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consolidation

July 20, 2009 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation, taxes.

In discussing consolidation, much has been made of the negative property tax rate paid by Town of Batavia residents -- a nice benefit that may or may not survive the town's need for infrastructure improvements and the potential of a change to sales tax distribution in a few years -- but one hidden impact of the town's tax structure is the benefit derived by the multinational corporations that populate Veterans Memorial Drive.

These corporations -- already beneficiaries of billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies across the USA -- also get a tax break being located in the town.

This is as an additional unfair competitive advantage the big box retailers have over City of Batavia businesses and another issue that will need to be addressed in consolidation.

Town Supervisor Greg Post mentioned to me last week that the town invested millions, in his words, in making it possible for the big box stores to locate in the town. I'm not sure how what he means by that statement, but any large scale investment by the town -- which he sees as a positive -- is a further reason to ensure these businesses are taxed fairly and competitively, on par with other businesses in the region.

Of course, a world of no taxes is ideal, but when you're talking about the vitality of a community, protecting your small businesses form the unfair advantages of multinational retailers should be a priority on the community agenda.

Should consolidation pass, when it comes time to write a new charter, this tax inequality issue must be addressed. And if consolidation doesn't pass, the town board owes it to the community fix this inequity.

The businesses on Veterans Memorial Drive require a good deal law enforcement (an expense shared by the entire county), fire and infrastructure support. The chains should be paying their fair share of taxes just for that reason.

Protecting and enhancing downtown, as well as the diversity of other small, locally owned businesses is essential to the vitality and health of Genesee County.  Allowing the big boxes to avoid an equal tax burden with other businesses threatens one of our greatest resources -- our independent businesses.

July 1, 2009 - 10:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

Last night's consolidation meeting at Batavia High School wasn't much like the consolidation meeting earlier in the month.

Where the previous meeting was dominated by Town of Batavia residents who forcefully opposed even the suggestion of getting hitched to the city, last night there were many more reasoned voices, both from town and the city.

Outside of Ed O'Neil citing a straw poll that seemed to indicate widespread opposition to consolidation, the majority of speakers where either more interested in asking questions and at least entertaining the notion that consolidation might make sense.

If all you knew was the first meeting, you would feel assured that any consolidation vote in the town would go down in flames. If you listened fairly to last night's crowd, you might think, "well maybe this thing has got a chance."

Not, mind you, a strong chance, but a chance.

"We have a lot of different opinions here in this room tonight, a lot of different thoughts," said town resident Rick Gilmartin. "I think we can all agree on one thing -- it's that taxes are a burden in this state. If we can find a way to have less government instead of more, and if there are efficiencies to be gained by consolidation, then I think we need to look hard at that."

More than one person pointed out that for all the concern from town residents about city debt and expense becoming a burden for town residents (which shouldn't happen under the proposed tier system), the town is fairly dependent on the city for many services and facilities, such as the library, water, UMMC, GoArt, a good number of tax-exempt church properties and many businesses that town residents frequent.

There already is one Batavia. There just isn't necessarily just one government.

Here's a few audio highlights from the meeting:

June 30, 2009 - 8:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

Where do you stand on consolidation?

If you still have things to say, questions to ask and points to ponder -- you should attend the second of two community meetings on the consolidation question at Batavia High School tonight at 7.

The consolidation study committee will be there to explain the consolidation proposal as it stands now (it's subject to change based on community feedback) and answer questions.

June 22, 2009 - 9:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation, Charter Review Commission.

The City of Batavia's two-year effort to amend its charter is running head-on into any idea of consolidating the town and the city into a single government in the near future, according to John Roach, chairman of the Charter Review Commission.

Roach said this evening that City Attorney George Van Nest informed the commission that state law prohibits any other measure from being on the same ballot.

That means city officials will need to choose - new charter or push for consolidation.

"If we thought consolidation would pass, we would pull the charter," Roach said.

The Charter Commission's term expires, under state law, on election day. If there is no vote this November, then the city will need to appoint a new Charter Review Commission and the two-year process will start over.

Roach noted there are some issues in the revised charter that will not controversial, are critical. Among them the need to drop the requirement for the city to employee a City Engineer, a position that is currently vacant and is apparently no longer needed.  Also, under state law each member of the seven-member planning board should serve seven-year terms. The commission is recommending reducing the board to only five members so terms will be only five years (yes, that's the way state law works, according to Roach).

