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January 19, 2021 - 5:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, law enforcement, livestream, video.

Genesee County Police Reform & Reinvention Committee Meeting Jan 19, 2021. The committee will review its draft report.

January 12, 2021 - 2:42pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, vaccination procedures, genesee county, news.

Press release:

With New York State under increasing pressure to allocate the various COVD-19 vaccinations that in some instances have been destroyed or continue to be stored without being used, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Jan. 8 that a new group of recipients would be eligible to receive the vaccinations.  

This new group – categorized as 1b – is confined to those 75 years and older as well as utility workers, corrections officers, first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs and support personal) and primary through grade 12 school faculty and staff, including licensed childcare providers.

For a full list of priority workers, click here.

People age 75 and over will primarily be vaccinated at pharmacies and other sites that are part of the “retail network.” Use the online tool to find a location.

As of Monday, Jan. 11, the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline will open for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

“Residents need to be aware that we have already received reports where people are being contacted by scammers about how they can get a vaccine,” said Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein. “We are asking those who are eligible for the vaccine to please register on-line or call the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline to schedule an appointment.”  

For others in groups 1a and 1b they can see local information about clinics and clinic schedules here and fill out a registration form and schedule an appointment. Clinics may fill quickly, so please be patient and check the site periodically.

In Genesee County, there are approximately 4,892 residents/ employees in 1a; and in Orleans County 4,321 in 1a residents/ employees. 

There are approximately 8,525 residents/ employees in 1b in Genesee County, including 4,809 age 75 years and older; and 6,032 residents/ employees in 1b Orleans County, including 2,959 age 75 years and older.

To date, approximately 200 doses of the vaccine have been received by both counties (400 total). Not all of the doses of the vaccination have been administered, but all of the doses are already scheduled for vaccination over the next few days.

“As the numbers demonstrate, there is nowhere near the amount of vaccine for the number of people who are eligible to receive it. This is a rapidly changing situation, so we understand the frustrations, questions and concerns that we are receiving from many residents,” Stein said.

“This whole process will be determined by the supply of the vaccines and as such we need to be flexible as we anticipate the situation will continue to change. We ask and urge patience among our residents.”

December 21, 2020 - 5:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, genesee county.

The federal government’s decision to not include funding for state and local governments in the latest stimulus package is disappointing, according to City of Batavia and Genesee County municipal officials.

“It is very disappointing, especially considering that our frontline workers – our police and fire personnel – have been dealing with COVID for many months and we could really use that money right now,” Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said today.

On Sunday, Congressional leaders agreed to a $900 billion stimulus bill that, per a report in The Washington Post, will release a second stimulus check of up to $600 to qualifying adults and their dependent children -- but not dependent adults.

The package also extends a federal unemployment benefit check of $300 per week for another 11 weeks and the Payroll Protection Program to cover employee wages.

Democrats were unable to deliver direct funding to states and local governments, but they were successful in getting $22 billion to help municipalities with expenses such as COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

Tabelski said the city continues on its COVID-19 austerity budget this year, and isn’t planning on any revenues from the federal government as it embarks on its 2021-22 budget that takes effect on April 1. Staff is working on the spending plan now, she noted.

“We are projecting 20-percent cuts in state aid next year, and we’re still operating under that premise for this year,” she said.

She also said it is “concerning” that Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he may put off drafting the state’s 2021-22 budget until February or March as he holds out hope for federal support.

“We are planning our budget and they are going to wait in Albany. Normally, the state puts out a (preliminary) budget in the first few weeks of January. It is another challenge we have to face, but we’ll get through it,” she said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said, “I’m definitely disappointed in the fact that no money is there for state and local governments, but I’m glad that there is was a package put together that benefits a large number of our citizens in other ways – with the stimulus checks, with extending unemployment benefits, with additional assistance for fighting COVID."

Landers said that since he had already budgeted for 20-percent less in state aid, “the lack of a relief for the state government should not have any further impact on us.”

“I budgeted very conservatively, assuming we wouldn’t get any relief and, so far, it looks like it was a good idea,” he added.

November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

November 21, 2020 - 12:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

Genesee County governmental leaders have trimmed the fat from the county’s self-funded employee health benefits plan that has been hit with consecutive years of double-digit premium increases, County Manager Matt Landers said this week.

“I will say that the plan is run lean, believe it or not,” Landers said following a vote of the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to approve monthly rates for 2021, effective Jan. 1. “There is no healthy reserve fund balance in that fund. We are just covering our costs.”

And the costs to the county are considerable as participants pay an average of 15 percent of the total premium, with the county picking up the other 85 percent.

Genesee County has budgeted $13,994,483 for 2021 for actual claims plus administrative and ancillary costs. Approximately 680 employees of the county and Genesee Community College are enrolled in the plan, with total participation including additional family members at approximately 1,660.

Landers said that medical and prescription drug premium rates are increasing 17.6 percent in 2021, and this is on the heels of a 10-percent increase for 2020.

“While it is painful, we are increasing the premiums as little as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to be mindful of the impact it has departments, on taxpayers and on individuals that are paying these increased premiums through cost sharing.”

He said the goal is to have everyone on the plan pay 15 percent of the total premium – which will be achieved through negotiations with the county’s four unions – and that each county department has a budget for the health care costs for its employees.

“Right now, the average county employee is pretty close to paying 15 percent,” he said.

For an illustration of the cost, an employee signed up under “Family (3 or more)” in the Health and Wellness Plan will pay around $339 per month for that coverage in 2021.

With the total monthly premium set at $2,261, the county is responsible for $1,922 per month.

Landers explained that being self-insured means that all medical and prescription drug bills come directly to the county.

“We’re self-insured, so when a person goes in for a surgery or somebody has a premature baby delivered and stays in the hospital two months, we’re not sending (bills) to Blue Cross & Blue Shield, we are our own self-insured company,” he said. “So, basically the doctor or the hospital … sends a bill to Genesee County for $175,000 and we’re the ones paying that.”

Other monthly rates under the Health and Wellness Plan include Single, $696; 2 Members, $1,391; Retired, single, $696; and Retired, family 3 or more, $2,261. The county also offers dental and vision benefits for both Single and Family.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said management and health plan consultants did their best to keep costs as low as possible.

“We understand that this increase in premiums is necessary, but if you go on to the market, you will see that it is right in line. So, I’m just pleased with this, considering where we are today,” she said.

November 10, 2020 - 2:22pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, covid-19, Yellow Zone, genesee county.

Press release:

Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit are urging county residents and businesses to step up in taking precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Their call is the result of an increase of infections in Genesee County and the GLOW region and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement earlier today about parts of Erie and Monroe counties being placed in Yellow zones.  

The Governor and his health experts have created three zones to manage the spread of the virus: 

  • Yellow Zone designates an area as being in a precautionary phase;
  • Orange Zone designation denotes a community is in a warning phase;
  • Red Zone means the community is in a cluster zone which imposes the strictest rules and regulations.

You can learn more about the zoning designation by clicking here

“We don’t want restrictions that will negatively impact businesses and the local economy, but if we continue to see increases and spikes, New York State is going to come in and create the zones that were announced today in Erie and Monroe counties,” Stein said. “Unfortunately, that is where we are trending if we don’t take action fast and become more vigilant to fight the spread of the virus.”

Among the restrictions in a Yellow Zone includes that:

  • Houses of worship can have no more than 50-percent capacity.
  • The maximum number of people at nonessential indoor or outdoor gatherings is limited to 25 people maximum.
  • Businesses can remain open but for restaurants there is a maximum of four people per table for both an indoor and outdoor dining.
  • Schools can remain open but there must be mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.

Stein said that Genesee County will be reaching out to various government agencies and business partners to urge the community to step up their vigilance in wearing masks, maintaining appropriate social distancing, hand washing and other common sense things to prevent further spread of the virus. The County is asking these partners to spread the message through email and social media channels.

“The key thing at the moment is similar to what we experience with the cold and flu season and that is people feeling compelled to go out if they are not feeling well,” Pettit said. “If you feel ill in the slightest, then please do not go out or to work and contact your physician immediately in order to schedule a test.”

