $1.1 million from the county thus far in 2020 and, despite two more scheduled distributions, likely won’t hit the budgeted amount of $2.3 million.

“We really don’t know what the numbers will be,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t help that (Six Flags) Darien Lake has been closed all summer and we won’t see that sales tax.”

In short, the board has some hard choices to make – cut expenditures (a process that already has begun), use some of the unrestricted fund balance and/or raise property taxes.

Post said a substantial tax rate increase from the current $2.42 per thousand of assessed valuation is a distinct possibility.

“We would have to double the tax rate to raise the million dollars we need to close that gap,” he said, adding that the board does not want to go that route. 

State Aid, Other Revenue is Down

The supervisor said the town has limited options on the revenue side.

“State aid already's been reduced by 20 percent – we’re not looking for that – plus we got a smaller percentage of VLT (video lottery terminal) money, we didn’t get any fine money for six months from the courts, and I don’t expect that to surge,” he said. “And building permit fees are likely going to be reduced this year because we haven’t had any significant commercial and industrial expansions and developments, and the local homeowner building permit fees generally don’t make a big difference.”

Post said mortgage taxes seems to be “on the uptick, but revenue from the sale of obsolete equipment is off the table – we haven’t been able to disperse any of that because we have to keep everyone employed in a separate vehicle due to COVID-19 and potential for contagion.”

He said the board has reviewed all revenue streams, and now is looking at putting some of its unexpected fund balance into the 2021 budget.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” he said. “This year (2020) our fund balance was budgeted at one million dollars. We’re working very hard to reduce this year’s expenditures – our target is to reduce that by $700,000, and save that $700,000 of fund balance to spread over the next couple years to buffer an inevitable property tax increase because I don’t see New York State politicking their way out of bankruptcy.”

Albany's Way or the Highway?

A fierce critic of the state’s progressive policies, Post took Albany to task for what he says is taking money from essential areas and blindly reallocating it.

“The fact that they have taken money out of highway funds, which are paid for strictly by gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, and distributed it to things that are serving people that don’t drive cars and buy gasoline, is an example of something that is destined to fail,” he said.

He bemoaned the fact that the federal government hasn’t raised the gasoline tax in 20 years despite cars now “getting 40 miles per gallon instead of 10 miles per gallon.”

“So, revenues per vehicle have been reduced by 75 percent,” he said. “We’ve increased the number of vehicles but it’s not enough to offset the ever-increasing costs of highway maintenance.”

Post said the town’s budget “will be adjusted to the maximum degree that we can reduce but we’ve ‘leaned’ this community out 10 years ago.”

“Our highway superintendent’s salary was reduced from $58,000 to $15,000 10 years ago. We’ve got a number of people working two or three different positions and sharing jobs, so that there’s no real person here that’s not essential. Our engineering department is averaging between 25 and 75 percent reimbursement on the projects they bring in, and that doesn’t count the value of the projects they are delivering to our community,” he offered.

Town's Growth is Impressive

He said he’s proud to see 30-percent growth in the assessed value of the town over the past decade, adding that average income has gone up by a like amount during that span.

“And property values continue to escalate, and houses continue to sell for more than they’re assessed for – more than their asking price. It’s like nothing any of us have ever experienced,” he said. “There wasn’t a revaluation done last year because our apprehension was that COVID was depressing the economy to the point where real estate would tank, and we would have an increased assessment on this year’s budget and then next year we would have to drastically reduce the assessment – but exactly the opposite happened.”

Post said the town assessor will be conducting a revaluation this winter, but those new assessments won’t take effect until 2022.

“The State of New York is saying ‘these are the numbers that we’re seeing, and these are what you’re going to have to get in order to get the state aid,’ ” he said.

Not knowing accurate revenue figures at this time makes it hard to gauge how much of the town’s fund balance should be appropriated to the 2021 budget, Post said.

“How much should we judiciously use of the unexpended fund balance to offset this disaster that came from Albany, and do we adjust the property tax rate so that we don’t spend down our buffer funds, because I don’t see the end of New York State’s interference in local government distribution,” he explained. “I don’t see the state coming up next year and saying, ‘OK, we’re going to refund everybody to their full amount.’ I don’t see that happening, so we need to guard the cash that we have very carefully.”

