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O-A School District residents to vote on budget with proposed 71-cent property tax hike

By Joanne Beck
Christine Griffin

With less state aid and half the federal aid of this past year and expenses of more than $927,000, Oakfield-Alabama’s school board approved a $25 million 2024-25 budget this week that will mean a 71-cent property tax increase for district residents.

The proposed budget of $25,021,919 is an increase of 3.85% from this past year’s $24,094,600, and includes of tax levy of $5,696,634. That levy is $220,107 more than in the 2023-24 budget, or 4.02%. 

“This is largely driven by increases in salaries and the loss of pandemic-era aid causing some salaries to be brought back into the general fund from the federal grants for 24-25,” School Business Administrator Christine Griffin said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “So we had our budget workshop last week, and we presented a long-range financial analysis completed by an outside consultant. This included thorough analysis of our individual revenue lines, state aid, tax levy and other revenues and expense lines, particularly our largest expense, which is we know we're a human capital business, salaries and benefits, which is largely those net expenses largely driven by the collective bargaining agreements.”

Expenses include salaries of $10,627,342 for an increase of $748,392; a BOCES increase of $770,847 for a total of $3,229,547; and equipment costs rising by $63,050 to $553,800. The pandemic resulted in grants to school districts for additional social workers, teachers and programs, some of which Oakfield-Alabama will absorb in its general fund even though the grants are ending in September.

Federal aid will end Sept. 30 of this year, and salaries of $403,000, including $23,000 for the after-school program, will be absorbed into the general fund.

“On the salary lines, there's approximately $403,000 of the increases that are pandemic-funded salaries that are being returned to general funds. All of that $403,000. $222,000 of that is from newly added positions, which is the social worker, math, reading and after-school tutoring,” she said. “BOCES increases are largely due to increases in technology services costs.”

Budget highlights are that this proposed plan would continue after-school tutoring, formerly funded under a federal grant, pilot a new math series, replenish and expand science kits, continue $100,000 of capital outlay projects, and expend $487,000 for transportation vehicles — two large buses at $376,000 and one small bus for $111,000.

Staffing levels are to be maintained, with the following exceptions:

  • Three teachers district-wide (one each retirement, reassignment and resignation)
  • A .4 shared BOCES technology staff
  • Not replacing retirements of two personal healthcare aides
  • One custodian (which was replaced with a federal grant-funded position)

These staff reductions are to save $359,000, Griffin said.

Other expenses are decreasing, including benefits by $56,425, debt service by $592,216, and contractual services by $243,105.

State aid is to increase by $272,307, along with property tax of $220,107 and unclassified revenue of $99,500. The district plans to take nearly $1 million, $998,886, of appropriated fund balance, an increase of $345,405 from this past year’s budget, to offset expenses. 

Fund balance is generated due to lower expenses than anticipated and/or greater revenues than projected, which may accumulate over time, resulting in savings for the district. By state law, the maximum amount of unassigned fund balance in a given fiscal year cannot exceed 4% of the following year’s budget, and some or all of the previous year’s fund balance may be appropriated as a source of revenue in the development of the next school year’s annual budget, she said.

She said the inflation factor of 4.12% and allowable levy growth factor of 2% leave a deficit of 2.12%. The consumer price index limit does not reflect economic reality. 

The maximum levy is 4.02%, which is reflected in an estimated $18.39 per $1,000 assessed property value. If approved by voters, that would mean an increase of $88.75 per year for a home assessed at $125,000.

Citing a Genesee Valley BOCES Region Peer Group chart, officials show Oakfield-Alabama as having the second-lowest tax levy per pupil in 2023, at $7,451.

There will be a budget hearing at 6 p.m. May 14 at the Middle High School and a vote from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 21 in the school's Community Room.

The vote includes Proposition #1: 2024-25 budget of $25,021,919; and two open seats for the Board of Education. There is one incumbent, Maria Thompson, who is running, and one vacancy for the seat of Jeff Hyde, whose term is also up in 2024. Applications for school board are due Monday. 

To view the presentation, go HERE

Hawley expresses concerns over Hochul and the Majority's budget

By Press Release

A Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia).

Press Release:

“It’s that time of the year again. The Majority in Albany is once again desperately trying to clean up its mess by spending money we don’t have on projects we don’t need. Lowering the amount our public schools will receive to help teachers and students rebuild after COVID and giving over $2 billion to try to solve the self-inflicted migrant crisis are just more examples of downstate interests trumping the needs of Western New Yorkers. This administration needs to be more fiscally responsible. Families across our state have to create reasonable budgets and live within their means. It’s about time Gov. Hochul and the Majority did the same.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley represents the 139th Assembly District, which includes Genesee and Orleans Counties and parts of Monroe, and Erie counties. For more information, please visit his official website

Millions in the making, proposed county budget has surprise tax rate decrease

By Joanne Beck
Entrance to new jail 7/2022
2023 File Photo of the entrance to the new Genesee County Jail during a beam-signing event at the site on Route 5 next to County Building 2. The new $70 million facility will not only affect the 2024 budget but future budgets as well since there will be debt service and additional personnel -- and the salaries and benefits that go with them -- required for the new site.
Photo by Howard Owens

With a $150 million future phase III water system and $70 million new county jail facility in progress, coupled with addressing a $3.4 million deficit that “emerged” after receiving budget requests from all department heads, it was no wonder why county Manager Matt Landers needed extra time to put his annual budget message together this year.

What was originally expected for release a week ago had to be delayed until Friday of this week, with Landers explaining along the way that he was working to make edits and needed more time with his words than he did with the budget numbers.

"The next few budgets will have a uniform theme and consistent message from the Manager’s Office, which centers on the new County jail and the constant race to keep water supply ahead of demand. The county is embarking on two of the largest capital infrastructure projects in its history, with a new County jail carrying a price tag of approximately $70 million and phase three of the countywide water system with a current projected price tag of $150 million,” he said in this year’s message. “These two projects are going to weigh heavily on decisions made by the Manager’s Office and County Legislature for the foreseeable future, and is evident in the 2024 recommended County budget.”

Despite all of the upcoming expenses for infrastructure and jail to house men and women out on Route 5, the thrust of the message is not nearly as dire as one might expect. This next year’s all-funds budget of $182,790,077 is $20 million more than the 2023 adopted budget and includes a tax rate that is 37 cents less than the current tax rate, or an expected $8.08 per $1,000 assessed value. For a home assessed at 100,000, if nothing has changed with its assessment this past year, the annual tax bill will decrease by $37. 

The total budget also includes:

  • Approximately $5 million in Phase 2 construction costs in the County Water Fund.
  • Seven new hires related to the new County Jail.
  • Additional operational cost increases at the Jail in preparation for the facility opening in 2024, both of which amount to approximately $1.9 million.
  • Increased Medicaid costs to the County for approximately $1 million as a result of NYS eliminating the Federal subsidy known as eFMAP.
  • Two new contracts with local ambulance service providers totaling over $600,000 annually.
  • NYS retirement cost increases for approximately $1.2 million: These costs have risen significantly, with an average increase in all tiers exceeding 18 percent.
  • Necessary collective bargaining contract increases for “a highly dedicated and underpaid workforce,” which amounts to approximately $3 million.
  • Inflationary cost increases that are causing significant budgetary increases in a variety of commodities the County purchases every year. 
  • Mandates: Approximately 92 percent of the 2024 recommended property tax levy is made up of state-mandated expenditures to fund departments and programs, such as Medicaid, Probation, the new jail, Public Defender’s Office, assigned counsel, Social Service programs, Mental Health Department, Early Intervention, 3-5 Preschool Services, and various others.

“This budget funds County government in an efficient and responsible manner while making key investments that will help deliver better service to the residents of Genesee County. The recommended budget stays under the NYS tax cap while covering a lengthy number of expensive State mandates of which we have little to no control,” Landers said. “Crafting a balanced 2024 recommended budget presented considerable challenges, particularly in addressing a $3.4 million deficit that emerged after receiving budget requests from all department heads. To meet the challenge of keeping the net County support impact in line with the 2023 budget, County departments were encouraged to think innovatively and find cost-effective solutions.

“This was a challenge, considering New York State Retirement rates were once again increasing while higher than normal inflation and supply chain issues are causing vendor contracts to increase,” he said. “Despite these increases, I was pleased to see the majority of departments hold the line on spending, which helped greatly in delivering a budget that stays under the tax cap.”

The recommended budget includes $1.5 million of unappropriated fund balance, a decrease of $500,000 from the 2023 adopted County budget, he said. He is proposing a property tax levy of $32,722,377, an increase of $641,615, or 2 percent, which falls within the allowable tax cap. That would drop the current tax rate from $8.45 per $1,000 to $8.08 per $1,000 assessed value for a 4.37 percent decrease. 

While he worked with department staff to control spending where possible, Landers also kept an eye on a “continued commitment in increased funding for our roads and bridges infrastructure,” he said, by putting an extra $1 million to play catch-up on work that's been put aside for too long.

“The cracks are showing,” he said. “This continued commitment of an extra $1 million is a big step in addressing the deferred maintenance of the county road and bridge infrastructure. 

“The County continues to make strategic investments in its workforce, which will result in better service delivery to Genesee County residents. A large share of the investments in the 2024 recommended budget are being made in public safety,” he said. “Newly created positions are necessary to run an effective 21st Century correctional facility and include creating six new correction officer positions and a new custodial position to help maintain the significantly larger county jail.”

Another key piece of infrastructure is the multi-phase Genesee County Water System, which is nearing completion of the $25+ million phase 2 while Phase 3, a $150 million project, is being quickly designed, Landers said. 

“Phase 3 includes bringing in enough water from Monroe County to close the City of Batavia water plant, which draws from a threatened source and has long outlived its useful life,” he said. “However, before the plant comes off-line, millions more have to be invested to ensure water supply keeps up with demand until Phase 3 is complete.”

As he had announced earlier this year, Landers had struck a deal with Mercy Flight and Le Roy Ambulance Service for dedicated ambulance response within the county. That is reflected in the 2024 budget with two new contracts for more than $600,000 annually “to help stabilize emergency response resources in Genesee County.” This action was listed as one of the recommendations from a recent County-funded study that examined fire and ambulance service in Genesee County, he said. 