City Council President Charlie Mallow, a strong proponent of consolidation said to him there's no question, consolidation should be on the November ballot, not the charter.

Asked about the risk of the town not passing consolidation and then the city would need to start over on the charter, Mallow said, "That's the risk you have to take. That's something as an area we have to reach for."

City Manager Jason Molino, who serves on the consolidation committee, declined to say which choice he favored.

"It's up to the elected officials," Molino said. "If they feel fit to put it forward to the populace then they will."

June 19, 2009 - 7:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

gary_hearing.jpg

If the fate of town/city consolidation were to be judged by one meeting, the prospects are not good, especially from the Town of Batavia perspective.

The majority of speakers Thursday night said they were town residents. They spoke passionately of their opposition to consolidation, and their statements often elicited rousing applause from the audience.

Some 60 people attended the public forum held at Batavia High School last night.

Two themes emerged: The consolidation idea is something of a referendum on the decades-ago urban renewal in Downtown Batavia; and, a strong distrust of Albany.

"Keep in mind that the decisions that are made today will effect generations to come," said Gary Diegelman, a town resident. "Decisions that were made back in the '60s are still affecting us today like urban renewal downtown."

City resident and town land owner George Galliford sounded willing to entertain the notion of consolidation, but struck many skeptical notes.

"Being a progressive sounds very good," said Galliford. "I think people like to think of themselves as progressive. As somebody mentioned earlier at one time there were some progressives in Batavia, and they did urban renewal. There aren't a lot of people around today that would necessarily say that urban renewal and being progressive was a great thing for Batavia."

Barb Galliford questioned whether the state would continue to fund the new government agencies at the levels promised right now. If the consolidation took place, state grants to the new city (if a city form of government were chosen) would increase to $790,000, making up the bulk of an anticipated $1 million in "cost savings" for the new entity.

"And the money the state is saying they're going to give us, they cut things all the time," Galliford said. "There's no guarantee we're going to receive that every single year, or that it will even increase. As far as I'm concerned, I'm definitely not for this consolidation."

"I don't know what kind of guarantees the state can give us, because I don't have a whole lot of faith in the state," George Galliford said.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Rita  Towner. "My concern is, like every one else here, the state has no money. In fact the city, in the bad shape that it's in, is in better shape, I think, than the state is in."

As he has previously, Jason Molino stressed that while there are no guarantees, the state money has been very reliable in the past. Large constituencies in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and other larger cities in the state get a far greater share of these grants and depend on it tremendously. And consolidation of local governments is a major objective for the governor and state legislature.

Some people after the meeting pointed out that there's no guarantee that the Town Board will never raise taxes either. What happens to the town, for example, if in 2018, when the current sales tax agreement with the county expires, and the county decides to no longer share that revenue. The town will be without recourse, but by state law, a city can override such a decision.

Audio Clips:

June 15, 2009 - 1:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

Here is the entire content of an e-mail from Batavia Councilman Bill Cox, Ward 1, on consolidation:

Here are my initial thoughts.

It took a lot of time and in-depth discussion for the consolidation committee to identify the major elements of a consolidation. That work had to be done to be able to go on from there. They did a good job putting their arms around issues. I believe the committee accomplished 50% of what ultimately needs to be done.

This committee or a new committee needs to address the other 50% which is to identify where you can consolidate operations to cut personnel, share existing equipment, share the cost of new equipment, share maintenance expense, share overhead to eliminate some management, etc.

Consolidation is all about cost savings through permanent cuts in operating costs, it is not about new revenue. Its about getting more done with less cost. Consolidating for the sole purpose of getting $923,000. in new revenue sharing from NYS is not a sufficient reason to consolidate. There is no guarantee how long it will be given. The State is in dire economic condition, and it cannot be relied on for the long term.

The report did not deal with the most significant areas that could represent real savings which is the cost to the city for police and fire protection. This represents about $6,000,000 annually. This is the area we  have to address first. We are choking in the cost to continue these services under the existing collective bargaining agreements. This appears to be taboo.

There was no mention of any real specifics how to cut anything except one or two small cost reduction references. All the debt stays the same, all the taxes are still separated, all the main cost items remain in place. The other area which dwarfs all costs is consolidation of school districts. This alone would be tremendous and it would not even require the town and city to consolidate governments.

Until real cost reduction is identified in specific amounts and departments with a solid plan of action of how and when to implement the cuts, I could not vote for consolidation as it was presented. There is insufficient information to determine if a consolidation makes sense for the tax payers.