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner, the temptation of larger gatherings particularly of family and friends who travel from outside the region poses another way of how the infection rate can spread.

“Cold and flu season is here, and eventually bad weather will force people to gather inside which is a recipe for the spread of the virus and this becomes even more concerning with the holidays right around the corner,” Stein said. 

Testing locations in Genesee County can be found here.

November 10, 2020 - 6:22am

youth_board_.jpg

If City Council Member John Canale has his way, there is no way Batavia’s youth programming will be cut.

Canale, attempting to allay the concerns of City Youth Board representatives David Twichell and Paula Fischer, said he sees the city’s youth program as “an invaluable gem” and said he would do everything in his power to continue or expand offerings to its young residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Canale responded to public comments by Twichell, Fischer and Fischer’s son, Andrew, who are troubled about a proposal to contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for city youth services.

Currently, the city has a contract with Genesee County to partially a fund a youth bureau executive director, Jocelyn Sikorski, but a resolution – currently placed on hold by the County Legislature – would dissolve that agreement and compel City Council to devise a new plan for youth services.

“Much like Paula, (who) spoke about the youth programs in the city, I grew up every day of my life as a kid at MacArthur Park on Monday through Friday, all day there except for lunch because when I was a kid, they didn’t provide lunch,” Canale said. “The youth bureau is an invaluable gem that we have here in the city, and I have no intention of decreasing the services the bureau offers.”

Canale said the cost to run the youth programs in the city “is miniscule in the whole budget picture.”

“So, I can assure anybody that is here tonight that is concerned about Council doing away with the youth bureau or doing away with the services that we provide our local youth, I can guarantee if any of my Council colleagues brought that up, I would definitely be dead set against it,” he said. “And I don’t think there is anybody here tonight that is against that.”

He then warned people about reacting solely from what they read on social media as well as The Batavian and another local news outlet.

“Don’t believe everything that you read, number one, and try not to formulate your opinion as to what the City Council’s actions are going to be based upon what you're reading on social media,” he offered.

Canale: No Discussion about Cutting Services

Canale said he didn’t recall any discussion pertaining to doing away with the youth bureau or cutting any services.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe I misunderstood or missed something, Rachael,” he said, looking at Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “Did Jocelyn not come to us as a county employee contracted with the city to share services? Did she not come to us and request that we cut that contract out?”

Tabelski replied, “That is correct.”

Canale responded that “for some reason, it seems like the public is under the impression that we in the city want to cut that out.”

“And the county manager (Matt Landers) also made public comment that I read that they were going to kind of leave it in our lap first to see what move we made first. I want the public to realize that this was the county that came to the city … and requested that maybe we could discontinue that contract.”

Canale said no decision has been made on the status of the contract with the county, stating that it is at the discussion stage.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and Rachael is looking into other possibilities as well as she approached the YMCA to see what they might be able to do to offer as good of services, if not better services,” he said.

He then aimed his remarks at Twichell and Fischer.

Advisory Board will be Involved

“For whatever reasons, the (Youth) board has not been in the communication circle yet, but I would only assume that at some point when the decisions are going to be made, that we would go to our advisory board and say that these are some of our thoughts (and) what do you guys think?” he said.

Canale urged people to not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to the situation based on social media or news accounts.

“This is all still in the talking stages. Nothing has happened. No programs have been cut,” he said.

The city’s youth center – the Liberty Center for Youth on City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – has been closed due to COVID-19 and because the city doesn’t have any youth services employees at this time.

“Maybe, like (Council Member) Rose Mary (Christian) said, 'maybe it’s time to look at that,' ” Canale said. “I don’t know. That should be part of the discussion as well. As things start to open up, we could look at that. Or now, obviously on the rise again with COVID, maybe this isn’t a good time to look at that, I don’t know.”

Youth Programming: More than Meets the Eye

Fischer, a member of the City of Batavia Youth Board for 10 years, said she has “fond memories” of the city parks’ program having attended Kibbe and Pringle parks. She is the director of school-based health programs for the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

She said she has volunteered during city youth events, providing oral health education and giving out hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids and families. She called Batavia a great place to raise a family due, in part, to the services it offers to its young people.

Fischer emphasized that the youth bureau “is more than just the summer rec program -- although the rec program is well-known, serving hundreds of children every summer, providing safe, fun and educational programming – including lunch, which is a big help to many families.”

She mentioned several other events and programs under the city youth bureau, including:

  • The community garden;
  • National Night Out in conjunction with the city police;
  • The Liberty Center for Youth with services provided in conjunction with the YMCA;
  • Programs run by City Church at the St. Anthony’s campus;
  • A partnership with the Batavia City School District for busing to the youth center;
  • Summer safe carnival open to the community;
  • Youth and volunteer awards banquet at Terry Hills Restaurant;
  • A partnership with the Arc of Genesee Orleans for Saturday programs;
  • Visitation at nursing homes and the Senior Center;
  • Open gym nights and grants for summer recreation tennis programs.

“All of these programs provide a sense of pride in the community to the city residents,” she said.

Fischer said she was asking City Council to work with the advisory board to address budgetary issues and “come together to see if there’s a way we can be mindful of the city budget without decimating youth services.”

“A reduced level of service may be appropriate at this time with time to rebuild in the future,” she said.

Youth Board is ‘Open, Willing to Cooperate’

Twichell, the City Youth Board president, extended an invitation to all City Council members “that we are open and we are willing to cooperate with the city, and we are willing as an advisory board to help guide the process.”

“We know … with these COVID restrictions and the tough economic times we’re facing, we know the city is facing great challenges,” he said. “But there are times when we feel that there is somewhat of a disconnect between the board and the City Council.

"I’m here tonight to open and maybe knock down some of those barriers, and tomorrow I will be putting together an email for each and every one of you that will list all of our contact information.”

He then urged Council members to reach out to the advisory board if they have any questions about youth services.

Fischer’s son, Andrew, a former youth board vice president, said he worked for the summer rec program for five years during his summer breaks from Canisius College, where he earned an MBA in Accounting.

“A lot of our youth programs, specifically summer rec, are great ways for youth in our community to interact with one another and interact with the rec leaders,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of leadership and a sense of empathy toward some of the kids, who obviously were from tougher situations.”

He said it didn’t “sit right” with him when he heard about youth services possibly changing, and noted that he looked at past city budgets on the website and saw that the summer recreation came in below budget last year.

McGinnis Objects to Sending Letter

Prior to Canale’s comments, Council Member Al McGinnis, the city’s liaison to the youth board, said he didn’t get a copy of a letter sent by the youth board to the media last week – a letter that objected to the resolution to terminate the city/county agreement and expressed the viewpoint that contracting with the YMCA instead was a done deal. (Fischer said that McGinnis and the other Council members did receive the letter).

“If you’re an elected or public official and you’re on a board, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that everyone on the board, whether they agree or disagree, knows that correspondence is going out to the public,” McGinnis said. “If not, the public gets confused when they hear two different sets of a thing. When you do it unilaterally, and basically conduct a rogue operation, without informing everyone, it looks bad for everyone concerned.”

He added, “At the time, the board members could have spoken to us at the meeting and said 'here are our points of view – we’d like to make sure that this is heard by the public.' No one is going to censure or stop a report … We owe it to the public to speak with a unified voice, or at least if it’s not unified, everyone gets a chance to say their piece.”

Christian asked how many kids attend the youth center on Liberty Street and if the city had any youth bureau employees at the center.

Tabelski said attendance ranged between 30 and 50 – “sometimes as low as five” – and that the city had no youth program employees, other than Sikorski, who directs city, Genesee and Orleans county youth activities.

“I look down the street and I see tons of kids out there,” Christian said, referring to the Liberty Center for Youth. She also asked about costs should the YMCA get involved.

Tabelski said that, pre-COVID-19, the city and the YMCA each supplied three or four staff members at the center, depending upon the number of children there, and that the YMCA did not charge the city for those employees,

She also mentioned that the city’s program coordinator, Lydia Schauf, recently took another job with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Could Youth Center Have Stayed Open?

Christian then questioned why the center has been closed for so long while school is in session.