“These new contracts will strengthen the capabilities of local providers, improve emergency response times for County residents and allow the County to avoid directly purchasing ambulances and hiring staff,” he said.

Overall, Landers, with assistance from the assistant county manager and executive assistant, took a “deeper dive” into more specific budget lines, resulting in “significant budgetary savings,” he said, and more sharing of resources between departments. 

How is he reducing the tax rate with all of those expenses on the county’s plate?
There’s a $1.5 million fund balance, $1 million from reserves, an increase in sales tax revenue of $6.7 million — due to the price of goods increasing as the result of inflation, larger online purchasing by Genesee County residents and the retail growth happening in the Town of Batavia, plus a large percentage of sales tax from gasoline sales — and recent interest rate increases have earned the county an extra $1.45 million of interest earnings, all going toward the 2024 budget, Landers said.

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed budget during a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Courthouse Chambers, second floor of the Old County Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia. The county Legislature is expected to vote on a final budget on Nov. 20. 

City leaders face a tax cap override or 'significant cuts' to 2023-24 budget

By Joanne Beck


City Council has a choice for this year’s budget: vote to override the state-mandated tax cap or prepare to tighten the belt for significant cuts and make ends meet.

That may sound like an ultimatum, but it’s how this year’s 2023-24 budget is panning out so far, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says. She gave a budget presentation to council during Monday’s conference session at City Hall.

Healthcare, inflation, diesel fuel, employee salary and retirement costs are all on the rise, and the tax cap allows a levy increase of $154,000 when what’s needed is $450,000, Tabelski said.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski faced the elephant in the room and asked what happens if the group votes not to override the tax cap, “we raise property taxes?” Or make cuts, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

Yes, more likely it would be the latter, Tabelski said: “That would mean significant cuts,” she said to The Batavian after the meeting.

“The tax cap is an arbitrary formula given by the state. You know, the only thought this year was that we can raise this revenue and continue the level of services that have expanded slightly in the last year or so. We have a full-time parking and recycling officer, a full-time ordinance officer, another firefighter that was contractually obligated through a contract signed before I was here,” she said. “To cover those costs, plus health care's up $457,000, retirement costs are up $300,000 … I would say this is this year's request, that the city would do everything in its power to maintain under the tax cap in the future.”


That means that, hopefully, this won’t be a recurring ask, she said. City Council would have to approve the measure by at least a 60 percent yes vote.

Can department heads dig deeper and reduce their budget requests?
“This is the bare bones budget. We've already gone through that process of every department, and they present to me, obviously, what they'd like to see in the budget, and then we cut that back significantly to get to this point,” she said. “This is to maintain the level of employees we have at fair wages and to make sure we can pay social security and health care for those employees. Those are the main drivers, plus the inflationary prices of gas, electric, diesel, fuel, and supplies and materials. So they've already done their value engineering, as we call it. But again, council has budget work sessions that go right through, line by line, each expense and discuss it. And there certainly could be changes that come from that.”

Council members will be going through the budget during the next several weeks to ask questions, make suggestions, and see where other cuts might be made. The one area where Tabelski does not recommend taking from is the unassigned fund balance. That fund is best used as a savings account for future use.

She shared that the fund has grown a bit from an overdue payment from Seneca Power Partners, which had been in arrears with its taxes.

“I will say that we had a payment from Seneca Power of penalties and interest on the tax payments. So my hope is that will really help our unassigned fund balance when we get to the end of the audit year in August,” she said. “But when I do the budget, I don't know that number. I have no way to project what that number is until we get into the audit after the budget books close.”

Other parts of the budget include an extra $275,000 “to reserve funds to prepare to bond for the police facility,” she said.

“So right now, we're putting money into reserves, like our savings, so that we're able to bond when the time comes with the hopes of not having to raise property taxes, and being able to do it within those reserve funds we're putting away right now,” she said. “Kind of like when your car payment rolls off, and you put it into your savings account, and then you lease or buy a new car. You can then use that money in your savings account to pay that new car payment.”

Despite the ominous term of "override the tax cap," the actual tax rate would remain the same, Tabelski said. That would be $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value. She is proposing to raise the water rate by 30 cents. 

Council members will be discussing the budget this month and into February before a public hearing on Feb. 27.

Top Photo: City Manager Rachael Tabelski gives an overview of the past year and 2023-24 budget during City Council's conference session Monday at City Hall; shown with department heads nearby, who have already submitted their "bare bones" budgets for consideration. Photos by Howard Owens.

For second time in three years, city faces possible tax cap override: budget presentation Monday

By Joanne Beck

Citing reasons of double diesel fuel costs and rising supply, health care, retirement and employee wage expenses, City Manager Rachael Tabelski is calling for a move to exceed the state-regulated tax cap -- which would be the second override in three years for the city -- during this budget season.

“The 8 percent inflation the economy is facing challenges this budget, forcing the city to consider overriding the tax cap,” Tabelski said in a memo to City Council. “To balance the fiscal year 23/24 City of Batavia budget I recommend that the City Council of the City of Batavia consider overriding the tax cap.

“According to New York State’s property tax cap legislation, if a city government decides to adopt a budget with a property tax levy that exceeds the level set by the state, the city government must pass a local law to override that cap,” Tabelski said.

Tabelski is to provide a budget presentation and Council is expected to review and discuss her recommendations during its conference session next week. The session is set for 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

The proposed levy of $6.6 million would help to cover costs of a total $33.5 million budget and $19.4 general fund budget that includes a flat tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, a flat sewer rate, and a water rate increase of 30-cents, Tabelski said. The levy is raised from all real properties subject to taxation by the city based on the assessment roll for the fiscal year 2023-24.

She has also recommended a required public hearing to be set for Feb. 27.

Materials including salt, gas and electric are on the rise between 15 and 40 percent, while employee wages are at $400,000; retirements at $300,000; and health care just under half a million dollars, she said. Those are some of the rising costs imposing the need to ask for an override — unfortunately, not an unprecedented ask in city history.

Batavia City Council members voted to override the state’s 2 percent property tax cap just two years ago, passing a 7.5 percent property tax increase as part of the City’s 2020-21 budget. Part of the blame went to then Gov. Andrew Cuomo for withholding some of the video lottery terminal money from Batavia Downs revenues, though this year a similar portion was earmarked for the police department’s request for guns and equipment.

Other sections of the budget are up for discussion during future work sessions slated each for 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 for Public Works, general government and administrative departments; Feb. 7 for police and fire departments; and Feb. 9 for an as-needed session.

There is time allotted for public comments during this meeting. Speakers need to sign up prior to the start of the meeting.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

Genesee County $162.5 million budget approved, tax rate shifts by a penny

By Joanne Beck


Genesee County Legislature acted on a final 2023 budget proposal on Monday that won’t be exactly as county Manager Matt Landers initially promised.

There was a slight amendment made last week that will affect the tax rate, albeit slightly.

“I just received word a half hour ago that the assessments changed the tax rate by a penny,” Landers had said to the Ways & Means Committee.

Although legislators would have liked the penny difference to at least go the other way, it will increase the tax rate to $8.45. The total levy — money to be raised through property taxes —  is unchanged at $32,080,762, which reflects a 2 percent levy increase. That levy increase is within the state-mandated levy limit, or tax cap, Landers said.

How will that affect county taxpayers? The rate will be $8.45 per $1,000 assessed value versus $8.44 as initially declared. That will be a decrease of 73 cents per $1,000 assessed property value compared to the current rate of $9.18. To determine your total tax rate, multiply the property value in 1,000 increments (for example, 90 for a $90,000 home) by the tax rate.

Because property assessments have increased for many folks, it’s not a fair comparison to use a typical assessment by each the former and current tax rate for the difference in tax payments from this year. So if your property value was increased, you may not see a decreased total due to that larger number multiplied by the lower tax rate.

For example, a home assessed at $90,000 at the current rate of $9.18 is $826.20. If that home's value has been raised to $100,000 at the lower rate of $8.45, the total will be $845.

To read prior coverage: Genesee County proposes budget with 2 percent levy increase

File photo of Genesee County Manager Matt Landers, by Joanne Beck.

A new jail, public safety and water in focus with proposed 2023 budget

By Joanne Beck


Genesee County legislators knew one thing for sure after Wednesday’s budget presentation, Chairwoman Shelley Stein says.

They weren't yet ready to say how the Legislature was leaning toward a proposed $162.5 million budget with a 2 percent tax levy increase.

“We have one more budget session and we’re going to use it,” Stein said after the presentation and related public hearing.

No one spoke up about the budget during the hearing. County Manager Matt Landers said it was the first budget in quite awhile that didn’t focus on the impacts of COVID. When drafting a budgetary plan — which he did with assistance from his support staff and the treasurer’s office — he looks at the net impact of all decisions.

“That’s what drives my red pen,” Landers said. “When I meet with the department heads, I want to know what the net impact of the county taxpayer is.”

There was a clear understanding that a tax cap override was “off the table,” as he worked with department heads to ensure that all spending was out of necessity, he said. Out of a $32 million tax levy, $25 million of that is for state mandated services, he said.

Of course, the elephant in the county room has been the new county jail, with a price tag of $70 million and a 30-year debt service payout schedule. Landers hasn’t been shy about discussing it, or admitting that it’s a huge chunk of money — about $4 million — to pay off each year.

“We’re trying to be smart, and not shock the system all at once,” he said.

The county is paying not only for the new facility expected to be ready in 2024, but is also designating $300,000 for the latter part of next year for eight new jail-related positions that include six correctional officers, a mechanic and a deputy jail superintendent.

Other full-time positions created in this proposed budget include an investigator and emergency services dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Office, a position in the Highway/Facilities Department for the jail, and a position in the Health Department (to be grant-funded).

“Some key investments that are being made in this budget, so there's public safety positions, there is the investigator in the Sheriff's Office. This is to better serve the public,” Landers said. “It was very bluntly said when talking to the sheriff when he was proposing this, there is an expectation when there's crimes committed in this community that our investigators can investigate these crimes in an inappropriate and timely fashion. The caseloads are starting to build up. So this is our response. It's a public safety request and a need in our community, and I have 100 percent of the Legislature’s support.”