I am strongly in favor of reducing the cost of government and one good way to do this is through consolidation, but specifics of how, what, when, where, and how much, has to be identified and agreed upon prior to proposing anything for our taxpayers to decide. We have to reduce the tremendous burden of taxes in multiple categories our taxpayers are saddled with and this report did not address how we get there.

Public meetings on consolidation will be held Thursday and again June 30 at Batavia High School. Both meetings are at 7 p.m.

June 4, 2009 - 8:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in consolidation, Mike Ranzenhofer, legislation.

Press Release:

Albany, N.Y. – State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer voted today for legislation that would allow citizens and government bodies to initiate the process of consolidating or dissolving local governments more easily, a measure that would save taxpayer dollars.   
 
“New York State’s 10,521 government entities have led to Western New Yorkers paying among the highest property taxes in the nation.  Citizens across Western New York deserve the opportunity to consolidate or dissolve local governments if they chose to in an effort to reduce the size of government, decrease costs, and ultimately pass much needed property-tax relief along to homeowners,” said Senator Ranzenhofer. 
 
The New New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act (S5661) allows local government bodies and citizens to initiate local government consolidation or dissolution.  Under the recently passed legislation, government bodies may develop a plan for consolidation/dissolution and after approval, the legislation must be approved by a referendum among the voters in towns and villages.  Additionally, citizens may propose consolidation/dissolution efforts by filing petitions that have been signed by ten percent of registered voters.
 
“I have faith in citizens to give them the ability to accept or reject consolidation and efficiency measures as they see fit,” said Senator Ranzenhofer.
 
Senator Ranzenhofer supported an amendment on the Senate floor to prevent any negative effects of the legislation on local fire departments.  Senate Democrats defeated the amendment.
 
“I am concerned this legislation could have a negative effects on fire departments that already save taxpayer dollars for local governments through the brave men and women who serve our communities.  Our volunteer firefighters are an integral part of our community that we cannot afford to consolidate or dissolve,” said Senator Ranzenhofer.
 
Additionally, Senator Ranzenhofer expressed his continued commitment to reforming State government.
 
“This Citizen Empowerment Act represents only a first step in the movement to change the way Albany does business.  For once this legislation does not dictate to local government entities, instead it empowers citizens to have their voices heard.  However, there is still much more work to be done.  Albany must cut spending across the board, end unfunded State mandates that increase costs on existing local governments and create a more open, transparent State government because New Yorkers deserve better,” he added.

June 2, 2009 - 1:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in consolidation, legislation.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today that he supported legislation pushed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo  that could make local government consolidation easier.

"New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act" is supposed to save taxpayer's money by streamlining the consolidation process.

The bill passed the assembly yesterday without opposition.

Hawley's full press release after the jump:

June 2, 2009 - 11:41am

 

HAWLEY VOTES FOR BILL TO SAVE TAXPAYER DOLLARS,

MAKE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE

 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) today voted in favor of Assembly Bill 8501, the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.”  This legislation would help save taxpayer dollars by allowing local government to become more effective and efficient, while at the same time standardizing state law regarding the process of government consolidation.

 

“I firmly believe that less government is better government and I have long supported initiatives to consolidate government services, such as during this year’s budget negotiation.  By consolidating services among the three levels of government, we can more effectively and efficiently serve our collective constituency,” said Hawley.

 

The Assemblyman continued, “at first glance there were some fears about this legislation that I shared with local government agencies.  I wanted to make sure that this bill was not just another Albany-imposed mandate.  I have taken the time to carefully review the bill and to vet the language with my colleagues in local government as well as to read a number of letters and e-mails my office has received since this bill was introduced.  We need to take steps to cut government excess in order to truly protect the taxpayers and businesses of our state and I believe after considering this legislation that this bill will help meet that goal.”

 

The bill puts into place a standardized method for government consolidation, shared services or dissolution of government entities, should that be proposed on a local level.  While the Assemblyman originally had some concerns about the bill, upon reviewing the bill language and vetting it through local and state officials, he came to the conclusion that the bill merely clarifies and standardizes the process by which local government entities may consolidate, share services or dissolve, should the voters of the district petition. 