“It was supposed to be because of COVID," she said. "I see people at Walmart, I see people downtown. I see them at the grocery store, I see people here. I see people everywhere in the city. Those kids could wear a mask like anyone else in the city and they, I’m quite sure, would stop anyone from coming in without a mask.

"And I’m quite sure they would be disinfecting that facility for the kids over there. And they’re playing basketball on Tuesday nights and I haven’t heard of a soul from that center who has COVID.”

After Tabelski explained that the city was unable to hire part-timers (due to a hiring freeze) and, as a result, she contacted YMCA leadership to see if that organization could provide youth services in an attempt to cut costs and “also provide the same level of service.”

“I engaged in a discussion with the YMCA if they could staff the center and until we come to any preliminary contract terms, you’ll have nothing (in the form of a resolution) in front of you,” Tabelski said. “At such point, you would have a presentation by the YMCA on the programming that they can provide for us that is the same or better than what we’re providing today at a lower cost to the residents.”

Christian’s response indicated that she wasn’t buying that explanation.

“Yeah, it was mentioned on The Batavian that we have to think of the taxpayers,” she said. “We sure as hell don’t think about the taxpayers when it comes to lights for Ellicott Street over there for the trail, especially when at 4:30 at night it’s going to be dark in the winter time and the summer time around 9 o’clock. We don’t think about salary increases either, now do we?”

At that point, Paul Viele, who was presiding over the meeting in place of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was out of town, cut Christian off.

Tabelski: Let’s Give it Another Try

Minutes later, Tabelski directed her comments to Twichell and Fischer, stating that she came to them during an Oct. 27 meeting in “good faith with ideas on our situation and our strategy.”

“And when you attended the meeting, you sat there, you listened to what I had to say, you listened to my ideas, we had great dialogue. And I am willing to continue that dialogue with you. But I prefer we did it in a committee setting and not go around the committee setting with emails and letters outside of the people on that committee and to the media, so we can really achieve something,” she said.

Tabelski credited the youth board for its commitment to the cause, but said “we have to think differently about this.”

“I am willing to come back and sit with you guys. And this time at the meeting, please speak up because when I left that (previous) meeting, everyone was in agreement to the strategy that I was going to look into and bring to Council.”

After she finished, Fischer attempted to present a “rebuttal,” but was told that she was not allowed to do that. 

“Then I will give my rebuttal to the media and you can read it there,” Fischer said.

Following the meeting, Fischer repeated the youth board’s claim that Tabelski had indicated to them that the decision to dissolve the city/county contract had already been made, and that Sikorski had obtained a grant to direct a Safe Harbor program and “wrote herself into that and changed her job description.”

Fischer also said there is someone who was employed by the city at the youth center who is willing to return to work there.

“When Lydia resigned, they didn’t feel like they had to go back and readdress this,” Fischer said. “They said, ‘OK, great, everybody is gone, and now we can really go and outsource youth services.' ”

She said the youth board is “leery about that.”

“They outsourced the county youth director, and look where we are,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re going to have the same quality of services – and it was our feeling that we had to let the community know.”

Photo: City Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer speaking to the media following Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 8, 2020 - 1:18pm

Press release:

County Manager Matt Landers is pleased to announce that Assistant County Manager, Tammi Ferringer (inset photo left) successfully completed the High Performance Leadership Academy, a partnership of the National Association of Counties (NACo).

The High Performance Leadership Academy features a robust curriculum developed by the Professional Development Academy in partnership with Fortune 1000 executives, public sector leaders, and world-renowned thought leaders, including retired four-star General Colin Powell and executive leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D.

The High Performance Leadership Academy focuses on five essential skills; leading, organizing, collaborating, communication and delivering. It emphasizes real-time instruction, small-group learning and knowledge exchanges.

“This training will enhance Tammi’s leadership skill set and help benefit Genesee County as a whole," Landers said. "I am thrilled that the Manager’s Office will be able to utilize these enhanced skills in leading County government forward in these challenging times.” 

More than 2,489 professionals from more than 1,343 counties across the country completed the Leadership Academy since 2018.

File photo.

November 6, 2020 - 5:29pm

Don’t go grouping Genesee County with five other rural counties outside of the heavy-populated hubs of Erie and Niagara when it comes to private-sector job losses over the past five years.

That’s one of the themes emanating from a Nov. 4 story in Buffalo Business First that reveals the findings of a federal report, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, pertaining to the Western New York business climate prior to the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the BBF article, Genesee County “is an exception to the generally gloomy news about the six outlying counties” – the others being Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Orleans and Wyoming.

Genesee County, per the QCEW, created an additional 718 private-sector jobs between 2015 and March 2020, a period that culminated before the adverse effects of COVID-19 took hold. That represents a 4.4-percent increase.

Citing the BBF story, “The six outlying counties (including Genesee) collectively lost 4.1 percent of their jobs during the 2015-20 span, a period in which the national economy was prospering. A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished” from the six counties.

The number jumps to a 5.7-percent decline in employment for those other five counties when removing Genesee’s performance.

Steve Hyde, president and chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, contacted today said he’s not surprised by the report’s favorable news.

“In Genesee County, the continued collaboration among the various levels of government with our strong private sector is resulting in economic growth through capital investment and jobs,” he said. “The results shared since 2015 are visible at Genesee County’s eight shovel-ready business parks and the sustained growth of many Genesee County companies.”

Hyde contributed the growth to investments made by the county’s major employers as well as smaller businesses that have expanded their operations.

Some of those major employers include HP Hood, O-At-Ka Milk Products, Liberty Pumps, Wright Beverage and Tompkins Bank/Insurance.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said the QCEW report validates that Genesee County “is indeed a great place to work and live.”

“We are fortunate to have excellent companies in our backyard that are growing and investing right here in Genesee County,” Landers said today. “The combined efforts of the GCEDC, Batavia Development Corporation, Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, and Chamber of Commerce have helped to attract and retain many of these private-sector jobs, and have us positioned for continued growth for years to come.”

The BBF story called Genesee County “the one exception” to a downturn in job growth in the rural counties when compared to increases in the number of private-sector businesses in Erie and Niagara counties, per the QCEW study.

“A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties … while at the same time Erie and Niagara counties were adding 11,845 private-sector jobs, representing an increase of 2.7 percent,” according to the BBF article.

The story also pointed out that Orleans and Wyoming counties "essentially broke even" during the five-year span.

November 5, 2020 - 3:45pm

Although Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes the Genesee Area Family YMCA could play a significant role in the future of youth services in Batavia -- enabling the city to cut ties with Genesee County to fund a youth bureau executive director, an advisory group linked to the city isn’t convinced that is the best way to proceed.

A resolution to terminate the county’s youth bureau operating agreement with the city, a contract that calls for partial payment of the salary of Jocelyn Sikorski, Genesee/Orleans and City Youth Bureau executive director, came before two Genesee County Legislature committees this week.

On Monday, the Human Services Committee approved the measure, sending it to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for a final vote before being forwarded to the full legislature for ratification.

Ways & Means decided to table the resolution, however, minutes after a letter from the City Youth Board opposing the dissolution of the inter-municipal agreement found its way onto The Batavian and, likely, into the hands of Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

No one on the committee would comment when asked why the resolution was being tabled, but it is clear that the Youth Board’s opposition as well as the committee’s desire to let the city make the first move are the major reasons.

As a result:

  • The county is stuck in a holding pattern as the city leaders work through their differences. All indications point to a public discussion in some form or another at the City Council Business Meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday.
  • Tabelski is saying that there was no indication of any disagreement from the Youth Board with her proposal for the city to go in a different direction – looking at the YMCA to provide youth services -- and cut the $20,000 annual expense to help fund the executive director’s position.
  • The City Youth Board, in its letter, contends that it was not afforded an opportunity “to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager … prior to her decision.”

County Manager Matt Landers said he is dismayed over the situation.

“With any board or organization that dedicates so much time toward improving the community, it is obviously not a good thing to read the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of such a board,” he said. “As far as the county’s perspective, we’re a partner with the city and we certainly want to assist the city in meeting their needs with the youth. But at this point in time, it is important that we let the city decide how they want to move forward and then we can react accordingly.”

Landers said he and the legislature agree that the city should take the lead in this matter.