Public Hearing Set for Oct. 21

Along those lines, the town board passed a resolution to set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 for a local law to override the state’s limit on the amount of real property taxes that may be levied by the town for the fiscal year 2021, which is based on the calendar year.

“How can that person in Albany tell me that I have to cap my revenue stream when they’re cutting us by up to 35 percent?” he asked.

A special meeting has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 30 to distribute the tentative 2021 budget.

Post is calling on more residents of the town to participate in the process or at least educate themselves on how the process works.

“Ultimately, the people in the community are going to have to assist our town board and contribute their thoughts and their ideas, and be more informed. We have very little participation in our community until there’s a controversy,” he said. “When we don’t get any participation or nobody asking questions, we’re obligated to figure it out on our own. I would be happy to educate anybody that may be interested in knowing how this process comes about.”

Census Deadline is Sept. 30

Post encouraged citizens to make sure they fill out their census form as it determines representation and funding levels as follows:

  • Determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives;
  • Defines congressional and state legislative districts, school districts and voting precincts;
  • Determines the annual allocation of $675 billion in federal funding for Medicaid, SNAP, highway planning, Section 8 housing grants, special education grants, national school lunch program, Head Start and other social programs;
  • Provides insight to governments, business and community planning groups.

The deadline to complete and submit census forms is Sept. 30.

Batavia town supervisor blames New York State for municipalities' dire financial outlook

By Mike Pettinella

The financial world in which Town of Batavia leadership has governed in recent years has come to an end, Supervisor Gregory Post said Thursday.

“I have never in my wildest dreams thought I would have to use my ‘apocalypse bankroll’ that we have put together for the town in case of whatever potential disaster might come down the road,” Post said. “You put it there and plan for it – making sure that if the worst possible thing you could imagine happens, you could at least have some time to come up with a solution.”

Post and the Town Board have about five weeks to draft a preliminary budget for the 2021 fiscal year that begins in January, and projections at this point paint a bleak picture.

He said the current financial situation is the worst he’s seen in his 47 years in government, and he places the blame squarely on what he calls the “tax and spend” policies emanating from Albany.

“The people need to hear this. This is not a result of some COVID-19. The COVID-19 didn’t cause this,” Post said. “Nelson Rockefeller (New York governor from 1959-1973) started this and it has been getting progressively worse with each elected governor and Downstate politician for the last 45 years. So, here we are.”

Post said the board is struggling to figure out what the town’s tax increase is going to be for next year.

“We already know what our expenses are going to be – we can’t cut anything. We have been essential and lean as long as we have been. There’s not a lot of service that we can cut,” he said. “We only have three people in the highway department, including a highway superintendent who is making a quarter of what other highway superintendents make. It’s a part-time job for that.”

He said New York State is “probably going to be drastically short of money next year,” estimating a state deficit of $10-14 billion.

“But the thing is when we started out this year, the state was over five billion dollars in the red and the governor has the opportunity to change his reimbursement schedule and the percentages,” he said. “And he’s already reduced it by 20 percent, and I would not be surprised if it goes to more.”

Post said he expects significant reductions in revenue sharing from Genesee County, noting that the county is “going to have to come up with somewhere between $6 and $9 million that they weren’t anticipating having to come up with, and they don’t have any other means to do that (other than cut or end revenue sharing with towns and villages).”

'Well, the State is Broke'

“It’s not a failed policy of the county or the towns or the villages, it’s a failed policy of a progressive state that has been taxing and spending since Rockefeller,” Post said. “The state has never put a limit on the spending, programs and being progressive. If you look at the consequences, and I’m serious when I say this, but every smart owner of a business that I’ve done any work for in the last 30 years says the same thing – this can’t last; the state cannot keep doing what it is doing, or it’s going to go broke. Well, the state is broke.”

The supervisor also said he doesn’t foresee the federal government bailing out the state.