 

The largest among the Assemblyman’s original concerns was that the bill outlines that 10 percent of the electorate must sign a petition calling for a referendum on the issue of consolidation, sharing services or dissolution.  However, this 10 percent is greater than the current 5 percent standard in Town Law and greater than the percentage needed in most cases for a petition to consolidate adjoining villages under current Village Law.  Additionally, the bill provides a safeguard for small villages and government entities with populations of less than 500 residents.  In these cases, the bill calls for 20 percent of the population to sign the petition.

 

Additionally, the Assemblyman shared the concern of some local officials that this measure would put too much power into the hands of county-level officials.  However, current state law already gives counties this power.  Another concern was that should a referendum be called for, taxpayers would be asked to foot the bill for holding a special election.  Yet, the bill directly states that should a referendum be called, it may be held at any time, including on general elections.

 

Finally, the Assemblyman was concerned that should a referendum be called for and passed, it would give local government entities short notice to lay out plans to consolidate, share services or dissolve.  The bill language details the standardized process, which would amount to a minimum of 390 days and, thereafter, it would take up to an additional two years for the plan to be fully implemented.

 

“At the end of the day, this bill puts the power of change into the hands of the people, which, in my opinion, is where it belongs.  This bill does not call for governments to consolidate or dissolve at a local level.  It merely gives a standardized process for localities should they consider this option,” said Hawley.

 

To further ensure that certain government entities, such as fire districts, are protected, Hawley is drafting new legislation that would amend A.8501.  The Assemblyman stated, “I want to make sure that our fire departments are fully protected and that the bill which was passed does not have any unintended negative consequences for our firefighters, especially in terms of volunteer firefighter recruitment.  I will continue working together with the fire districts and volunteer fire departments in the 139th Assembly District and my colleagues in the State Legislature toward this end.”

 

###

 

June 1, 2009 - 9:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

consolidation meeting.jpg

A united Batavia will clearly lead to cost savings now and in the future consultant Charles Zettek, Jr. told a join meeting of the Batavia City Council and Batavia Town Board this evening.

The immediate savings, conservatively speaking is $943,000, with additional annual savings in future years, said Zettek, VP of Government Management Services.

"There will be no negative impact on the property tax burdens (for residents of both the town and the city)," Zettek said.

Tonight's meeting was designed to present the consolidation committee's report, titled "A Vision of One Batavia," to elected officials from both agencies.

While the meeting was open to the public, questions and discussion were restricted to elected officials and committee members.

The 15 page report will be released on the Web to the public tomorrow along with all the supporting documents, such as spreadsheets comparing city and town expenses and revenues.

A large portion of the "cost savings" actually comes in the form of additional revenue from the state to reward government agencies consolidating services.

That $790,000 per year is would be a perpetual grant annual grant to the new consolidated government. 

There would be additional savings from efficiencies gained by the consolidation, even though no current jobs would be eliminated.  Work force would be reduced over the first five years of the new government through attrition and retirement.

Insuring there is no negative impact on taxpayers is achieved by creating a three-tiered system of taxes and spending that would prevent the town, for example, from being burdened by city debt or the expense of fully funded police and fire operations.

In the new system, Tier 1 would cover the consolidated region, both city and town. Tier 2 would be the current city and Tier 3 would be the current town.

Tier 1 would pay for and receive services and government agencies that serve both parts of the new jurisdiction equally, such as public works and city/town administration.

Tier 2 would pay for and receive the services currently received by city residents, such as police and fire protection and garbage collection. Tier 2 taxpayers would also shoulder the burden of the city's existing debt until it was paid off.

Tier 3 would continue to receive fire protection from the volunteer fire departments and police protection from the Sheriff's Office.  Taxes would not be increased in Tier 3 to pay for Tier 2 services or debt.

As for whether the new jurisdiction would be a city or a town, that's yet to be decided, but Lynn Freeaman said the committee saw more advantages, both in cost savings and grants from the state, in forming a new city government rather than a town.

Audio:

UPDATE: I forgot to include: There will be two public meetings where residents can weigh in and ask questions. One June 18 and one June 30, both at 7 p.m.  One will be at Town Hall, one at City Hall, though which one on which date has yet to be determined. Also if it looks like turn out will be sufficient, one will be at Batavia High School.  Since there are many details to flesh out, and options to be considered, public input is an important part of the process.

UPDATE: Here's WIVB's coverage:
June 1, 2009 - 9:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

Tonight the City and Town of Batavia Consolidation Committee releases a report to the community summarizing its work so far.

We'll get to find out what the committee thinks of the idea, but given the title, "A Vision for One Batavia," we can deduce the outlook is rosy.