“We kind of put it in their hands … instead of the county going out in front and dissolving a contract. If it’s something the city really wants to do, then that’s something that they can lead out with first.”

He also said that it could be the right time to assess the agreement and explore other options.

Landers: Time for Reevaluation?

“At the end of the day, the relationship that we had with the city for a youth director was a good idea – and it was something put in place before my time as county manager, but it was a way to share services,” he said. “With any kind of agreement, you evaluate and see if there’s a different way to do it.”

Tabelski said she articulated a “different way” during an Oct. 27 meeting with the Youth Board, whose members are Dave Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Nick Russo, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kristen Gloskowski. Al McGinnis serves as the City Council liaison.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with the Youth Board to talk about the situation the city finds itself in regarding budgeting amid COVID in our current budget year, the programming that we weren’t able to perform over the summer – summer recreation – and the strategic hiring freeze at the city,” Tabelski said. “We talked about what the upcoming budget for the city was shaping up to be, which is early in the budget process.”

Tabelski said she outlined big ticket items for which the city is responsible, such as snowplowing, public works, leaf collection, yard waste services, and police and fire response, and other services such as youth programs, economic development, contracting for the operation of the Falleti Ice Arena and maintaining athletic fields (including Dwyer Stadium) for residents to utilize.

“While Council won’t look at the budget until January, right now department heads are working with vendors on pricing and setting up contracts for services with the goal of providing a budget to City Council that remains within the tax cap,” she advised. “We are fiscally responsible to the citizens of the City of Batavia while still providing services that we know residents demand from the city.”

She said financial constraints and the impact of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 summer recreation program and the ongoing closure of the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool location on Liberty Street.

Unable to Reopen Youth Center Yet

“The ability to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth is still taking time to make sure protocols are in place, barriers put up and bringing back staff. So right now, the YMCA and the city share staffing requirements for the Liberty Center for Youth to open,” she said.

Since the city has not been able to hire part-time employees (due to the hiring freeze), a discussion with the county ensued, leading to a proposal to terminate the joint agreement for youth bureau supervision.

“Knowing what our budget looks like for next year, I said that we were willing to look at that and the goal was to have the program coordinator and the assistant city manager, which is myself, take on any responsibilities needed to get the youth programs up and running, and to continue,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the city is in the midst of a job search for a permanent manager – Tabelski was hired last year as the assistant manager – and also has no youth program coordinator as Lydia Schauf resigned that position to accept another job.

“We were left basically with the commitment from the Y to help reopen the center but with no employees available to staff it,” she said.

Tabelski said she explained this to the Youth Board, emphasizing that it “was time to look at it to understand what the city might be able to do in an effort to save money and deliver the programs at the same level to the residents and potentially use the YMCA as part of the strategy that I am looking into.”

Tabelski Promotes Pact with YMCA

She said she has a high regard for the YMCA, calling it a “professional organization that has an expertise in providing recreational services in our community.”

“In my mind, it makes sense for us to look at this as a broader partnership,” she said, noting that she has kept City Council informed of her activities in relation to youth services. “This could be a huge win for the YMCA and the city.”

Tabelski said she is negotiating with the YMCA to gauge its “capacity and ability” to provide afterschool and summer recreation services for the city’s youth, and added that other communities, including Perry and Geneseo, contract with the YMCA to provide their summer programming.

She said she left the door open for City Youth Board members to contact her, Sikorski or McGinnis but, to her knowledge, that has not been done. She also said that she was not informed that a letter would be released to the media.

“At the meeting, the youth board members indicated they understood the financial hardship that the city was in, they gave examples of their workplaces having to cut and lay off people, and they indicated a willingness to continue to be involved in youth programming and services and make sure those programs continue,” Tabelski said.

The interim city manager is hopeful the city would be able to enhance its youth services by contracting with the YMCA. She also defended her stance.

“I think it is incumbent upon a good manager to look at every piece of the organization and especially when we’re faced with challenges such as COVID and employee shifting,” she said. “I guess it was a perfect storm to examine how we deliver this service and see if there was an agency, such as the YMCA, that would be more capable, have more capacity and more resources to actually deliver the program and possibly enhance that program on behalf of the city.”

Tabelski said the goal is to continue to provide youth services at no or at a minimal charge – especially for summer recreation – and is convinced there are “multiple ways that can be negotiated to do that.”

“Right now, we have a contract with City Church for the St. Anthony’s building for the Liberty Center for Youth that runs another four years,” she said. “I think that as we do some long-term planning, we certainly want to look at the interaction between the current site for afterschool and what potential there might be for the (YMCA) Healthy Living campus (one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects).”

Youth Board Reacts to 'Done Deal'

Fischer, responding this afternoon to emailed questions after talking with Twichell, said the City Youth Board’s intention was to send the letter with their concerns to City Council, but when The Batavian ran a story from the Human Services Committee meeting, it felt it was necessary to inform the public of what seemed to be a certainty.

“Once the information from the October 27th meeting was digested, it was apparent that the proposed changes to youth services would affect the quality of youth programming,” she said. “Many of the comments made by Rachel Tabelski and Jocelyn Sikorski were concerning. Ms. Tabelski was not aware of the differences between the County Youth Services and the City Youth Services. The City Youth Bureau provides direct youth programming and the County Youth Bureau does not.

“Despite the resignation of the only full-time city youth bureau employee, Ms. Sikorski was still in favor of abandoning the city program with no experienced staff remaining by ending the contract between the City and County with a year remaining. Also, Ms. Tabelski’s comment in the article, 'The city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – to the extent we that we can' was also alarming."

Fischer said the youth board did not contact Tabelski or Sikorski before sending the letter since the board is appointed by City Council and that Tabelski and Sikorski are employees and not voting members of the board.

As far as the Oct. 27 meeting is concerned, Fischer’s position is that Tabelski did receive comments from the board “regarding the outsourcing and charging for youth programming.”

“It was apparent that Ms. Sikorski had already went to the legislature and City Council with the proposal and was presented as a done deal,” she said. “When asked who would run the youth programming, the interim city manager shrugged her shoulders and said the assistant city manager, and the board asked who that would be and she said ‘me’. So, it was apparent that this was not well thought out after the resignation of the youth bureau coordinator. This sent up red flags that the youth programming was being phased out.”

The City Youth Board also does not agree with Tabelski’s plan to contract with the YMCA.

“The Board feels this would not be in the best interest of city youth,” Fischer said, adding that youth board members should be brought into the decision-making process.

“We are an advisory board. I would hope City Council would engage the City Youth Board on all matters going forward during these trying times,” she said. “The board would like to see services at the Liberty Center for Youth and the Summer Recreation Program resume once it is safe. These valuable services are less than 1 percent of the city’s budget.”

November 5, 2020 - 10:56am

 

german_award.jpg

With a company name of three+one, it was appropriate that four members of the Pittsford investment firm’s leadership team traveled to Batavia on Wednesday to present Genesee County Treasurer Scott German with the National Leadership Award for his role in maximizing the municipality’s assets.

Company CEO/Co-founder Joe Rulison, Vice President Garrett Macdonald, Relationship Specialist Alex DeRosa and Public Partnerships Director William Cherry each spoke of German’s exemplary efforts.

The presentation took place at the start of the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

“This is a really special time for us to come together and honor the county … honor Treasurer Scott German for excellence in leadership across the nation,” said Macdonald, a Batavia native. “We have partnership with the National Association of Counties and we’re looking for counties that have exemplified strategic liquidity management for their taxpayers. We really couldn’t think of a better treasurer to honor than Scott German.”

The county treasurer’s office has been working with three+one for just over three years, Macdonald said, adding that his firm has agreements with county governments across the United States.

He credited German for considering any and all prospects of saving money for taxpayers.

“When it comes to looking at every single opportunity to earn and save on the taxpayer dollar, whether it be investment for a week, two weeks, a month, two months, longer, it’s a lot of work to look for opportunities to create value for the taxpayers,” he said. “And that’s what we’re all here for – to create value for taxpayers.”

Macdonald said that over the past 12 months, the county’s liquidity analysis and management practices have resulted in a benefit of $1 million “when (interest) rates were little to nothing.”