“That means that the state reimbursements to all the Upstate counties are probably not going to be there,” he predicted. “I think you’re going to see whatever they do have funneled to the state education department, because that is sacrosanct, and I think the counties are going to be left to hang in the wind. The counties will have no choice but to pass those reductions in revenue onto the towns and villages. Pretty much the consensus of the supervisors that I talk to is that we’re all looking at a double-digit tax increase.”

Even if a federal stimulus bill is approved with money appropriated to the New York State, it will just be a “Band-Aid” – not a long-term solution, he said.

“What about next year? Without some completely restructured reforms on these mandated expenses that counties have to pay, it’s going to snowball,” he said. “They tell the counties how many probation officers per criminal, how many people you have to have in the Department of Social Services, how many employees to dedicate to this and that. You have to do that or they won’t send you any funding."

Genesee County as 'Lean' as Can Be

Post gave Genesee County officials high marks for keeping things together during an arduous stretch.

“The county is running as lean as a county can run – too lean, in my opinion,” he said. “They haven’t funded their highway operations to the degree that they need to in order to keep up with the maintenance of the highways and the bridges. They haven’t raised the taxes because they can’t bust the (tax) cap. They refinanced everything they can refinance. And they’re managing their cash better than almost any other county in the state.”

He said that while he doesn’t fault the county, “they’re the ones getting blamed by all these local communities.”

“The sales tax money that used to just come (revenue sharing) was like a welfare check, and that’s not going to come next year. It can’t. I don’t think anyway it could come to the same degree that it has in the past,” he said.

Post said the county is unable to raise property taxes without “busting the tax cap and losing all the state reimbursement, so they’ll need the sales tax.”

“The county has been spot-on and has given us every single dime in matching funds that they’ve received on a pro-rated basis,” he said. “They have done a fabulous job, but I cannot count on New York State for next year. I would hate to be (County Manager) Matt Landers and this county legislature right now.”

Town Taxes Likely to Increase

As far as the Town of Batavia is concerned, Post said two-thirds of its total revenue comes from county revenue sharing.

“I’m probably looking at a pretty significant tax increase,” he advised. “We’ll try to not use the unexpended fund balance and we’ve already tried to cut $750,000 in spending out of this year’s budget. I thank God that the town board has worked as hard as they have worked to make sure that we have a cushion going into next year.”

Post said that using $1 million out of the unexpended fund balance to expand the Town Hall is off the table at this point.

“We’re going to try not to use that, but save it and put it towards the consequence of this state’s actions next year,” he said, adding that he plans to keep the Town Hall lobby closed and operate remotely – one of many actions being taken to cut costs.

He said he feels bad for the half-dozen town supervisors that are in their first year.

“I can’t imagine what it must be like for them,” he said. “It has gotten worse and worse every year, and we all shrug our shoulders and work harder to keep it going. But this thing is going to cause a lot of people to rethink wanting to serve in office or be involved in government ever again.”

In a couple developments from the Batavia Town Board meeting on Wednesday:

  • Sandra Baubie, deputy town clerk since 2004, was promoted to the full-time job of water bill collector at a rate of $25.89 per hour, while Sara Sauka moved into the full-time deputy town clerk position at a rate of $21.63 per hour.

Morgan Leaton was hired as a full-time court clerk at a pay rate of $17 per hour.

Post said Baubie’s previous duties had include water/wastewater billing, but with four times the number of accounts to handle, it made sense to create the water bill collector position.

  • The board approved submitting applications for Community Development Block Grants from the state Office of Community Renewal to support two dairy production projects at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and set a public hearing on the matter for Sept. 2.

Post said he wasn’t willing to speculate on the nature of the projects since he has yet to see anything in writing. It was previously reported that HP Hood officials plan to construct an addition to the plant’s refrigeration warehouse unit.

Batavia Town Supervisor: Ellicott Trail project is a crowning achievement

By Mike Pettinella

Update, June 16, 11 a.m. with link to a map of Ellicott Trail.


In the eyes of Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post, Wednesday’s grand opening of Ellicott Trail -- the 4.6-mile walking/bicycling path stretching from Seven Springs Road to Pearl Street Road – illustrates perfectly what can be achieved through collaboration.