We'll probably be presented with spreadsheets and pie charts and improved work flows that tell us it all makes dollars and sense.  Somehow it's going to save taxpayers money and lead to a more responsive and efficient government.

But when you strip away the columns of numbers and rows categories, I wonder if anybody will have taken the time to ask one basic question: What unintended consequences might we face as a consolidated government?

Bringing the city and town together is a monumental move. It's going to have impacts beyond what any facts and figures can show us. How do we think through how things might change, and are those changes we want? (I'm not, btw, afraid of change nor necessarily consolidation -- just asking the question.)

What are the intangibles that can't be measured and how will they be different?  Will the new government be able to quickly mobilize along the lines of a single vision, and will that vision be good for local business and people who cherish small town values, or will there be an aim to just get bigger?

Which vision of Batavia will be stronger, the one of a locally owned downtown or a chain-driven Veteran's Memorial Drive?

What values do the two governments embody now and how are they different and how are they the same and how will they change?

Will some segments of either the city or town feel like its needs aren't being met?

How will land use change, government services, support of civic life?

There's no doubt that the committee is full of people with the best of intentions, but what about the unintentions? Will these be studied, too?

Nobody thought about the law of unintended consequences when the north side of Main Street was demolished to make way for a mall that people don't use much.  Let's not just consider consolidation as a matter of pure fiscal responsibility -- because it may turn out to be very responsible -- let's consider, too, its social and civic impacts.

The meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at Batavia Town Hall, 3833 W. Main Street Road.

The study committee presenting the report: Lynn Freeman, Sally Kuzon, Steven Lockwood, Beverly Mancuso, Jason Molino, Steven Mountain and Jeffrey Scott.

May 22, 2009 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

The title of an anticipated report on consolidation of the City and Town of Batavia seems to indicate the committee studying the issue sees it as a positive move.

"First Report to the Community -- A Vision for One Batavia."

The Consolidation Study Committee will discuss the report at a public meeting at 7 p.m. June 1 in Batavia Town Hall, 3833 W. Main St.

Serving on the study committee: Lynn Freeman, Sally Kuzon, Steven Lockwood, Beverly Mancuso, Jason Molino, Steven Mountain and Jeffery Scott.

February 23, 2009 - 4:02pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, consolidation, seneca falls.

BATAVIA, N.Y. — Batavia could learn a thing or two from Seneca Falls. The town and village of Seneca Falls have become the centerpiece of a statewide campaign of the Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who claims that merging municipalities saves taxpayers money.

As the city and town of Batavia pull up their sleeves and really get serious about consolidation—we've all seen the flow chart!—it might benefit to step back and take a look at how things are going over in Seneca County. Officials over there seem to be following the exact same process as our own. They even hired the Center for Governmental Research as a consultant to study the potential merger.

And ever since the initial research came out in November, Cuomo has been promoting the potential $978 savings in property taxes per year for Seneca Falls homeowners. But... it turns out, it's not so black and white.

From an article in today's Democrat & Chronicle:

A closer look at the potential savings in abolishing this Seneca County village of about 7,000 people and having the town take over its functions shows far more modest overall savings than suggested by Cuomo — with other taxpayers paying more as village taxes go down. Seneca Falls also has some unique circumstances that mean its potential savings would be hard to duplicate elsewhere.

"In almost every case, these changes involve a tax shift from village to town taxpayers," said Charles Zettek, vice president of the Center for Governmental Research, who studied the Seneca Falls project and came up with the figure Cuomo quotes.

According to Zettek's figures, abolishing the village, while saving village taxpayers an average of $978 a year, would increase the levy on town residents who live outside the village, who now pay almost no town taxes, by $375. The figures are based on property worth $100,000.

In addition, another big chunk of the savings would come from a $495,000 state grant designed to encourage government consolidations — in effect, a shift in costs from village to state taxpayers.

Maybe that's a question we need to put to our own leaders. In the CGR report put together for the Batavia consolidation, we can read that taxpayers stand to reap a savings of 15 percent on their property taxes. Well, to be more specific, the document reads that consolidation would "reduce the combined property tax levy of the City and Town by 15% per year." So what does that mean for town residents? Will city residents get a reduction while town residents see an increase?

What about this quote from Zettek—not too heartening:

"This whole thing is an art form, figuring out who benefits and who doesn't," said Zettek, who said that generally government-merger plans can trim expenses "in the 2.5 percent to 5 percent range."