“That one million dollars, looking at the county’s tax levy for 2021 of about 31 million dollars, equates to about 2.89 percent – which would mean having to raise taxes in order to generate that kind of income,” he said.

Rulison emphasized German’s commitment to the firm’s “cutting-edge” strategies and recognized the impact German has had on other financial officers.

“It’s amazing to know that you adopted it (three years ago) and he (German) has taken it and implemented it,” Rulison said. “I can’t tell you how significant that is. There is only one person in the country that gets this award. And we’re thrilled for it to be able to be your treasurer, Scott German.”

Rulison recalled a phone call he received from a person from Washington who attended, along with German, a conference in the Midwest.

“Who is Scott German, the person said. I said he’s the treasurer of Genesee County. He goes, ‘He resonates what is a best practice that should be followed nationally.’ And he goes, ‘I think seeing that he is able to give and show his experience to others, is what really is going to be incredible – and that helped us to become a part of the National Association of Counties.’”

Cherry, retired Schoharie County treasurer and former president of the New York Association of Counties, said that he has known German for about 20 years, noting the latter’s participation in the state County Treasurers Association.

“Scott is always the first in line to want to learn how to do something better – best practices put into place – and he’s recognized throughout the country,” he said.

DeRosa said Genesee County has set a great example for him in his two years with three+one.

“I couldn’t think of a better example, a better county government for me to learn from – not only in your liquidity management practices but just how you treat your staff and it’s clear that you are a family together,” he said. “It’s truly going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure the taxpayers are getting that maximum value – and it’s an incredible example for counties across the state and the country.”

Afterward, German said he was surprised to learn that he was this year’s recipient of the award and said it is all about being responsible to county residents.

“I worked with them now for just over three years, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to my taxpayers. They pay me to do what I do so I’m doing what I can for them,” he said, noting that the county has earned around $3 million through its partnership with three+one.

Photo: From left, Alex DeRosa, Joe Rulison, County Treasurer Scott German, Garrett Macdonald and William Cherry. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 4, 2020 - 9:14pm

landers_11_4_20_a.jpg

Supported by an audience of department heads and legislators, first-year Genesee County Matt Landers tonight formally presented the municipality’s 2021 proposed budget, a $142,953,227 all funds spending plan drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It increases the tax levy by $400,069 but lowers the property tax rate by 31 cents per thousand of assessed value.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the budget hearing at the Old County Courthouse.

That left it to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to credit management and departmental leaders for being able to “flex and pivot” to develop a budget that doesn’t override the New York State tax cap, and to Landers to summarize – or “Landerize” as he put it – the path that got the county to this point and set a course heading into 2021.

“It certainly was a challenge to put together a 140-plus million dollar budget in a pandemic, but here we are today able to present a balanced budget that is under the tax cap,” he said.

Aided by PowerPoint slides, Landers presented the following key dollar amounts and percentages for 2021:

  • Recommended All Funds Budget is $142,953,227; a decrease of $759,766 or .53 percent;
  • Recommended General Fund Budget is $110,241,924, a decrease of $3,767,378 or 3.30 percent;
  • Recommended Property Tax Levy is $31,451,727, an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent;
  • Tax Rate Decrease from $10.11 to $9.80, approximately 3.06 percent;
  • Recommended Fund Balance Usage of $2,334,857, an increase of $534,822 from 2020 adopted budget.

Although the tax levy is going up, the tax rate is going down due to an increase in the county’s assessment.

To illustrate the property tax impact, Landers showed a slide depicting the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800. It revealed that the 31-cent tax rate decrease amounts to a decrease of $33.11 in property taxes, assuming no assessment increase.

Barring any last minute adjustments by the legislature, the budget as it currently sits is scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 23.

Landers outlined several parameters that needed to be followed before his team, that included Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer and Executive Assistant Vicky Muckle, could dive into the numbers. Those instructions were to keep county support to the various departments “flat,” hold the line on contributions to outside agencies and funding of Genesee Community College, taking a team approach and, per the legislature’s wishes, not overriding the tax cap.

“It was a consensus that we would not be cutting them (outside agencies) but we would be at flat funding, which in itself is asking a lot of some of these agencies that are feeling the same budgetary constraints and costs and COVID-related items that we are,” Landers said. “So, I was pleased that they would accept flat funding, and most were appreciative that we did not cut them.”

He said it was a difficult decision to not increase funding to GCC, which he called “an excellent economic engine” in the county.

Landers also mentioned other factors, some triggered by COVID-19, that carried much weight in the formation of the budget, notably word out of Albany of a 20-percent reduction in state aid for most programs, double-digit increases in health care and retirement costs, $23 million in yearly state mandated services provided by the county – “with no end in sight,” he said – plus a 10- to 15-percent loss in sales tax revenue and decrease in projected interest earnings.

In response to these challenges, Landers pointed out he used more of the unexpended fund balance that he was anticipating and hopes that the county will be able to replenish it over time. He gave credit to former County Manager Jay Gsell for implementing a strategic hiring freeze, furloughing employees and deferring capital projects as the pandemic took hold.

The county also made the decision to reduce its revenue sharing with towns and villages, with Landers stating that the previous agreement was “unsustainable” in this current economy.

On the bright side, Landers said this allowed the county to increase its budget for infrastructure by $1 million next year -- $900,000 for bridges and culverts and $100,000 for roads -- a benefit that will “lessen the blow” to towns and villages because "that money will be going into their communities."

He said the budget also calls for the creation of three full-time positions (a dispatcher and two human resources employees) and a part-time person to assist the veterans service coordinator.

Looking forward, Landers said the focus will be on six areas:

  • Sales Tax Revenues;
  • Status of a Federal Stimulus Package;
  • Status of State Aid Reductions;
  • Status of COVID-19 and a Hopeful Vaccine;
  • Effects of Bail Reform on Jail Population;
  • State Allowing Possible Joint Jail with Orleans County.

“The (new) Genesee County Jail, pre-COVID, was the biggest story going on – right up there with water (the county’s water project),” he said. “It will be getting started shortly … as a consolidation effort with Orleans County.”

At the present time, state law prohibits joint county jails, but Landers said he his hopeful that the governor could change his position in his 2021-22 budget.

Landers acknowledged that legislators could make some “tweaks” to the budget before stating “that it is in the legislature’s hands now.”

Stein closed the session by saying the legislature is determined to fund the operations of this county, adding that the manager’s and budget office “door is open” for people to express their feelings.

“We are here to serve with you and for you,” she said.

Photo: Genesee County Manager Matt Landers at tonight's budget public hearing at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 4, 2020 - 4:23pm

Update: 9:15 p.m.

The Genesee County Legislature's Ways & Means Committee this afternoon tabled the resolution to terminate the county's youth bureau operating agreement with the City of Batavia.

When asked the reasoning behind the action, both Legislator Gary Maha and Legislator Chair Rochelle Stein declined to comment.

Contacted tonight, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that City Council plans to address a similar resolution at its Nov. 23 Conference Meeting, but speculated that the situation may come up at next Monday's Business Meeting.

"At this point, City Council and I are considering cost-saving measures in all departments while still trying to maintain the level of services that our residents, including our youth, deserve," Tabelski said.

Previously, Tabelski reported that the city would save $20,000 in salary expenses (for Youth Bureau Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski) by ending the youth bureau agreement with the county.

While unable to confirm, it is believed the following letter also was obtained by Ways & Means Committee members prior to their decision to table the resolution.

Posted by Mike Pettinella.

------------------

An Open Letter to City Council on Behalf of the City of Batavia Youth Board

The City of Batavia Youth Board serves in an advisory capacity regarding youth services for the City of Batavia. At the Oct. 27 board meeting the Interim City Manager (Rachael Tabelski) was present to inform the board of the changes occurring to youth services in the City of Batavia.

Currently, the resignation of the program coordinator, the layoffs of Liberty Center staff, and the request from the current Director Jocelyn Sikorski* to end her contracted services with the City of Batavia would result in zero staff for City of Batavia Youth services.

The Youth Board is not in favor of the dissolution of the intermunicipal contract with Genesee County regarding the Youth Director position. This would be detrimental to youth services for the City of Batavia.