He highlighted factors that will need to be monitored during the next fiscal year, such as sales tax revenues that are largely dependent on gasoline, and can be “volatile.” He also questioned the future and what may happen to those sales tax benefits once electric cars become more the norm and people aren’t buying gas as often.

An ongoing water project will mean spending an estimated $150 million for the next phase three on the horizon, though with labor, supply chain and inflation issues, that number could be upwards of $160 or $170 million, he said. Two union contracts will be coming up for negotiation next year as well, he said.

One part of the process that was not a challenge involved department personnel, he said. They didn’t balk at his suggestions or otherwise make the job more difficult.

“I cut from every single department,” he said.

Stein pointed out that the county’s public services — an area of significant focus in the budget — do come at a cost.

“We are a very conservative county. There is a continual balance between our quality of life here and the cost to our taxpayers. And the legislature that serves as an entire body keeps that balance right at the front of our minds,” she said. “And also, you will see that in our actions and in our questions, and in our commitment to providing the highest quality of life at a cost that is affordable. And we don't apologize for that.”

The levy increase would mean a tax rate decrease of 8 percent, going from $9.18 to $8.44 per $1,000 assessed value. That is due to the overall property assessment increases. 

Legislators have until Nov. 21 to discuss the financial plan and vote to adopt it. Feedback and comments are always welcomed, Landers said.

Genesee County proposes budget with 2 percent levy increase to cover rising costs

By Joanne Beck

A new $70 million county jail-in-progress has certainly added to Genesee County’s list of expenses for 2023 and beyond, however, there are other reasons for a proposed 2 percent tax levy increase, County Manager Matt Landers says.

An “all funds” budget of $162,567,180 is an increase of nearly $3.6 million from the current budget, with an operating budget of $124,247,459 — at a hike of $4.88 million more than the current 2022 budget, Landers said.

New jail debt service — a nearly $4 million yearly tab for the next 30 years — includes the construction, labor and materials of the new facility on Route 5 in the Town of Batavia, and eight new hires needed at the future site.

The Batavian asked Landers about prior statements made by county management about how the new jail would not impact taxpayers.
The proposed 2 percent tax levy increase includes other rising costs, Landers said.

“The debt service for the new jail was not expected to cause an increase in county property taxes, which it isn’t,” he said. “The percent levy increase in the budget is due to a number of factors, including NYS retirement cost increases, wage increases, inflationary increases on a variety of commodities utilized by the County Highway Department and some operational increases at the jail due to hiring new positions.”

Those positions include six correctional officers and a new deputy jail superintendent, two new positions at the Sheriff’s Office aimed at “improvements in public safety,” and a new public health education coordinator position (funded with increased state funding).

What is your calculation for those new positions for the jail, including salary and benefits?
Landers provided numbers for the 2023 budget year, which totals $286,047. However, that covers three correction officers effective July 1, and the other three officers and a deputy jail superintendent to begin on Oct. 1, which means salary and benefits for three to six months of 2023.

A public hearing has been set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the legislative chambers at the Old Courthouse between Main and Ellicott streets, Batavia. Typical of such hearings, this will include a presentation of the budget, Landers said, “but we will welcome feedback from the public.”

“Feedback provided by the public will absolutely be taken into consideration before the Legislature adopts the final budget later this month,” he said.

A tax levy increase of 2 percent and the assessment increases for most properties will mean a decrease in the actual property tax — from $9.18 to $8.44 per $1,000 assessed value. If your property has increased, that may not translate to an overall property tax decrease. For example, a $100,000 home at $9.18 = $918, whereas a home now assessed at $120,000 at $8.44 = $1,012.80.

The county was not directly responsible for raised assessments, as each municipality conducted its own assessment process, and Landers points to the fact that county taxes will go down. But it’s worth noting the increased assessments for many folks, and how that will affect your future county tax bill.

The Batavian asked if this is likely the trend moving forward — increased tax levies to pay off the long-term debt for the jail. While he can’t say for sure about future budgets, Landers is aware of the county’s ties to “a lot of state mandates of which we have little control.”

“And when there are changes made by the state, we must react accordingly,” he said.  “The 2021 budget kept the levy flat and the 2022 budget is increasing the levy 2 percent. The County faces inflationary cost pressures like every other organization, and when inflation is running above 8 percent, it is a challenge to keep our expenses flat.

“The County hopes to generate revenue starting in the 2024 budget from boarding in inmates, which will help offset operational costs at the County Jail.”

During a recent county Legislature meeting, supervisors from Pembroke and Bergen appealed to legislators that their municipalities could use more revenue — something they felt has decreased due to a 40-year sales tax-sharing agreement between the county and city.

Why should they accept the fact that they are seeing less revenue now as the county receives more? Genesee County is sharing $10 million with towns and villages every year for the remaining term of that agreement, Landers said.

“The County has a number of countywide challenges that will need this increase as we move forward on developing solutions,” he said. “In addition to funding a $70 million dollar jail, the county is working towards a countywide broadband solution to ensure every home is connected; the county is working towards Phase 3 of the countywide water system, which carries a $150 million price tag; and we are actively working to help implement some of the solutions identified in the (Municipal Resources Inc.) study.

“With that said, the county absolutely hears the voices of our town and village leaders, and I am hopeful that we can find creative ways to have meaningful positive impacts on their municipal budgets.”

A positive step, he said, was being able to eliminate election chargebacks and reduce workers comp costs by 60 percent in the 2023 budget.

Other budget challenges include increases of more than $700,000 for state retirement costs; state mandates to fund Medicaid, Probation, the new jail, the Public Defender’s Office, assigned counsel, Social Services programs, Mental Health, Early Intervention and preschool services, he said.

With everything proposed, is it all in dire need? Is there anything the county can delay for now?
Landers emphasized that “we DO NOT incur an expense before we need to.”

In fact, county infrastructure has been neglected over the years, he said, and “we have deferred maintenance to the point we end up paying more in the long run.”

“The perfect example is the front of the old Sheriff Administration building.  We had an estimate to repair the front of the building, where large stones were literally falling off the façade, five years ago for approximately $500,000,” Landers said. “We deferred this maintenance and are now making these needed repairs for over $1 million.” 

This 2023 budget includes an ongoing commitment for increased funding by $1 million for roads and bridges, Landers said in his budget message. Deferred maintenance of these structures has gotten to a critical point, “and the cracks are showing,” evident by recent bridge closures, he said.

The proposed budget includes $2 million of unappropriated — not designated — fund balance, and in addition to the new jail, an ongoing water project is clearly on the county’s priority list.

“The county is embarking on two of the largest capital infrastructure projects in its history,” he said of the $70 million jail and $150 million water system project. “These two projects are going to weigh heavily on decisions made by the Manager’s Office and County Legislature for the foreseeable future, and is evident in the 2023 recommended county budget.”

After Wednesday’s hearing, the budget will go to the Legislature for consideration and eventual vote this month. Landers is pleased that the financial plan is under the allowable tax cap, he is also aware of its ramifications.

“I am not blind to the significant impact the proposed tax levy has on the citizens and businesses of Genesee County,” he said. “My time as county manager has only just begun, and I pledge to work with local governments, community not-for-profits, the business county and local citizens on ways to spend these precious resources as efficiently as possible.”

Click to read the entire Budget Message

Batavia City Schools board adopts $54.8 million budget with 1 percent tax increase

By Joanne Beck

Batavia City School District residents will be voting on a $54.8 million budget and a 1 percent tax levy increase since the school board adopted those final numbers at Thursday’s meeting.

With no discussion or questions after hearing the proposed 2022-23 budget presentation, board members  Alice Benedict, Jennifer Lendvay, John Marucci, Chezeray Rolle, Barbara Bowman and Michelle Hume cast yes votes. Member John Reigle was absent. The 1 percent tax levy increase means a total of $19,688,898 to be raised through local property taxes. 

If approved by public vote in May, that will push the tax rate from $19.23 per $1,000 assessed value to $19.42. The increase of 19 cents more per $1,000 would result in an extra $19 for a home assessed at $100,000, or a total of $1,942 in property taxes. 

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski walked the board through a brief explanation of how retirements, fewer buses and grant funds helped to lower the preliminary budget of $55 million by $877,225. The initial budget increase from the current year was 5.5 percent, which was lowered to 5.19 percent, Rozanski said.

The related tax levy increase of 1 percent falls under the tax cap of 1.62 percent, which is what the board asked for, President Alice Benedict said.

“Thank you for getting us to a place we requested,” she said. “You’ve done a lot of work getting us to a 1 percent.”

The Batavian has emailed each board member — a publicly elected figure — for comments about the budget and reasons for his/her yes vote since not one offered comments during the meeting. Even though New York State’s Open Meetings Law “generally permits you to converse with your fellow board members outside of board meetings,” according to the state Board of Education Handbook, “you should ensure that such informal chats do not substitute for full deliberation in a public meeting.”

A public budget hearing will be at 6 p.m. on May 5, and the vote is on May 17. 

Batavia school board to vote on roof repair expense and $55 million budget Thursday

By Joanne Beck


Batavia City schools board members have quite a full agenda for this week’s meeting, beginning with a public hearing about spending reserves for a roof repair.

There is to be a presentation about the $140,000 tab, to be taken from district reserves, for a Batavia High School roof repair. The public will be given time to voice questions, comments and concerns before the board is scheduled to vote on the work later in the meeting. It is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the BHS library, 260 State St., Batavia.

Other agenda items include a review of the tentative 2022-23 budget, followed later by a vote to adopt the $55 million financial plan. The most recent preliminary budget in March included a nearly $3 million increase or 5.75 percent more than the current budget. The tax levy was at $20.57 million for a 5.5 percent increase, overriding the tax cap levy by $756,449. 

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is expected to go over the proposed budget up for board vote during Thursday’s meeting. The preliminary plan included spending increases of $692,575 for teacher/administrative support salaries, $481,970 more for support salaries and nearly $1 million more for fringe benefits. Those total increased numbers are $19.9 million for teacher salaries, $6.5 million for support salaries and $12,306,449 for fringe benefits.