Well, if it's an art form, why did we hire bureaucrats to do it?

Or what about this statement from the village administrators:

"In terms of savings from shared services, you're really talking about nickels and dimes," said village administrator Connie Sowards, whose job would be abolished if the plan goes through. "The big thing is the cost shift."

I would suggest reading the whole article by Jay Gallagher. It's quite informative. Don't about most folks, but I'm all for the idea of consolidation, but it seems more and more that the devil is in the details, none of which have yet been definitively worked out.

Let's hope the upcoming "plan" can really spell things out for us.

February 2, 2009 - 5:58pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, city council, consolidation, town, city.

City and town of Batavia officials announced today that a Web site will be launched by the end of the week devoted to the consolidation plan right now being put together for the municipalities. We've included most of the text from that press release below. We also received a "Consolidation Plan Process Flow Chart" that details the process for approving the potential consolidation.

Noting that the "topic of consolidation has generated tremendous interest in Batavia in recent weeks," Town Supervisor Greg Post and City Council President Charlie Mallow today issued a joint statement endorsing the work of the joint consolidation planning committee. They also announced that by the end of the week the City and Town websites will have links to a special "Batavia Consolidation Plan" website so that area residents can stay informed about the planning process.

Mallow and Post pointed out that the actual work of developing the plan is the responsibility of the seven-member City/Town Consolidation Study Committee that is working with the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), a nonprofit consulting group based in Rochester. "We were both please with its decision — one recently endorsed by our respective boards — to move from a 'study' to a 'plan,'" they said.

Post added, "I'm a believer in smaller government and I'm action-oriented. This community does not need a study that sits on a shelf. It needs a plan so that Town voters have the choice of saying yes or no."

Mallow said, "I'm a firm believer in consolidating the City and Town, because there are so many benefits for our community going forward. Consolidation will positively impact every generation that comes after us."

They pointed out that the Committee will develop a report of model options for the combined community by June 1. The Committee will then hold community forums for the public to provide input in June and July. Based on the input, the Committee will develop a draft plan to present to the City Council and Town Board in early August. Assuming City Council and Town Board approve, a consolidation plan will be presented to City and Town voters at the November 3 election.

Please click here to download the full press release.

January 13, 2009 - 3:50pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, consolidation.

Earlier today, we contacted Charlie Mallow, Batavia's City Council president, and Greg Post, the town supervisor, to get their thoughts on some specifics about the upcoming consolidation plan. Mallow sent us his responses via e-mail this past hour. We include them below.

When we called Post, he told us that he wouldn't be available to answer the questions until later this evening. We will try to get in touch with him then and get his answers up once we have them. They were given the same questions.

Note: CGR is an abbreviation for the Center for Governmental Research, the group that put together the report in preparation for an upcoming study on consolidating the city and town of Batavia. You can download the complete report here. Our questions (verbatim) are in italics. Mallow's responses (verbatim) are in bold.


CGR's memorandum calls for a Consolidation Plan to be complete by May in order for community discussion to take place between then and November, in advance of the tentative November 3 vote. Does that sound like a tenable timeline?

The time tables are tight; there is no question about it. It will be a challenge to get the information out to the voters. It is doable and needs to be a priority.

What do you see as your role moving forward in this process? Do you plan to be a passive contributor—for example, you will sit for interviews and meetings when asked, but that's the extent of it? Or do you plan to actively promote consolidation efforts? If the latter, how do you plan to do so?

The experience I have gathered during the cities financial difficulties has made it very clear to me that individual municipalities cannot continue on the way we are. The tribalism that we have in NY is driving away business and making it impossible to compete. We need to eliminate layers of government as soon as humanly possible. I have every intention doing what I can to drive this consolidation issue. To do nothing when you know the future financial outcome resulting from doing nothing would be pure incompetence on my part.

CGR's memorandum states that a public vote is not required for a consolidation. Would you support efforts at consolidation if the residents were not allowed to make the final decision? If the residents do get to vote and they decide they do not want to go ahead with consolidation, but the state Legislature calls for it anyway, would you still support it?

The state should mandate consolidation but, it’s too incompetent and slow to react to make positive changes in our state. The special interests control Albany and most of what comes from state government is a stage show for political purposes. The state government is corrupted to such an extent that nothing good could ever come from Albany. That’s why I’m confident the state will do nothing to solve a major problem like the over abundance of small municipal taxing entities in our state.