Although the board understands the financial concerns of the City of Batavia, the youth services budget amounts to roughly 1 percent of the City of Batavia budget. The board would have appreciated an opportunity to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager, but was not afforded that opportunity prior to her decision.

Due to the hiring freeze which has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and budget shortfalls, the Youth Board feels it is in the best interest of the City Youth programs to retain Ms. Sikorski until the end of the contract to rebuild the youth programming once it is safe to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth and resume the Summer Recreation Program provided by the City of Batavia.

The board does not feel the same level of services can be achieved by outsourcing these programs, which was suggested by the Interim City Manager or charging for these services.

The Youth Board feels an obligation to inform the community of the changes that are being proposed for youth services. Youth programming in the future, including the Summer Recreation Program, will look much different. Please consider contacting your council member regarding these changes.

Sincerely,

City of Batavia Youth Board Members,

Dave Twichell, President

Paula Fischer

Nick Russo

Kathryn Fitzpatrick

Kristen Gloskowski

********************************************

*Jocelyn Sikorski currently serves as executive director of the Genesee/Orleans County Youth Bureau and City of Batavia Youth Bureau.

Previously: County's termination of youth bureau agreement to save the City of Batavia $20K next year

November 2, 2020 - 9:33pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee this afternoon approved a proposal to end a longstanding agreement with the City of Batavia for the operation and funding of the City Youth Bureau, action that reportedly will save the city around $20,000 next year.

Jocelyn Sikorski, executive director of the Genesee/Orleans County Youth Bureau and City of Batavia Youth Bureau, presented the resolution, which will be considered by the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday and then, if passed, by the full legislature on Nov. 11.

Sikorski said the measure will eliminate the need for an executive director at the city level. She also said it is her understanding that city officials are on board with terminating the contract that was to run through Dec. 31, 2021.

“Just like the county manager (Matt Landers) met with you in executive session (about this), the interim city manager (Rachael Tabelski) met with the City Council in executive session,” she said. “It does save the city money. And they don’t need an executive director. The responsibilities can be shifted to a program coordinator position as well as to the assistant city manager position.”

Sikorski said plans call for City Council to receive a copy of the county’s resolution once it is finalized and then to consider a similar resolution at its Nov. 23 Business Meeting.

She said the city’s budget situation is a key factor in the dissolution of the agreement.

“The budget was the biggest thing, which Rachael is involved with at this point and time,” she said. “Any resolutions that go before City Council, the program coordinator can provide, and also reports to City Council – the written reports. Otherwise, a lot of my responsibilities had to do with administration with the Youth Board, the garden committee, administration of the department and other items like that. Maintaining relationship with the Y (Genesee Area Family YMCA), who is a major partner with Liberty Center (is important). The program coordinator has to establish that."

Legislator Gary Maha asked about funding sources for the city.

“I know that they’re in a tough budget issue right now …,” Sikorski said. “I think the interim city manager is looking at options but has guaranteed that youth services still will be provided for the city.”

Tabelski, contacted by telephone, agreed that it is a cost-cutting move for the city.

“The contract with the county had about 20 percent of the director’s (Sikorski) time allocated and we paid $19,525 in 2020 and are projected to pay $20,711 in 2021,” Tabelski said. “That is the contract that we’re dissolving and that will be the city’s savings.”

She said the city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – “to the extent we that we can.”

“Our current model, we do have a program coordinator and an assistant city manager. The goal is to split those duties between those two positions (which currently are vacant),” Tabelski said. “We also have the YMCA that helps staff the Liberty Center for Youth, which we haven’t reopened yet. There’s a lot of shifting and moving pieces, but we still wanted to go forward with the dissolution at this point.”

Tabelski explained that the city and county first entered into an accord in 2011 to share the youth bureau director.

“At that time, according to NYSOCFS (New York State Office of Children and Family Services), all youth bureaus had to have a director and then you received administrative dollars for having a director. At that point, it was a win-win,” she said.

In 2014, the legislation changed, she said, with the state recognizing only county youth bureaus. Thus, city, town or village youth bureaus or recreation programs had to apply for funding through the county. The two municipalities’ current agreement was renewed in 2018.

The resolution states that the county has “received additional funding from New York State for other youth bureau programming for Genesee and Orleans County youth bureau services, and in order for it to effectively implement the new programming, the county needs to terminate the existing Youth Bureau Agreement with the City of Batavia and reallocate staff resources” (effective Dec. 31, 2020).

Regarding the city’s overall financial outlook, Tabelski said it is facing a shortfall of $850,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1. She said about $500,000 of that is due to a 20-percent reduction in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding and the remaining $350,000 is due to rising salary and health care benefits’ expenses.

For the 2020-21 (current) fiscal year, the city is showing a budget deficit of $750,000, which is less than the $2.5 million that had been forecasted.

“Massive credit to the employees and departments for the savings and cuts that they’ve made, which is part services and programs,” Tabelski said. “We didn’t have summer recreation. Certainly, it’s a savings, but we weren’t able to have programming over the summer due to COVID. A lot of things are in flux and I think all municipalities are feeling this way right now.”

Tabelski said she was grateful to the county legislature for passing a sales tax agreement with the city.

“That helps our revenue forecast to remain quite stable because we’re guaranteed to get a portion of the sales tax,” she said.

In related developments, Sikorski introduced a pair of resolutions to authorize inter-municipal agreements with Orleans County for the youth bureau operation and for the STOP-DWI public information and education component for 2021.

Orleans County will pay Genesee County $5,266.25 per quarter for a total of $21,065 for the operation of its youth bureau.

For the STOP-DWI agreement, the cost to Orleans County will not exceed $10,475 for the entire year.

Another resolution designates the following appointments to the Genesee County Youth Board:

Tessa Lazarony and Emma Osborn, youth representatives; Jay Lazarony, at-large; Paul Osborn, Oakfield/Alabama/Elba. All terms are from Nov. 1, 2020 through Oct. 31, 2023.

October 29, 2020 - 5:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, genesee county legislature.

Public Notice

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That the Genesee County Legislature will meet at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia, New York on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 6 p.m. for the purpose of holding a Public Hearing on the Tentative Genesee County Budget for 2021.

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 St., 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 $12,606 each

Chair of the Legislature $16,835

Pamela LaGrou, Clerk
Genesee County Legislature
Oct. 29, 2020

October 28, 2020 - 5:27pm
posted by Press Release in genesee county, news.

Press release from Genesee County Manager Matt Landers:

As the Genesee County Manager, I am pleased to present the 2021 recommended budget. This budget will fund the County government in an efficient and responsible manner. The recommended budget stays under the NYS tax cap, while covering the lengthy number of expensive mandates of which we have little to no control.

Assembling a budget in the middle of a pandemic with uncertainties all around has certainly been a challenge, but the staff from the Manager’s Office, Treasurer’s Office, Legislative Office, and Human Resources Department all came together to help me deliver my first recommended budget as County Manager. These core central departments were instrumental in me being able to deliver a budget that stays under the tax cap while meeting the needs of the residents of Genesee County.

There were many factors working against the County in preparing this budget and County departments and outside agencies were instructed to once again do more with less. The recommended budget keeps funding levels flat for all of our outside agencies along with Genesee Community College. We recognize that costs are going up for our local community partners and appreciate their ability to control their budgets without requesting more from the County.

County departments were instructed to be creative and think outside the box in trying to keep their net County support impact to the same level as the 2020 budget. This was a near-impossible task for many departments when considering health insurance premiums were increasing 17.5 percent and retirement rates increased on average by 16 percent. Despite these significant increases, I was pleased to see County departments hold the line on spending, which helped greatly in delivering a budget that stays under the tax cap.

Budget Highlights

The 2021 recommended All Funds budget for Genesee County totals $142,953,227, which is $759,766 less than the 2020 adopted All Funds budget. The 2021 recommended General Fund (operating) budget is $110,241,924, which is $3,767,378 less than the 2020 adopted General Fund budget. 