Total salaries have gone from $19,312,386 in 2011-12 to $26,440,590 in 2022-23, or about $7 million more in the last decade. Administrative salaries have risen from the superintendent in 2015-16 at $148,92 to $165,000 currently, and for business administrator, it has increased by $40,000 in the last six years, from $123,913 in 2015-16 to $163,488. The role of department chairman has also been increased from $64,000 to $85,800 in that same time period. 

There are a few decreases in spending, such as $100,820 less for operations/maintenance, $21,248 for textbooks and a $1.15 million decrease in debt service payments. 

The packed agenda also includes time for the public to be heard about matters other than the roof repair, and:

  • Presentations from Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers with an update and Counselor Julie Wasilewski on a Jackson Primary project.
  • An Energia Johnson Controls energy performance contract update.
  • Reports from each the superintendent and student ex-officio.
  • Votes on resignations and appointments.
  • Contracts with the Batavia Administrators’ Association; Batavia City Police Department; Genesee County Department of Social Services and the Student Transformation and Rehabilitation (STAR) program; Thomas Ramming Consulting, Inc.; Gates Chili Central School District’s Health Services; Dwyer Stadium; Campus Construction Management; Genesee Valley BOCES; GLOW YMCA; University at Buffalo Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic; and a revised contract with Kimberly Gingrich. 

Photo: Batavia City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is on tonight's agenda to present a proposed 2022-23 budget for the board's vote. File photo in 2022 by Howard Owens.

Second round of budget talks for Batavia City Schools board includes optional cuts

By Joanne Beck


Scott Rozanski was in the hot seat, so to speak, as he presented budget options during this week’s Batavia City Schools board meeting.

Rozanski, the district’s business administrator, reviewed ways to reduce expenses by $756,449 and get the 2022-23 budget to the state-mandated tax ca of 1.62 percent, or 31 cents more per thousand assessed valuations.  Otherwise, district voters would have to approve a budget with a super majority to allow a tax levy increase of more than 1.62 percent.

“(Superintendent Jason Smith) and I have identified some areas to get us to the tax cap,” Rozanski said during Thursday’s board meeting at Batavia High School. 

Rozanski presented a $55 million budget on Tuesday that included what was referred to as “wish list” items of nine new teacher positions, five school bus purchases, and replacing four retiring faculty members with new personnel. He and Superintendent Jason Smith agreed to draft a list of ideas to cut overall expenses, which were brought back to Thursday’s meeting.

Options included not replacing four retiring faculty members; phasing in the addition of teachers over a three-year grant of $5.8 million; and/or not buying the five buses and merging Jackson and John Kennedy school students to ride together on buses, and the same for high and middle school students. 

The busing option could mean a cut of $366,000 in expenses, but, per prior experience, it would create a delay for Jackson kids; they would get on the bus first before the John Kennedy pickup, he said.

There had been complaints about this system when implemented during the pandemic. Most students adapted in time, he said.

“The first two or three weeks the kids are getting used to the process,” Rozanski said. “After three weeks those kids are in a routine. We could take that out and take that reduction.”


Board President Alice Benedict recalled how the shared busing went.

“We had some really young kids on buses for a really long time,” she said. “Does it have to be five buses or nothing? Can we get one more bus?”

That’s possible, and would mean going back to the drawing board to configure bus routes, Rozanski said. 

Benedict wanted to remind all involved that “busing is not mandated.”

“This is a privilege to bus within city limits,” she said. 

As for bringing on nine more teachers, “the district would most likely apply for another grant to support” those positions in three years, she said. However, if that’s not an option, Smith and other administrators would have to review programs “and possibly eliminate the positions, or find other positions that could be reduced to make room for these employees and programs,” she said.


Benedict has previously asked about the ratio of teachers to students, and about enrollment trends. Smith suggested that a consultant may be helpful to advise the district about these particular issues during a future board meeting. 

The Batavian asked Benedict if those newly hired teachers stayed for three years, would they obtain tenure and therefore be permanent employees? Tenure is not an automatic process, she said.

“In three years, the principal (of the school that houses the grant program and employee) and the superintendent, along with the director of curriculum, will make a total review of the need of the position and the performance of the employee before making it a tenured position,” she said. “The board then receives the recommendation to discuss and vote on.”

Benedict asked the board a couple of times during the meeting if anyone had questions. No one responded. All board members will have a say, she said.

“Before anything is concluded, I will have conversations with everyone on the board,” Benedict said to The Batavian. “We have one month to ask as many questions as we need to so we can come to a consensus. It’s my goal every year to get the tax levy as low as it can be. We are still in the process of finalizing the budget.”

A final budget will be adopted before the budget presentation on May 5 and district vote on May 17. In addition to a 2022-23 budget, district residents will also be asked to vote for three school board candidates to replace Michelle Humes, John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle, whose terms expire this year. Board candidates have until April 27 to file petitions for election.

Top photo: Batavia City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski; Batavia City Schools Board of Education President Alice Benedict and Superintendent Jason Smith. Photos by Howard Owens.

Reactions to Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget

By Howard B. Owens

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his proposed budget for 2020-2021. His budget press release is too long to put on the home page. You can read it here. Below are reactions we've received to the budget proposal.

From Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“The governor made a lot of promises Tuesday, specifically to increase funding across the board for every program in the state, including an out-of-control Medicaid program that is the root cause behind a $6 billion deficit. In fiscal year 2018 alone, New York spent more on Medicaid than Texas and Florida combined, despite having around half the population.

“The national economy is booming in almost every metric, yet under one-party leadership in New York, we are facing a massive shortfall. Every indication says we need to roll back reckless spending, but Gov. Cuomo continues his handouts, even blaming counties and local governments for causing the state’s woes.

“As budget negotiations intensify, I will be working diligently to see that the governor sticks to his word of no new taxes and that his deficit does not fall on the backs of hardworking taxpayers. Whether it’s property tax relief, road and bridge repair or school funding, Western New York deserves its fair share of help, and I will continue to be a strong advocate on our behalf as the budget is determined over the coming months."

From Ed Rath, candidate for the 61st State Senate District:

“Faced with a $6.5 billion budget gap, I was hoping the Governor would outline some specifics on how he planned to address that shortfall, particularly as it relates to Medicaid. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the proposed budget the people of New York State heard today. Medicaid accounts for two-thirds of the projected budget shortfall, but the Governor was woefully short on specifics in how he plans to generate the $2.5 billion in savings needed to offset Medicaid spending.

"Similarly, and equally disappointing, the budget proposal fails to reform the cash bail law. Instead, public safety and judicial discretion are being compromised, and a misguided and dangerous policy remains in effect.

“I was pleased to see a focus on education, and I hope that there is adequate funding for our schools to meet their increased financial needs.”

“However, any measure to address and strengthen our state’s business climate is mixed. On one hand, I was also pleased to see that middle-class tax cuts are expected to generate $4.7 million in savings, and that small corporate business tax cuts will generate an estimated $35 million. This is the sort of approach we need to help spur job creation and retention so that companies and workers can remain in our great Empire State, rather than continue to flee to other states. Unfortunately, the budget proposal also includes $51 million in tax and fee increases, which only serve to continue to shift the burden onto the backs of the hardworking people of New York.

“Overall, it seems that any attempt at a step forward in this budget is coupled with two steps backward or deafening silence on how our elected leaders plan to make New York stronger. The people of New York deserve more.”

The 61st Senate District includes portions of Erie, Genesee, and Monroe Counties.

Rath has served in the Erie County Legislature since first winning election in 2007. His district includes Amherst, Clarence, Akron, and Newstead. In the Legislature, he has been a fierce advocate for the reduction and reform of County government to lower the property tax burden, including co-sponsoring the effort to reduce the size of the Legislature from 15 to the current 11 seats. Throughout his 12 years in office, Rath has never voted in favor of a tax increase, and he voted against Erie County’s 2020 spending plan, due to runaway spending increases and public safety concerns.

New York Farm Bureau:

“Governor Cuomo’s proposed funding of $29 million is integral to the success of a number of important agricultural programs that support research, marketing and promotion of New York farm products. In addition, New York Farm Bureau supports the proposed Environmental Protection Fund that assists with conservation and stewardship programs utilized by farmers across the state.

"This year, Governor Cuomo also is proposing several new budget changes that are among our organization’s biggest priorities for the year. This includes a permanent Refundable Investment Tax Credit for farmers, increasing funding for the Farmworker Housing Program to $15 million and expanding the definition of family that was severely limiting in the recently enacted farm labor law. The budget language will better reflect the reality on farms today as many extended family members also play significant roles on farms and should not be covered under new farm labor regulations. These additions will begin to offset the increased labor costs facing our state’s farms, and we thank Governor Cuomo and his administration for continuing to work with New York Farm Bureau to address these issues.”

From the NYS Association of Counties President John F. (Jack) Marren:

In 1966, the State’s new Medicaid program cost county homeowners and businesses $112 million in local property taxes. Today, that cost is $7.6 billion.

More than 50 years later, in 2013, to address property taxes at the local level, the state capped increases in local Medicaid costs. On behalf of the 62 counties, including the boroughs of New York City, we are grateful to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for championing the State's cap on local Medicaid cost growth. It has proven to be an historic safeguard against property tax growth.

Once again, counties stand united behind lowering the cost of Medicaid and improving the quality of care for those in need. We will review what is under local control to accomplish this, as well as what parameters are under state control, to insure the integrity of the taxpayer-funded health care program.

As with any organization, today’s health care costs, especially those embedded in Medicaid, are inherently systemic. Right now more than one third of New York’s population is on Medicaid, more and more Baby Boomers are accessing costly long-term care, and other medical coverage—from prescriptions to X-rays to hospital stays.

Counties stand ready to work with a Medicaid Redesign Team to assist the state with reforming its Medicaid Program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget statement

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today outlined the FY 2021 Executive Budget, advancing a clear vision and bold, nation-leading and historic actions to make progress happen in the State of New York.

The budget plan features a $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change, including a new plan to streamline government bureaucracy to deliver renewable energy projects faster; a $25 billion expansion of New York's largest-in-the-nation building program, bringing it to $275 billion; an historic $28.5 billion investment in education while reforming funding formulas to prioritize support for poor schools, and an expanded Excelsior free college tuition program to include families making up to $150,000 per year.