CGR states that "current boundaries and the resulting turf protection issues have made it very difficult to develop cost effective regional solutions to deliver ambulance, police and fire services." Do you agree with that? Is consolidation the only answer to these problems? Do you feel these problems would remain if consolidation did not go through?

You’re talking about three distinct issues. Consolidation between the City/Town would be a first step. None of the issues you mentioned would be solved by a vote for consolidation in November. We have asked for a plan that would NOT increase or decrease services or change the tax structures in the city/town. Consolidation would decrease some of the costs and put our community in a position to deal with those other issues in the future.

Fire services are handled by fire districts; these districts cross municipal lines and require another round of consolidation prompted by the state to move forward. I believe county departments have trouble attracting volunteers and getting good response times during the day. The amount of districts also has cost millions in redundant equipment purchases. There are far more fire trucks in this county than are needed. Consolidation of fire districts would be a long and painful task, which is not part of this effort.

Police protection is something that would remain a city service unless there was a petition by residents in the old town who desired the service. Again we are not talking about increasing the level of service anywhere in the town with consolidation. Just sharing the things we currently all need. 

From my point of view ambulance service is something that should come from the county. This service was started by people in the city who had very little knowledge of the long term problems inherent with taking on that service. The city is currently in a position of collecting fees from municipalities it has no taxing jurisdiction over to keep the service afloat. The long term cost of continuing the service the same way would be devastating to our cities finances. This problem is a separate issue that council will be tackling in the upcoming year.


CGR presents population research that shows that the city of Batavia decreased in population by .7 percent between 2001-2006, while the town of Batavia increased 26.2 percent. Do you feel these trends will continue? How could such trends benefit or hinder consolidation efforts?

The town has shovel ready land and a lot of it. The town also has the benefit of 16,000 city residents who shop in their business district. There is no choice but, for new developments to grow outside the city, there simply is very little land to develop inside the city.

January 9, 2009 - 2:40pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, consolidation.

Yesterday, we brought you some extracts from a report by the Center for Governmental Research on the potential consolidation of the town and city of Batavia. We would still encourage everyone in those municipalities to download and read the full document (it's about seven pages or so). In the meantime, we would like to present you with the four most commonly asked questions of the researchers as they interviewed leaders in the city and town on the topic of consolidation. Here's what they heard most:

1. "How can we ensure that city and town residents and businesses are fairly represented in the new government?"

2. "How can we ensure that the current costs and obligations of the city are not unfairly transferred to current town taxpayers?"

3. "What would happen with fire and police services?"

4. "What is the process for approving the creation of New Batavia?"

Answers to all of these questions, to a certain extent, depend on the plan that has not yet been planned. That being said, the Center for Governmental Research has some answers to help appease folks in the meantime. That is particularly the case for questions one and three. Amusingly, the CGR recommends a charter review committee works out those details in time for the November vote. We say amusing, because the city has been working on its own charter for quite some time now, and all of the work would essentially be null and void if a consolidation goes through. Daily News reporter Joanne Beck explored this irony in a recent article in that paper.

As for the other questions... Question two—will the cities burdens become the towns—has been the most frequent that I have heard. Basically, CGR says that consolidation of the city and town "can be expected to yield both short term and long term savings" for everyone. To me, that makes it sound like a non-issue.

Question four—approving the creation of New Batavia—is a real hoot. Quite simply, there's nothing that says the consolidtion has to be voted on by residents. However, the state Legislature does get a say.

As for the next steps...

Number One: Develop a plan! (Seriously, that's number one.)

Number Two: Get some money, because you will need it.

Number Three: Get more input.

There you go. Is everybody ready?

January 9, 2009 - 9:25am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, consolidation.

Yesterday, we ran a post on some of the details of the consolidation proposal. Later today, we'll get more into what has yet to happen if this issue will truly go to a public vote this November. For now, we thought to play a little hypothetical game. One of the lines in the report on consolidation prepared by the Center for Governmental Research reads: "For discussion purposes, we will refer to this new consolidated government as New Batavia."

That's right: New Batavia. It's got a nice ring to it. Now, if we had to vote tomorrow on who should run this new, mega rural-opolis, whom would you vote for?

As some of you may already know, the 'Other' responses do not automatically show up here, so we'll do our best to get them added in the comment field throughout the day. Personally, I'm going other and nominating former Main Street Coffee proprietor, Rob Credi, for the post. Either him or Tim Paine.

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