I am proposing a property tax levy of $31,451,727, which is an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent. For the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800, this amounts to $13.32 of property taxes. The average County property tax rate in Genesee County would go down from $10.11 to $9.80 or 3.07 percent in the recommended budget. For the median residential household in Genesee County assessed at $106,800, that did not have an assessment change from 2020, this will result in a net tax decrease of $33.11. 

The recommended budget includes usage of $2,334,857 of unappropriated fund balance, an increase of $534,822 from the 2020 adopted County budget. While the fund balance utilization is a little higher than normally recommended, it is entirely appropriate to dip a little deeper into the “rainy day” fund during the current pandemic.

The 2021 recommended budget includes an increase in funding for our roads and bridges infrastructure by $1 million. Deferred maintenance on the County’s infrastructure is getting to a critical point and the cracks are showing, as evidenced by the County getting nine red flag warnings on bridges throughout the County. A red flag warning requires the County to address a deficiency within 15 days of notification and is a serious designation for a bridge to receive. In past years the County would typically get one or two of these designations, so a 350-percent increase in such designations is certainly alarming. This extra $1 million is the first step in addressing the deferred maintenance of the County road and bridge infrastructure.

Overall, there weren’t significant personnel changes made with County positions, but instead a prioritization of where staff can be better utilized. The 2021 recommended budget includes the elimination of 5 full-time positions and three part-time positions and the creation of three new full-time positions and one part-time position. One of the new full-time positions is a much-needed dispatcher for the 9-1-1 center. As a way to minimize the impact to the budget, a part-time dispatch position was eliminated. This additional full-time presence will provide greater stability to a critical public safety service provided by the Sheriff’s Office. The new part-time position created is 100-percent grant-funded and will work out of the Genesee Justice Division of the Sheriff’s Office.

The remaining two full time positions are tentatively scheduled to be filled mid-year in 2021, only if the County is in the financial position to fill them. As previously noted, this County has long done more with less, but this has come at a cost, and too often service to the community has suffered or the cost savings have been too shortsighted. I am recommending the County creates a new part-time Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to assist our very dedicated full-time VSO and creates a Deputy Human Resources Director to assist our understaffed Human Resources Department. In both cases, we have department heads doing exemplary work for the citizens of Genesee County but can do more if given the necessary resources to succeed. Both of these positions are funded for just half a year and will be filled midyear if the economic climate allows for it.

Budget Challenges

There were many challenges in putting together the 2021 County budget that all came together for what seemed like a perfect storm: 

·      Reductions in State Aid – due to the financial impacts of Covid-19 on the New York State budget and the uncertainty of State aid reimbursements, we were forced to budget for across the board 20-pecrent reductions in State aid among all County departments. This reduction in State aid resulted in more than $2 million in reduced revenue in the 2021 budget.

·      Reductions in Sales Tax – County sales tax collections in the second and third quarters are lower than the same time period the year before by more than 10 percent. With the uncertainty of a “second wave” of Covid this fall and winter, and in working closely with the County Treasurer’s Office, we have conservatively budgeted for a sales tax figure that is approximately 7-percent less than the adopted 2020 budget.

Along with reduced sales tax revenue due to the pandemic, Genesee County has to contend with reduced sales tax figures from the State diverting monies away from Counties to pay for fiscally distressed hospitals along with aid to towns and villages. In the fiscal year 2021, this amounts to the State reducing County sales tax revenue by $740,881.

·      Reduction in Interest Earnings – Plummeting interest rates have had a drastic effect on the County’s ability to earn a return on funds held in reserve or funds held until appropriated. In the recommended budget there is a reduction of $550,000 in budgeted interest earnings, amounting to a 78.5-percent reduction.

·      Health Insurance Cost Increases – Rising health care costs in the County’s self-funded plan have caused a necessary 17.5-percent increase in plan premiums. At least 85 percent or more of that premium increase is absorbed in the various County departmental operating budgets, resulting in an overall healthcare cost increase in the 2021 recommended County budget of 10 percent. 

·      Retirement Cost Increases – The retirement rates released by the New York State Comptroller’s Office were on average 16-percent higher than the previous year. This translates into significant employee benefit cost increases to County departments.

·      Mandates – Approximately 75 percent of the 2021 recommended property tax levy is made up of State-mandated expenditures to fund departments/programs such as Medicaid, Probation, the Jail, Public Defender’s Office, Assigned Counsel, Social Service programs, Mental Health, Early Intervention, ages 3-5 Preschool, and various others. 

County Responses to Budget Challenges

With the New York State tax cap in place, which penalizes Counties with reduced State Aid for enacting an override, options to meet the budget challenges are limited. Genesee County has a long history of doing more with less, sharing wherever possible, privatizing operations, deferring needed capital improvements, modestly compensating employees, and providing virtually no post-employment benefits to staff. After years of cutting to the bone the following actions were available to close the gap for the 2021 recommended budget: 

·      Fund Balance Utilization – The 2021 recommended budget utilizes $534,822 more in fund balance than the 2020 adopted budget, for a total of $2,334,857.

·      Raising the Tax Levy – The 2021 recommended budget raises the levy by 1.28 percent in 2021, below often referred to as the tax cap limit of 2.0 percent.

·      Reducing Revenue Sharing with Towns & Villages – This decision was deliberated by the Legislature in great length. The financial landscape of the County was closely monitored over the last six months and after careful consideration, taking into consideration all of the revenues coming into the County, a figure of $10,000,000 of revenue sharing was deemed appropriate. This amount is less than originally planned but is still a significant source of revenue for local Towns and Villages.

·      Line by Line Review with New Perspective – With new eyes involved in the budget process this year there were new ideas and solutions brought to the table that resulted in savings in various County departments. Besides being my first budget as the County Manager, I was accompanied by the Assistant County Manager and Executive Assistant in every budget meeting, a first for both individuals. A closer dive into the individual budget lines resulted in significant budgetary savings when aggregated. We were also able to utilize greater sharing of resources between departments to capture more state aid and reduce the net county share in several cases. 

In Closing

While I am pleased to present a budget that stays within the confines of the New York State Tax Cap and effectively lowers the property tax rate by $.31/1,000, I am not blind to the significant impact the proposed tax levy has on the citizens and businesses of Genesee County. My time as County Manager has just begun and I pledge to work with local governments, community not-for-profits, the business community, and local citizens on ways to spend these precious resources as efficiently as possible and ensure we are taking as little from the community as possible to meet the needs of Genesee County. 

I want to give a special thanks to Vicky Muckle, Tammi Ferringer, and Scott German for helping me to prepare my first budget as County Manager. While all three provided many hours of counsel and debate on how the budget should be structured, Muckle had the pleasure of making countless revisions to the budget and as the seasoned veteran in the office, ensuring I stayed on task in delivering this balanced budget. I also want to thank the Legislature and Chairwoman Rochelle Stein for their guidance and feedback during this budget season. 

I now turn the budget over to the Legislature for their consideration and eventual adoption. I look forward to further discussion with both Legislators and the community at large, to ensure that the budget meets the needs of this community.

October 2, 2020 - 6:26pm

Now that a police collaboration advisory group is ready to address policies and procedures of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein says she is confident of a successful response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on police reform.

Stein, speaking by telephone this afternoon, said the level of participation and the fact that the sheriff’s agency is an accredited law enforcement bureau in New York State put the county in excellent position to draft a plan and submit to director of the Division of the Budget by April 1.

“I am extremely pleased with the number of people that have indicated their interest in serving and their commitment to making sure that our process is full and robust,” Stein said. “I think that the fact that the State of New York has already reviewed and approved our policies and procedures in the sheriff’s department, gaining that accreditation puts us well ahead … in the process.

“New York State has already seen our policies and procedures, and have already said that they are all within good policing process. I am really grateful for that process – the accreditation that happened previously and the reaccreditation that just finished up in September.”

Last week, Sheriff William Sheron Jr. announced that his department completed the reaccreditation audit in compliance with a mandate that stipulates that an accredited law enforcement agency be reassessed every five years and must show that it has followed the 133 standards during that time period.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office received its initial accreditation in year 2000.