“It’s a great example of what communities can do working together, in spite of COVID, in spite of setbacks, in spite of funding issues. This has been legitimately and overwhelmingly successful,” Post said during last night’s Town Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing.

A joint venture of the Town and City of Batavia with support from Genesee County, Ellicott Trail is actually about 9 miles from end to end if you include sidewalks and bridges.

CLICK HERE for a webpage that includes a map of the Ellicott Trail.

The $1.7 million project was funded mostly by a state Department of Transportation grant, with the City and Town each contributing 10 percent of the cost.

Post commended all those who worked to make the trail a reality – “there probably has been 100 persons involved in design, development, construction and administration,” he noted – and had high praise for the Town Highway Department, led by Tom Lichtenthal, highway superintendent.

“It has been an extraordinary effort by those three gentlemen that serve Tom in the highway department as well as Tom putting in yeoman’s hours … to complete all of these tasks under some pretty serious deadlines,” Post said.

The Town received a certificate of merit from the New York State Assembly, recognition fronted by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley.

Post said the project hasn’t been an easy one to navigate.

“I appreciate everyone’s attendance in constructing this project over the last four and a half years,” he said. “It has been one of the largest boondoggles administratively that we’ve ever undertaken, but I think it’s one of the showcase constructs and is very visible and well received …”

In other developments, Post:

-- Reported that Town employees have been working overtime to deal with recent water pressure issues.

“Crews have been working 12 hour days, seven days a week, contending with unprecedented amount (of demand) that have taxed the resources, so we’re now pulling water from Monroe County, Erie County and the City of Batavia’s plant,” he said. “There have been a few times where it has been very close to not having enough water.”

He said there was an incidental pressure drop for an hour on one segment of Galloway Road, but since then “we have installed a booster pump and 800 feet of 8-inch water main on Powers Road, and through shared services with the New York State Thruway today, secured that with barriers to prevent any expansion or contraction issues that may interrupt that flow. So, we’re still maintaining pressure flow to everywhere in the town.”

Post said while Genesee County is working on getting additional water flow from the east, the Town is placing “a priority on any unnecessary use of water or any unanticipated use of water for firefighting services” that will result in the need to add people on to operate valves for an interim period.

-- Acknowledged the revenue distribution to towns and villages passed yesterday by the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee.

“On a good note, I’d like to inform everyone that there was a Ways & Means Committee (meeting), that has adopted a proposal to distribute some revenue sharing to all the communities,” he said.

“The amounts are listed in the paper (actually on The Batavian, click here to view), and we also did receive our discounted money from the video lottery terminal (generated by Batavia Downs Gaming).

-- Advised that Town Hall staff will continue to operate remotely, but the drive-thru window will be open.

“Courts are opening on a limited basis and that will continue as they get new direction from the state on their email train,” he said.

He also said he will be renewing a state of emergency declaration effective at 6 o’clock today “to comply with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and state and federal requirements to maintain cash flow -- so that reimbursements will be seamless for the additional costs and expenses we have accrued through this episode and to continue to keep everyone healthy.”

Batavia Town Board approves acquisition of easements for Park Road project

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board this morning voted to authorize Supervisor Gregory Post to sign documents that will secure the purchase of five small properties along Park Road to facilitate the Town’s $3 million Park Road Improvement Project.

The easements – three from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. and one each from Alex’s Place and Benderson Development (owner of the former Kmart store) – were bought for the nominal sum of $10 each.

Town officials needed the parcels as it prepares for the major rehabilitation of the road from Lewiston Road (Route 63) to Oak Street (Route 98). The state-funded project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2021.

As reported previously on The Batavian, work will include new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road, while pavement will by pavement will be overlaid and sidewalks installed on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98.

The project also calls for new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

In other action, the board:

-- Approved the purchase of 10 annual Laserfiche Participant User Subscriptions at a cost of $97 each and remote services at a cost of $150 to be used by employees who are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

-- Approved a “license agreement” with My-T-Acres Inc., for the farm operation to place a water pump on a 2.9-acre parcel on West Main Street Road to serve its agricultural needs. Currently, the Town is not using the land for governmental purposes.

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