The Executive Budget also includes a new proposal to protect our democracy by banning foreign-influenced corporations from making campaign contributions; the most funding in the state's history - an additional $64 million - to provide services to people who are homeless, including those with mental illness; investments to combat child poverty and $157 million to expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit, serving 400,000 families with children under 4 years old; and an additional $25 million funding to harden security infrastructure at non-public schools and cultural organizations vulnerable to hate crimes.

The budget plan will also promote public health with proposals to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and cap insulin co-payments at $100 per month. It will continue New York's unprecedented economic and social progress by continuing middle-class tax cuts for 4.7 million New Yorkers making under $300,000 a year; cutting small corporate business taxes, benefiting 36,000 taxpayers and saving them $35 million; enacting the strongest Paid Sick Leave program in the nation, impacting 1.3 million New Yorkers; closing the rape intoxication loophole; expanding banking services for low-income people, and proposing an inclusive Equal Rights Amendment.

The Governor's proposal will reform the current Medicaid system with a new Medicaid Redesign Team co-chaired by Michael Dowling of Northwell Health and labor leader Dennis Rivera. The MRT II will work to reform the program and identify $2.5 billion in savings this year by finding industry efficiencies or additional industry revenue with zero impact to beneficiaries.

For the 10th consecutive year, the Executive Budget is balanced and continues the state's record of fiscal integrity.

"This budget is a roadmap for delivering progressive results for the people of this state and addressing the imminent challenges of our time by advancing social, racial and economic justice. We're proposing historic investments in climate change and infrastructure programs and fixing the school aid formula to ensure poorer schools get the funding they need," Governor Cuomo said. "We're tackling the division and hate that has spread like cancer in the body politic by funding new security measures for organizations targeted by hate crimes, protecting our democracy from foreign-influenced corporations, and addressing homelessness, child poverty and other barriers facing low-income New Yorkers. These policies build on our extensive accomplishments over the past nine years that have led to unprecedented economic growth and social progress and historically low unemployment throughout the state all while maintaining fiscal discipline and lowering taxes for middle class families."

Fiscal Highlights of the FY 2021 Executive Budget:

  • State Operating Funds spending is $105.8 billion - an increase of 1.9 percent (State Operating Funds exclude Federal funds and capital)
  • All Funds spending $178 billion for FY 2021
  • Increases School Aid by $826 million - a 3 percent increase that brings the State's total annual investment to $28.5 billion
  • Provides $7.8 billion in State support for higher education in New York - an increase of $1.8 billion or 29 percent since FY 2012
  • Continues the phase-in of the Middle Class Tax Cut for nearly five million New Yorkers - saving New Yorkers over $1.8 billion this year


$33 Billion Five-Year Plan to Combat Climate Change: The FY 2021 Executive Budget continues New York's record as the most aggressive climate leader in the world through a $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change that will include: $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act supplemented by $740 million in additional state funding; $28 billion for green energy; and $1.5 billion for carbon-free transportation. The Governor also proposes reforms to approve renewable projects faster, with the State taking the lead in getting sites shovel ready for our green energy future.

$275 Billion Infrastructure Program: Governor Cuomo has undertaken the most ambitious infrastructure plan in the nation. Starting with an initial $100 billion investment, and followed up in the FY 2020 Budget with a second $150 billion investment, this Budget begins the support for expanding the total investment by $25 billion to $275 billion with new investments in transit, roads and bridges. The second phase, newly expanded $175 billion infrastructure plan builds on the Governor's initial $100 billion plan and includes:

  • $87 billion for transportation, including mass transit, railroads, airports, highways, bridges, and tunnels across the State.
  • $35 billion for improving environmental facilities and parks, and the development of green energy.
  • $11 billion for economic and community development.
  • $9 billion to further the State's investment in the construction of high-quality, affordable housing for the people of New York.
  • $19 billion to help school districts build new and better school buildings.
  • $14 billion to improve and maintain SUNY and CUNY buildings, State health care facilities and other capital assets.

The $275 billion infrastructure program will also continue to fund $6 billion for the Long Island Rail Road Second Track, Third Track and 39 modernized stations; new LaGuardia and JFK Airports; the East Side Access project; the Javits Center expansion; four new Bronx Metro-North stations in transit deserts; the Empire State Trail; modernization of the New York State Fair; and the $1 billion New NY Broadband program, ensuring broadband internet access for all.

Housing and Services for People who are Homeless, Including Those with Mental Illness: New York's homeless community and those with mental illness are among the hardest populations to help. This year, Governor Cuomo is proposing an aggressive strategy and the most funding in the State's history to provide housing and services to these vulnerable populations. Building on the State's $20 billion affordable housing and homeless initiative, the FY 2021 Budget doubles funding from $64 million to $128 million for the Homeless Housing Assistance Program and invests $5 million for projects for homeless veterans.

Combating Child Poverty with the Empire State Child Tax Credit: The FY 2021 Budget is supporting $2.9 billion for families with children under five years old, including $157 million to expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit. Currently this critical credit for low-and moderate-income families only applies to children 4-16 years old. This proposal will eliminate this unfair distinction and expand the tax credit to families with children between the ages of 0-3 making under $50,000. This will provide an average of a $400 benefit per family to nearly 400,000 working class families with children under four years old - approximately 172,500 families with children over the age of three will get an additional benefit and 225,500 families with children three and under will receive this benefit for the first time.

Protecting Organizations Vulnerable to Hate Crimes: The FY 2021 Budget will invest an additional $25 million for religious and non-religious not-for-profit organizations that are vulnerable to hate crimes. This funding builds on the $70 million the State has already made available for these organizations to fight back against hate.

Banning Contributions from Foreign-Influenced Corporations: The FY 2021 Budget includes a proposal to ban corporations from contributing to political campaigns in New York, or from making independent expenditures to influence elections, if a single foreign entity controls 5 percent ownership. The proposal would also ban corporations with more than 10 percent ownership in aggregate by two or more foreign entities from making such contributions or expenditures. Finally, the proposal will ban campaign spending if more than 10 percent of a corporation's board members are foreign nationals, or a foreign national participates in the decision making with respect to a corporation's political activities in the United States. Our nation's campaign finance laws state that "foreign nationals" are barred from spending in any American election, city, state or federal. Since that's true for individual foreigners, it must also be true for the corporations owned or controlled by them.

Requiring Public Officials to Disclose Their Tax Returns: Governor Cuomo will propose the "Nothing to Hide" Act in the FY 2021 Executive Budget to make our government the most transparent in the nation. The law will require that the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, every state commissioner, and every Assembly Member and Senator make their tax returns public. Further, any elected official in the State with a government salary over $100,000 a year will have to do the same. 

New School Aid Funding Formula: Since 2012, New York State has increased funding for education by 43 percent, and this year the Governor's main goal is to ensure educational equity. In 2019 the Governor mandated that districts disclose the amount of funding distributed to each individual school. However, wealthier school districts still spend approximately $36,000 per student as opposed to $13,000 per student at poorer school districts. To ensure State funds are used to reduce funding disparities, the FY 2021 Budget will increase School Aid by $826 million, bringing the total annual investment to a record $28.5 billion, with 85 percent of the Foundation Aid increase going to the highest-need districts. To further prioritize poorer schools and ensure education equity, the Governor is proposing a new School Aid Funding Formula to properly distribute funds and build up underserved school districts.

Continuing Middle-Class Tax Cuts: Governor Cuomo will continue to lower Personal Income Tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. In 2020, the third year of the multi-year tax cuts enacted in 2016, income tax rates have been lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.09 percent for taxpayers in the $43,000-$161,550 income bracket, and to 6.41 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 income bracket. These cuts are expected to save 4.7 million New Yorkers over $1.8 billion this year. Furthermore, income tax rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent for taxpayers in the $27,900-$161,550 tax bracket and 6 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 brackets. When the cuts are fully phased in, middle-class taxpayers will have received an income tax rate cut up to 20 percent, amounting to a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State's lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.

Lowering Tax Rates by 40 Percent for Small Businesses: To continue the State's robust economic growth and record of job creation, Governor Cuomo will enact comprehensive tax relief for small businesses, including reducing the corporate tax rate for small businesses from 6.5 percent to 4 percent, which will benefit 36,000 taxpayers and save them $35 million.

Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Working New Yorkers: To further empower New York's low-wage workers and protect all consumers in the State, Governor Cuomo will enact paid sick leave. Businesses with five to 99 employees will provide their employees at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave per year and businesses with 100 employees or more will provide at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Smaller businesses, with four or fewer employees, will guarantee five days of job-protected unpaid sick leave to their employees every year. Small businesses already providing paid sick leave will be able to so.

Expanding Access to Safe and Affordable Banking Services, Credit and Financial Education: The FY 2021 Budget will invest $25 million in new funding over five years to support banking services in low-income areas and underserved communities across the state. This funding is part of the Governor's sweeping financial access and inclusion agenda that builds on the work his administration has done to expand access to safe and affordable banking services, credit and financial education. The Budget will also create a statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment, based at the Department of Financial Services, to meet the financial services needs of low- and middle- income New Yorkers across the state.

Expanding Free College Tuition to More Middle-Class Families: To expand the transformational opportunity of the Excelsior Scholarship to more middle-class families, Governor Cuomo is proposing to raise the Excelsior eligibility threshold from $125,000 to $150,000 of adjusted gross family income for New York's families. By increasing the threshold, more than 230,000, or nearly 58 percent of New York resident students will go to a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free.

Closing the Rape Intoxication Loophole: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close the archaic rape intoxication loophole because rape should not be a punishment for drinking alcohol under New York State law. This legislation will rightfully clarify that a victim's ability to consent is jeopardized whether they were voluntarily or involuntarily intoxicated, giving prosecutors the ability to ensure that sexual abusers are held accountable for their criminal acts and sexual abuse survivors are able to obtain the justice they deserve.

Passing First-in-the-Nation Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will seek to amend the New York State Constitution's Equal Rights Amendment so that New York sets the national standard for how states protect equal rights. The Governor will seek to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article I, ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of their gender, are fully protected by the State Constitution. Additionally, he will push for the addition of other categories, including ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity so that those critically important protections are also enshrined into the state constitution.

This past decade was the hottest ever recorded, and the five hottest years in history have all occurred since 2015. New York will continue its record as the most aggressive climate leader in the world through a $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change. This nation-leading first of its kind plan will transition the State to renewable power while combatting climate.