Stein and County Manager Matt Landers today released the list of members of their Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative:

  • Community members – Julie Carasone, Perez Dinkins, Leandro Mateos, Barb Starowitz, Tyrone Woods.
  • Genesee Community College student – TBA. (Stein said a person has been identified but not yet confirmed).
  • Nonprofit Community Groups -- Lynda Battaglia, Genesee County Community Mental Health Services; John Bennett, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Millie Tomidy-Pepper, YWCA of Genesee County.
  • Faith-Based Leader -- John Keller, Northgate Free Methodist Church.
  • Educational Group -- Rachel Siebert, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.
  • Local Elected Official – Gregory Post, Town of Batavia supervisor.
  • Genesee County Public Defender – Jerry Ader.
  • Genesee County District Attorney – Lawrence Friedman.
  • Genesee County Sheriff’s Department – Sheriff William Sheron, Undersheriff Bradley Mazur, Youth Officer Howard Carlson.
  • Genesee County Manager – Matt Landers.
  • Genesee County Legislature – Rochelle Stein.

Former Legislature Chair Robert Bausch will serve as the moderator.

Landers said he anticipates a resident of the Tonawanda Indian Reservation to join the group, which will include several persons of color.

Stein said all committee members are invited to attend a presentation by Sheron at a full meeting of the legislature at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Old County Courthouse. She said a “meet-and-greet” – likely via Zoom videoconferencing – will take place prior to Oct. 28 but the date and time have yet to be determined.

Stakeholder groups such as these are being formed by municipal law enforcement agencies throughout the state following Cuomo’s Executive Order issued on June 12. The governor’s mandate requires the chief executive to consult with local community stakeholders and develop a reform plan to address policing procedures. The City of Batavia and Le Roy police departments previously announced their groups, developments that have been reported on The Batavian.

Landers said that group members will convene to “openly discuss public safety needs in Genesee County, and policies will be developed that allow for police to protect the public while meeting our local needs.”

Other community members will be invited to join the panel as the process evolves, he said, and all meetings of the committee will be open to the public.

“We look forward to open and respectful dialogue among members,” Stein said, “and see this as an opportunity to collaborate and better understand others’ points of view resulting in updated and new policies that offer fair justice for all.”

October 2, 2020 - 10:20am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, NYSAC, HEROES Act.

Local governments throughout New York State remain in a holding pattern as they wait for word from Albany on state aid levels and from Washington, D.C., on another federal stimulus bill.

“No update has been received by the Genesee County Manager’s Office regarding state reimbursements of mandated expenses,” County Manager Matt Landers said last night.

Municipalities were expecting to receive an update regarding state funding from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 30, one of the governor’s predetermined “benchmarks” to evaluate and inform localities of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon New York’s economy.

Until he hears something different, Landers said Genesee County is “still planning for 20-percent reductions in state reimbursements for both county fiscal years 2020 and 2021.”

The county, towns and fire districts have fiscal years that run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

Villages’ fiscal years run from June 1 through May 31, except Alexander, which runs from April 1 through March 31. The City of Batavia’s fiscal year is also April 1 through March 31.

Landers and officials in other counties have been supported by repeated calls from the New York State Association of Counties for the White House and Congressional leaders to reach an agreement on a coronavirus stimulus package that would provide direct aid to local governments.

NYSAC’s latest plea to pass an updated HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act came on Thursday following its virtual Fall Seminar.

In its press release, NYSAC stated that an analysis of the modified $2.2 trillion HEROES Act -- which was moved by leaders in the House of Representatives this week and is still in the midst of negotiations – reveals that counties across the state would receive nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus.

“Every day that passes without a deal on direct aid to local governments, the deeper the economic hole that is being dug in our communities,” said NYSAC President John F. Marren. “Local governments stepped up and expended great resources to stop the spread of the virus and now, with state aid being withheld and revenue collection down, counties are being forced to cut services and lay off employees, which only depresses the economy further. It’s time for Washington to get behind a plan and get this done for the American people.”

The NYSAC report also indicated that through the Community Development Block Grant program, entitlement communities across New York State -- municipalities over 50,000 in population – would receive about $2.4 billion.

Other, smaller cities and localities, would receive $2.2 billion, and New York City, which has half of the state’s 19 million people, would receive $5.35 billion.

The House’s latest version of the HEROES Act is $1.2 trillion less than what Democrats proposed in May, and includes direct payments to individuals and families, and enhanced unemployment benefits.

The issue of sending funds to states and municipalities is one of the sticking points, but reportedly has the support of the Trump administration in the amount of $250 billion.

September 17, 2020 - 10:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Town Board, Gregory Post, genesee county.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Aid, Other Revenue is Down

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

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

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

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

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

Albany's Way or the Highway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town's Growth is Impressive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Hearing Set for Oct. 21

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

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

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

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

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

Census Deadline is Sept. 30

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

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

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

September 9, 2020 - 10:22am

Genesee County officials have had direct input into a report issued by the New York State Association of Counties that consists of more than 80 recommendations to help the state and municipalities bounce back from the severe financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Manager Matt Landers on Tuesday said that he and former manager Jay Gsell submitted a few suggestions to NYSAC, which then created the report, "Reforming and Re-imagining Government Service Delivery Part I: Overcoming the Current State-Local Budget Crisis," and forwarded it on to the NYS Division of Budget.

“I participated with adding a few things to that,” said Landers, also noting that Gsell sent in some suggestions as well prior to retiring last month.

Landers said that he offered the idea of excluding payment in lieu of taxes agreements from the tax cap formula.

“It’s a numbers-driven one, shocking that came from me being a CPA, and Jay put in a couple other ones that I agreed with, such as a state takeover of Medicaid,” he said.

From the report, under the Property Tax Cap heading, Landers’ submission reads as follows:

Exclude PILOT agreements from the tax cap formula. To encourage economic growth in their communities, counties often include a PILOT agreement as a means for a new revenue stream – typically on a parcel of land which has not been generating tax revenue for the county. However, the benefits of a PILOT agreement quickly disappeared after the property tax cap was established because governments are required to reduce their property tax levy by the value of the new PILOT agreements. Excluding PILOTs from the tax cap formula would aid counties in raising revenue, while also incentivizing economic growth and prosperity.

Landers said the idea to have New York State take over the Medicaid program came from Gsell, who consistently pointed out the heavy burden of the state-mandated program upon counties.

From the report, under the Medicaid heading:

The State must complete the takeover of the administration of the Medicaid program from local districts as required under the law. Counties have downsized their Medicaid administrative operations as part of the process so far, but the state continues to layer more responsibility for administering the most complex parts of the Medicaid program on counties. The state’s objective was to reduce costs through improved efficiency by consolidating the administration at the state level, while also ensuring greater uniformity in the administration of Medicaid, which can only be fully accomplished if the takeover is completed.

Gsell also submitted action regarding county jails, which aligns with Genesee’s proposal to join forces with Orleans County on a new jail:

Allow and incentivize shared county jails. Change NYS statute, Commission on Corrections restraints and use shared services dollars to enhance net savings of counties sharing a jail.

The report contains recommendations across various sectors, including county sales tax actions, property tax cap, cannabis legalization, borrowing authority, thruway tolls, community colleges, environment, gaming, Medicaid, public health, personnel/labor, public safety, social services and transportation/infrastructure.

In a press release, NYSAC leaders said the report includes “recommended actions submitted by county leaders across the state as a means to preserve county services in the face of massive declines in local revenues and the withholding of state aid.”

“The recommendations include programmatic reforms to lower costs at both the state and local level, the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to Redesign State-Local Service Delivery (which was supported by Genesee County), short-term revenue options, temporary bonding authority, and property tax cap flexibility,” they said.

The state Division of Budget administrators are exploring mid-year cuts to localities, NYSAC said, and are starting to develop budget recommendations for the 2022 State Fiscal Year.

NYSAC indicated that the report could be a useful tool for state legislators when they return to Albany to consider “additional relief legislation to aid counties and other entities in COVID-19 response efforts.”

NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario emphasized that county governments across the state have worked diligently to cut costs over the past six months.

“When this pandemic first swept across the state, local governments stepped up with innovative solutions to manage a crisis that none of us were prepared for,” he said. “Now counties are providing the essential services that New Yorkers depend on during this recession, and we need the state to consider these recommendations to help us address the lack of revenue and their budget cuts.”

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