Restore Mother Nature: Centered on the Governor's $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, New York State will reduce flood risk, invest in resilient infrastructure and revitalize critical fish and wildlife habitats by connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing culverts and dams, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, reclaiming natural floodplains, restocking shellfish populations and upgrading fish hatcheries, preserving open space, conserving more forest areas, replanting more trees, reducing contamination from agricultural and stormwater runoff, and expanding renewable energy. This wide-reaching environmental conservation and resiliency investment includes support from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Fund. This is a key component of the Governor's $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change.

Green Energy: Governor Cuomo has set New York on course to achieving 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 2040. Under his leadership, the State has made substantial progress toward these goals with significant investments in energy efficiency, solar energy, wind energy and energy storage. To help achieve these goals, the Climate plan invests $28 billion through NYSERDA, New York Green Bank, NYPA and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to develop, support and expand carbon-free energy production, build the infrastructure such as transmission lines and energy storage that make renewable energy sources viable and work with our regional partners in driving down carbon emissions. This is a key component of the Governor's $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change.

Carbon-Free Transportation: New York already has the second most efficient transportation sector and lowest CO2 emissions per capita of any state. New York is a leader in electric vehicles - or EVs - thanks to the Charge NY initiative launched by Governor Cuomo in 2013.  Charge NY set ambitious goals - 30,000 EVs and 3,000 EV charging stations by the end of 2018 - and exceeded them.  Over 50,000 electric vehicles have been purchased in New York since 2013 — more than 48 other states. The Climate Budget invests $370 million to continue to reduce carbon emissions in New York State. This is a key component of the Governor's $33 billion five-year plan to combat climate change.

Banning Single Use and Packaging Styrofoam Products: To build on the progress of last year's plastic bag ban, the Governor is proposing new legislation to prohibit the distribution and use of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, single-use food containers and packaging materials by January 1, 2022.

Enacting Comprehensive E-Bike and E-Scooter Legislation: To get more people out of cars, the Governor is proposing comprehensive legislation to legalize and expand the e-bike and e-scooter network without compromising on public safety.

Making the Fracking Ban Permanent: The Governor will introduce a bill to permanently ban fracking by amending environmental conservation law to restrict the Department of Environmental Conservation from approving permits that would authorize an applicant to drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing to complete or recomplete natural gas resources, protecting the health of New Yorkers and ensuring permanently that our environment is not harmed by this practice. This bill reflects an important step forward toward achieving New York's clean energy economy goals.

Renewing Record Funding for the Environmental Protection Fund: The Budget continues EPF funding for a second straight year at a record high $300 million. Appropriations include $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for parks and recreation, $152 million for open space programs and $20 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program.  


Economic development follows infrastructure, and while the country sits idle New York State is forging ahead with the nation's most aggressive $275 billion infrastructure program that is transforming every region of the State. Under the Governor's leadership, New York is investing more today in roads and bridges than at any period in our State's history, and the state has already completed $65 billion in construction, more than any state in the nation. Building upon these historic investments, Governor Cuomo will continue to lead the way on creating a 21st Century transportation infrastructure that moves New York's economy forward and improves quality of life for our residents and visitors.

DOT Capital Plan: The FY 2021 Budget will support $11.9 billion for the two-year DOT Capital Plan that will transform New York's highways, bridges, rail, aviation infrastructure, non-MTA transit and DOT facilities. Compared to the final two years of the last DOT Capital Plan, this is an increase of $3 billion, or 33 percent.

MTA Capital Plan Commitment: The FY 2021 Budget will continue to support the $52 billion MTA Capital Plan - the largest state investment in history. This investment includes $3 billion to make up to 70 subway stations accessible.

Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition Round 2: The FY 2021 Budget will invest up to $100 million to continue transforming upstate airports with Round 2 of the Upstate Airport and Economic Development Revitalization Competition. Airports across the state will be encouraged to submit proposals to enhance safety and economic development, improve airport operations and access, reduce environmental impact and create better passenger experiences.

Reimagining the Erie Canal. Building on the findings of the Reimagine the Canal Task Force, the New York Power Authority, which now oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, will invest $300 million over the next five years to integrate the Empire State Trail and Erie Canal through a new program that will stimulate tourism and economic development, address environmental challenges unknown a century ago, and create an asset that will improve the quality of life in communities along the 360-mile spine of the Erie Canal. A first phase of funding will start this year that will have two parts: a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area. The remaining $135 million of the plan's funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutions related to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

Empire Station: The State is investing $700 million to leverage a total of $3 billion, including from private sector and Federal sources, for the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office building into the Moynihan Train Hall. Combined with extensive renovations at the existing Penn Station, this will create a new Empire Station. In his 2020 State of the State, Governor Cuomo announced a proposal to expand Penn Station southward to create the Empire Station District. The plan creates new, larger terminals, and will increase track and train capacity by 40 percent, addressing the underlying and most critical problem at the busiest transit hub in the Western Hemisphere.

Regional Targeted Investments are Working

The Governor will continue to advance economic prosperity for all with projects that build on the state's successful regional economic development strategy.

Securing a High-Speed Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven: The FY 2021 Budget supports a $100 million multi-year commitment to secure a High-Speed Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven to build the region's research triangle. The funding will allow for the construction of new support buildings, power distribution upgrades, a new cooling system and sustainability enhancements required for the new collider.  

Modernizing Lake Placid Olympic facilities, Gore and Belleayre Mountains: The FY 2021 Budget will invest $147 million to modernize Lake Placid Olympic Facilities, Gore Mountain, and Belleayre Mountain.

Creating the State's First Comprehensive Education and Training Center in Syracuse: To meet the emerging science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics demands in Syracuse, the Executive Budget proposes the creation of the State's first regional Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center in Central New York. Administered by the Syracuse City School District in partnership with SUNY Empire State College and other local colleges and universities, the Center will provide specialized educational opportunities and state of the art workforce training programs in advanced technologies to students and residents throughout the region. The State will reimburse 98 percent, or $71.4 million, of the cost to renovate the building that will house the Center. The Syracuse Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center is scheduled to open in 2021 and will serve ultimately 1,000 students, as well as residents of the community. 

Transforming Buffalo's North Aud Block: The State will develop Buffalo Canalside's North Aud Block and improve access to the city's waterfront, featuring mixed use residential and commercial buildings and a piazza for public use, based on community and stakeholder input. This also includes the rail station that is forthcoming in Buffalo and its coordination with the new North Aud Block neighborhood.

Expanding High Technology Companies in Rochester: The Governor is supporting the expansion of three industry-leading high technology companies in the City of Rochester that will further grow the Finger Lakes regional economy as part of the Governor's continued commitment to growing the high-tech ecosystem in and around Rochester's Downtown Innovation Zone. The expansion of these companies will create more than 700 jobs in and near Rochester's Downtown Innovation Zone.

Expanding New York's Drone Corridor: The Governor is investing $9 million to establish an unmanned aerial system experimentation and test facility at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County. This "Skydome" will be a year-round indoor research facility to support the safe experimentation of drone technology and techniques, further strengthening the Mohawk Valley and Central New York as a hub for innovation.

Phase II Capitol Courtyard Restoration: The FY 2021 Executive Budget will invest $5 million to enhance the State Capitol by renovating and refurbishing the courtyard to bring it back to its original grandeur and make it sustainable for commercial use.

Transferring Pier 76 Tow Pound to Hudson River Park for Reuse: Governor Cuomo is proposing that the Hudson River Park Trust develop a plan to effectuate the long deferred transfer of Pier 76 from its use as a tow pound for the NYPD to the control of the Hudson River Park Trust to integrate into the park complex, maximizing green space, recreation and community access and market potential. As part of the proposal, the NYPD must vacate within one year and the Hudson River Park Trust should also develop an improvement plan for Pier 40.

Vital Brooklyn Initiative: The FY 2021 Executive Budget will continue to invest in the $1.4 billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative. The funding will help build 32 healthcare centers, 4,000 new affordable homes and over 400 acres of newly opened green and recreational space.

South Bronx Transformation: The Budget will support $1.8 billion for the South Bronx transformation - the largest state investment in the South Bronx in the State's history. Projects to transform the South Bronx include the Sheridan Boulevard, Hunts Point Market and four new Metro-North stations in Bronx transit deserts. 

Launching Next Round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. Participating communities are nominated by the State's ten REDCs based on the downtown's potential for transformation. Through four rounds of awards, each winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community's vision for revitalization. The FY 2021 Executive Budget provides $100 million for a fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Program.

Continuing the Successful Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. Since then, the State has invested more than $6.9 billion through the REDCs, funding more than 8,300 projects and supporting more than 240,000 jobs across the state. The FY 2021 Executive Budget includes $750 million to continue our aggressive, bottom-up regional economic development strategy through the transformative REDC initiative.


Increasing and Modernizing Emergency Response Capacity: Over 60 percent of New York counties have been flooded twice in the past 10 years. We must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. The FY 2021 Executive Budget sustains $12 million in capital funding to increase and update the State's emergency response capacity so our brave women and men have the right equipment to do their jobs.

Banning Repeat and High-Risk Sexual Offenders from MTA Transit Systems: The Governor will advance legislation to authorize the MTA to issue orders prohibiting individuals who commit repeat sex-related violations of the MTA code of conduct, those who are high-risk sex offenders (Level 3) or those who assault or harass MTA employees from using MTA transportation services for a period of three years. Additionally, this proposal will establish a new law for transit-related sex crime where, if convicted, a prohibition order may be imposed by a judge to ensure the safety of the pubic. Under this proposal, as a condition of pre-trial release, the judge may also issue a temporary prohibition order if good cause is shown that the prohibition is necessary to maintain public safety. Individuals who violate a prohibition order could be charged with Transit Trespass, an A misdemeanor.

 Banning Fentanyl Analogs to Further Combat the Opioid Epidemic: The Governor will introduce legislation to explicitly designate fentanyl analogs as controlled substances in New York State. This legislation will give police and law enforcement the authority to prosecute the manufacturing, sale and distribution of these drugs to the fullest extent of the law. The proposed legislation will also give the State Department of Health Commissioner the authority to add additional analogs to the list of controlled substances, enabling the State to stay in front of these deadly substances as they appear on the market.

 Preventing the Manufacture and Dissemination of Ghost Guns: To address the growing concern over ghost guns, Governor Cuomo will advance comprehensive legislation to prevent access to and use of these weapons. First, this proposal would require individuals to obtain major components of a firearm, rifle or shotgun only through an in-store transaction at a licensed gun dealer. Second, licensed dealers would be required to distribute major components only to individuals who possess valid identification and to log all transactions and would require all unfinished frames and receivers to have a serial number issued by the State Police. Third, the proposal would prohibit individuals who cannot legally possess a rifle or shotgun from possessing a major component part that could be used to build a firearm, rifle or shotgun and create new misdemeanor and felony penalties for violating these new provisions.

Closing the Out-of-State Gun Loophole: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to prohibit individuals from obtaining a gun license who commit serious offenses out-of-state that would disqualify them from obtaining a gun license if committed in New York. This will provide greater consistency in New York's licensing scheme and ensure individuals who are prohibited from purchasing a firearm are not able to do so. The Governor is also advancing legislation to require all state and local law enforcement agencies in the state to opt in to the ATF's crime gun trace data sharing program and submit crime guns recovered through the ATF's eTrace system. Additionally, Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to amend the Mental Hygiene Law to allow New York to share reports of individuals who are a danger to themselves or others with other states.

Legalizing Cannabis: This year Governor Cuomo is proposing a comprehensive regulatory approach to legalize cannabis, creating a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis regulation - overseeing the medical, adult-use and hemp programs. The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance and incubation of equity entrepreneurs. The proposal will also correct past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionally been impacted by prohibition. To safeguard public health, the proposal limits the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishes stringent quality and safety controls including oversight over the packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of all cannabis products. These efforts will be done in coordination with neighboring states Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Governor will also propose creating a first of its kind Global Cannabis and Hemp Center for Science, Research and Education with SUNY and other expert partners.

Passing the Hate Crime Anti-Terrorism Act: To address the disturbing number of anti-Semitic and other discriminatory attacks in New York, the Governor is proposing a first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate, creating a new A-1 class felony punishable by up to life in prison without parole. The Governor is also proposing New York schools add a curriculum that teaches civic values and the state's rich history of diversity and religious freedom. The Battery Park City Authority will develop a plan to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage on the Holocaust to be a learning destination for school children across the state.

County keeps tax levy below cap despite new state mandates

By Howard B. Owens

The proposed county budget for 2020 includes a 7-cent property tax rate increase for county residents, up from $10.04 to $10.11, while the county grapples with new state spending mandates but manages to keep the tax levy under the state's 2-percent cap.

The proposed tax levy is $31,015,658, up $759,567.

Mandated expenses, from Medicaid to law enforcement functions, will consume 72 percent of the levy.

Total anticipated general fund expenditures are $114,048,256, or $13,030 less than 2019's.

New mandated expenses include additional services related to the Raise the Age legislation, which now requires most criminal cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds to be referred to a youth court, at $318,373. The state is expected to provide the county with full reimbursement for these expenses.

What is not reimbursed are expenses related to bail reform and new evidence discovery requirements, which require the District Attorney's Office to add additional staff, including a new full-time assistant district attorney, a part-time ADA, and a new paralegal.

The Public Defenders Office is also adding an attorney but this expense will be covered by state aid. 

The county will have 452 full-time-equivalent employees. 

While the state is pressuring municipalities to enter into more shared services agreements, the county has pretty much exhausted those opportunities, County Manager Jay Gsell suggested in his budget statement.

The county has been sharing services with County Highway and other county highway departments for 21 years. There are also shared service agreements for the Health Department with Orleans County and combined youth services between the county, city, and Orleans County. 

The Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau has an anticipated budget of $420,000, entirely funded by the bed tax. 

A motor pool agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management and energy savings initiatives as a result of consulting with Johnson Controls currently gives the county an anticipated $200,000 in savings.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will take place Nov. 6 in the Old Courthouse. The Legislature will vote on the proposed budget Nov. 25.

County releases budget adoption schedule

By Howard B. Owens

Here is the anticipated schedule for review and adoption of Genesee County's 2020 budget:

Sept. 11, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Budget Discussion
Conference Session before Legislature Meeting

Sept. 11, 6 p.m.
Comprehensive Plan presentation after Legislature Meeting                       

Sept. 6, Friday
Date for departments to submit budget request to County Manager

Sept. 9 – 30
Final review of department and agency budgets by County Manager with meetings scheduled between County Manager and department heads on budget and staffing requests

Oct. 2, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. 
County Manager reviews overall County budget with Legislature. Legislature selects which departments to review services and respective budgets for Saturday morning meeting

Conference Session after Ways & Means Committee meeting               

Oct. 5, Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon              
Legislature meets with selected departments

Oct. 9, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Review department discussions held on the 5th and further review of the budget and direction for County Manager
Conference Session before Legislature Meeting          

Oct. 16, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.
County Manager reviews status of budget and summarization of major issues
Conference Session after Ways & Means Committee meeting                 

Oct. 21, Monday
County Manager files Recommended Budget with Legislature Clerk and releases budget information to the media

Oct. 23, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
County Manager provides overview of Recommended Budget to Legislature
Conference Session before Legislature Meeting

Nov. 6, Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Public Budget Hearing – County Manager’s Recommended Budget -- in Courthouse Chambers

Nov. 13, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. 
Legislature considers feedback from Public Hearing and makes further recommendations
Conference Session before Legislature Meeting        

Nov. 20, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Ways and Means Committee Budget Review with referral to full Legislature
Ways and Means Meeting

Nov. 25, Monday, 5:30 p.m.
Legislature Meeting – Budget Adoption

Notice given of county's public hearing on budget

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That the Genesee County Legislature will meet at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main Street, Batavia, New York on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. for the purpose of holding a Public Hearing on the Tentative Genesee County Budget for 2018.

Further Notice is hereby given that a copy of said Tentative Budget will be available in the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature, 7 Main Street, Batavia, New York where it may be inspected by any interested person.

Pursuant to Section 359 of the County Law, the maximum salaries that may be fixed and payable during said fiscal year to members of the Genesee County Legislature and to the Chair, thereof, are hereby specified as follows:

  • Members of the Legislature $12,117 each
  • Chair of the Legislature $15,943

County legislators face choice of six cent property tax increase or spend more reserve funds

By Howard B. Owens

The 2018 budget County Manager Jay Gsell is filing contains a property tax rate increase of six cents, to $10.13 per thousand of assessed value.

The manager's budget only becomes law if the County Legislature fails to pass a budget before the end of December.

At a meeting of the whole yesterday, no member of the Legislature expressed outright support for the increase and several said they oppose it and want to hold the rate at $10.07.

To do that, legislators will need to appropriate another $186,000 from reserve funds or find an equal amount of spending to cut.

Gsell's budget already calls for spending down the reserves again by $1 million.

“We’ve got the money, we should use it," said Chairman Ray Cianfrini. "I don’t think we should be hitting the public with another tax increase. Right or wrong, I think they think perception-wise that the Nursing Home money is money we have to apply toward this. I’m just throwing that out as my recommendation.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said, “You’ve got to remember, people’s assessments went up, so their taxes are already going up.”

Both John Deleo and Ed DeJaneiro expressed opposition.

"I don’t think I could vote for a budget unless we went to $10.07," DeJaneiro said.

Now that Gsell has submitted the manager's budget, legislators will have two weeks before a public hearing to make their suggestions for fine-tuning the revenue and spending plans.

The county's spending plan for 2018 calls for a total expenditure of $130,180,842, which will be paid for by a combination of state and federal reimbursements and local property and sales taxes along with miscellaneous fees and use taxes.

The property tax levy under Gsell's plan is $29,492,783. That's an increase in the levy of $268,120, which is within the state's two-percent tax cap mandate.

That mandate is being made tougher by Albany. The Raise the Age law passed earlier this year -- which will bring more 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes into the Family Court system -- was written to withhold funds for reimbursements for additional expenses from the law to counties that fail to hold the line on the two-percent cap.

This is also the first year the county is not saddled with the expense of the Genesee County Nursing Home, with its 160 jobs (full-time equivalents) and $16 million budget, which was draining as much as $2 million from local taxpayers each year.

There remain 540 FTEs on the county's books. Personnel is the largest expenditure for the county, but the pressure of the expense has been mitigated the county's share of the state's pension program remaining flat for 2018, more employees falling under Tier IV of the pension program, and the cost-savings success of the county's health coverage program, which now has employees contributing 10 to 20 percent of the premiums.

Unfunded state-mandated expenses continue to eat up a good portion of the tax levy. The 8-9 programs cost local taxpayers $22,315,765, or 76 percent of the levy. Medicaid is $9.4 million of that expense.

In all, Department of Social Services provides health aid to 12,500 senior citizens, children and adults in need at a cost of $95 million (most of which is covered by State and Federal expenditures).  About 60 percent of the expenditure is for long-term nursing care.

Other unfunded mandates include indigent defense, pre-K/elementary handicapped education services, probation, mental health, the jail, Safety Net, family assistance, child welfare and youth detention, according to Gsell's budget message.

Another mandate Gsell knocks in his message is the requirement from Albany that counties give raises to district attorneys. On April 1, the DA's salary will go up to $193,000 and there's nothing local elected officials can do about it.

"This is merely a reflection of the unilateral and paternalistic attitude of Albany and the disregard for local county government fiscal constraints," Gsell said.

The most significant personnel change in the budget is the addition of a compliance officer, who will report the county manager and oversee compliance with state and federal regulation related to the more than $11 million in grants the county receives so that revenue isn't inadvertently jeopardized. 

"(The position) has been strongly recommended by our outside/consulting corporate compliance attorney and our independent auditors," Gsell said.

As for proceeds from the sale of the nursing home, DeJaneiro wanted to know if the state could mandate what the county does with the money. Gsell said that is one thing the state leaves entirely up to local discretion.

There are still accounts to settle related to the nursing home, so the final total of the proceeds (profits) from the $15 million sale is not yet available, but whatever the amount, it will likely be placed in the capital improvement fund.

DeJaneiro suggested it go to help pay for repairs to roads and bridges and Gsell said that is one possibility, but the county is looking at the state soon requiring the county to build a new jail with a potential price tag of $43 million.

As expenses continue to go up every year in a county budget that for years has held the line on tax increases and cut personnel and services year-after-year, one concern for legislators about the tax cap is if they don't raise the property tax by six cents, then the amount they can raise taxes in future years if dire circumstances require it is diminished.

To get around this Legislator Bob Bausch asked if the county could raise the rate by six cents and then on the tax bill immediately turn around and rebate property owners the six cents per thousand, thereby increasing the total amount of the levy without actually taking more from taxpayers.

"I think it’s sort of a gimmick," DeJaneiro said.

Bausch replied, "Of course it’s a gimmick. The whole thing is a gimmick," meaning the state's arbitrary tax cap.

"Fight gimmicks with gimmicks," Legislator Andrew Young observed.

No vote was taken on the budget. There will be another budget discussion next Wednesday.

Draft county budget contemplates new staff positions, elimination of others

By Howard B. Owens

As County Manager Jay Gsell gets closer to pitching his proposed 2018 budget to county legislators, the focus in budget talks is on what staff positions will be created and which will be eliminated.

New positions might include a compliance officer, a first assistant district attorney, and a program coordinator in the Department of Mental Health.

On the way out are a child care worker in Social Services and a youth program specialist in the Youth Bureau.

Many of the positions being eliminated are reclassifications of jobs within the same department. For example, in Mental Health, two part-time clerk-typist positions become one full-time position. Public health is eliminating a principal financial support specialist but adding an administrative officer and part-time senior financial clerk-typist.

If a first assistant district attorney position is created in the District Attorney's Office, which is expected to go to Melissa Cianfrini at a salary of $111,783, an assistant district attorney position, with a salary of $91,915, will be eliminated.

The headline new position, however, is the compliance officer. The potential salary is $87,694 and the position will report to the county manager. The compliance officer will make sure the county is meeting all federal and state requirements for privacy, disability accessibility, health record privacy and other codes and regulations that are often tied to the grants the county receives from state and federal agencies.

“If Tim Yaeger or somebody wants to apply for a Federal grant, a Homeland Security grant, or some other kind of grant, they can the requirement of the grant, hand it to the compliance officer who can digest it and make sure we are currently meeting the requirements or what kind of changes do we need to make administratively to make sure we’re going to meet requirements,” said Matt Landers, assistant county manager.

There are millions of dollars in grants at stake in the county if the county fails to meet compliance requirements. 

The qualified job applicant will have a four-year degree and at least two years related work experience, or a master's degree and two years experience.

The Youth Bureau is eliminating a position because there's no guarantee the federal government is going to continue to fund Americorps. That program ends at the end of the year and the current director of the program will spend January and February winding down the program and then will be out of a job.

The Sheriff's Office is also asking to add two new positions, an assistant to the director of emergency communications, at a salary of $67,109, and an emergency services dispatcher, $43,128.

From the current budget draft, Gsell must trim $257,831 to arrive at a tax rate of $10.13, which keeps the tax levy increase within the tax cap limit. Without further cuts, the Legislature would need to approve a tax cap override. If the Legislature wants to get the tax rate down to this year's $10.07 per thousand of assessed value rate, Gsell will need to find $460,000 in additional spending cuts.

Gsell will present his draft budget and his annual budget message later this month.

County passes contentious budget, but future budget challenges lay ahead

By Howard B. Owens

Along the way to settling on a 2017 county budget, the process wasn't without a bit of acrimony, but looking forward to future budgets, there may only be more pain ahead.

The County Legislature passed its budget last night, 7-2. It raises county property taxes to $10.07 per thousand of assessed value, creating a property tax levy of $28,699,115. The increase required the Legislature to vote to override the state's 2-percent cap on an increase of the levy.

Legislative Chairman Ray Cianfrini said he thought his colleagues could have done better and voted against the budget, which takes effect Jan. 1. 

"The county manager presented us with a proposed budget that used reserves to decrease the tax rate and keep us under the tax cap," Cianfrini said. "Now, we are rejecting it for a budget with an increase in the tax rate and that goes over the cap. I think we could have done better."

John Deleo also voted no. (Corrected)

The budget County Manager Jay Gsell presented in October took $1 million from the reserve fund and redirected $1 million in anticipated sales tax revenue that would typically go into the long-term capital project fund and cut the tax rate to $9.79.  

A report earlier from County Treasurer Scott German stated that if the county continued on the same path it had for the past eight years, of spending about $2 million in reserve funds per year, the county would be broke within five years.

That particularly concerned legislators Andrew Young and Bob Bausch and they initially pushed for a budget that took nothing from reserve funds. The problem they ran into: the Legislature couldn't find $2 million in spending to cut without cutting essential services, such as law enforcement; and they were no more happy with the idea of a tax rate approaching $10.50.

The compromise a draw on reserves of only $500,000, but that lowered the rate to only $10.25, so the legislators met again to try and find more spending cuts. They invited in Undersheriff William Sheron (the next sheriff), Public Defender Jerry Ader and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to discuss cuts.

Out of that, the Sheriff's Office still gets its two new corrections officers, which will help save the overtime costs associated with deputies transporting female prisoners between courts and jail facilities in other counties, and Ader keeps his caseworker, which helps ensure criminal defendants meet their obligations, but Friedman won't get to promote ADA Melissa Cianfrini to his first assistant.

He's been without a first assistant for six years and the discussion over the promotion became contentious, with both Ray Cianfrini, Melissa's father-in-law, and Friedman suggesting that the reason some on the legislature didn't want to give her a raise is because she's a woman.

That suggestion didn't go over well with members of the Legislature, particularly Bausch, who pointed out he has three daughters, including one who is an attorney.

Future budget years don't promise to get any easier for a county that has already been through years and years of spending cuts, eliminating more than 100 jobs, keeping management pay about 95 percent of market value, delaying maintenance on infrastructure, reducing spending on support agencies, selling the nursing home and holding off on building a new jail.

All this in an environment where the state continues to mandate increases in spending -- this year, for example, forcing the county to increase the salary of the district attorney -- and a new White House administration that promises to eliminate the Affordable Health Care Act.

That, Gsell said, "will render asunder state and county budgets."

The AHC required the county to take on more Medicaid expenses, mainly by ensuring more people who are qualified for Medicaid are receiving Medicaid. The number of people locally who are enrolled in Medicaid has gone from 8,800 to 12,200.

The county's share of the expense is now $178,000 per week.

That expense won't be reduced if the AHC is repealed because the people currently receiving Medicaid will still be eligible for Medicaid, but the federal government's share of the expense, which flows through the state to the county, will be reduced.

That's a mandated expense the county can't legally avoid.

And the increase in enrollment is not without its benefits, Gsell said. It helps control expenses because people are in managed plans and are not relying on emergency rooms for their medical care.

And the fight continues with the state over other mandated costs. The state recently increased the standards for indigent legal defense and with the changes, there was supposed to be relief from the $1.2 million in county expense, but the bill that would make that change has lingered on the governor's desk.

That will be a topic of discussion next week, Gsell said, when representatives from all 52 counties in the state meet for their annual convention.

Meanwhile, work has already begun on the request of legislators to come up with a five-year plan for the county. There is a template recommended by the Comptroller's Office and the county's auditors for five-year planning, Gsell said, and staff has already started working through it.

That plan will set priorities, provide a framework and anticipate contingencies that may help with future budget discussions.

Also, last night, Cianfrini announced that discussions have begun at the most preliminary stages with Orleans County about building a regional jail.

County Legislature likely to approve 2017 budget with one dissenting vote

By Howard B. Owens

Assuming the County Legislature passes its proposed 2017 budget next week, it will contain the largest property tax increase in recent memory, taking the rate from $9.86 per thousand to $10.07 per thousand of assessed value.

Nobody likes a tax increase, Ways and Means Chairman Bob Bausch noted after Wednesday's committee meeting where the new proposed tax rate was announced, but a 2-percent increase is far more manageable for most people than a 4- or 5- or 6-percent increase, all of which were on the table at one point during the budget talks over the past couple of months.

To get the rate down to $10.07, from a proposed rate of $10.25 a week ago, the Legislature had to come together on a proposal to withdraw another $500,000 from reserve funds -- a total of $1 million out of reserves --to balance the general fund.

The total property tax levy will be $28,969,114, a 2.13-percent increase over last year, which will require the Legislature to override the state's tax cap on levy increases.

It looks like Ray Cianfrini, the chairman of the Legislature, will be the sole dissenting vote on the 2017 budget. He thinks the tax rate can be lower. He thinks the county can afford to withdraw more money from the reserve to help keep the tax rate down.

"The budget being presented is a better budget than we had a week ago, but, again, I'm not going to support it," Cianfrini said.

Over the past dozen years, the county has not calculated into its projected revenue the proceeds of properties sold at the annual tax lien auction.

The count doesn't tally this up as anticipated revenue because it's so unpredictable. One year, the county brought in an extra $400,000 from the auction, but another year it was down to only $7,000 in revenue.

However, Cianfrini said, the average is $142,000. He would like the county to budget for at least some level of revenue from the auction.

Cianfrini is also concerned the county in its budget planning is not giving enough credit for the coming cost savings from the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home and the boost that will give to the reserve fund balance.

After spending $1 million from the reserve, the county will have a fund balance of $7.7 million. The anticipated net proceeds from the nursing home sale will be more than $6 million, giving the county a fund balance in excess of $14 million.

That's a record amount, Cianfrini said.

"The fund balance is still taxpayer money," Cianfrini said. "It's money we collected from taxpayers and didn't spend. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should give that money back to the taxpayers."

No members of the Ways and Means Committee responded to Cianfrini during the meeting and the resolution to recommend budget approval to the full Legislature passed 4-1.

After the meeting, Bausch said he isn't comfortable counting on any amount of money coming from the sale of Nursing Home until all of the bills related to the sale are paid, which won't happen for another eight or nine months.

"At some point, we will know what those final numbers are," Bausch said. "We have made a significant commitment to our constituents to use that money for roads and bridges. Yes, there is a discussion to be had (about what to do with the money), but we're not anywhere near ready for that discussion."

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