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May 30, 2013 - 9:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCC, taxes, GCEDC, New York Tax Free.

Genesee Community College sits high on a hill surrounded by a lot of open space.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited GCC today to promote his "New York Tax Free" proposal, which would allow SUNY campuses such as GCC to play host to new businesses or businesses that are creating new jobs.

Up to 200,000 square feet of land around a SUNY campus could also be used for the 100-percent-tax-free zone.

All that open space around GCC, then, might also be described as opportunity.

"That was the vision 10 years ago that we started developing with GCC and Dr. Steiner and now Dr. Sunser," said Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC. The agency now has offices across the street from the college campus in what's known as the Upstate Med-Tech Center. "I think we're really well positioned to rock and roll together and really make a difference here."

Cuomo is clearly passionate about his proposal.  Whatever its critics might have to say about it, Cuomo has an answer and at times during his speech and afterward made his points with the fervor of an evangelist for Upstate New York.


Nobody ever said (speaking of those who have left New York), I didn’t like New York or I didn’t like Upstate New York. Nobody.

We did this (mess up the state and cause 50 years of decline) to ourselves. We did this to ourselves because this state has every asset imaginable.

I spent eight years in the Clinton Administration. I worked in every state in this nation, literally, dozens and dozens of times. I know everything else that’s out there. I’ve seen the best that every state has. No state has to offer what we have to offer in New York. No state has our combination of talents.

Our geography, our diversity, our history, the most beautiful natural resources, mountain ranges, the greatest cities, beaches, we have it all, all in one state – the best of everything with the distillation of the best of America -- in one state called New York.

So it’s not that that they're beating us. We're beating us. We created these conditions. We can reverse these conditions. Reduce the taxes. Make this state as competitive as any state out there from a tax point of view.

"NY Tax Free" would turn SUNY campuses into zones with no state or local taxes of any kind for businesses based on the campuses (or in the 200K zone), and a company's employees, for up to 10 years.

The businesses would have to match the educational mission of the host campus, working in industries of related fields of study.

Cuomo's dream is clearly to incubate the next Apple or Google.

"If you look at the places that are creating jobs, it's the higher education institutions that are doing research and development. It's the 28-year-old who develops the new chip or the new iPhone of the new application, but the schools are actually creating the jobs."

These sorts of companies are getting founded on NY campuses now, Cuomo said, but 75 percent of them leave New York within the first year, taken either by founders or investors to lower tax states such as Florida or Texas.

Yes, the proposal is big and bold, Cuomo said. No other state in the nation has ever dared to take on such an audacious project, but New York does big and bold well, Cuomo said (while a picture of the Erie Canal was projected on the screen behind him).

Big problems, he said, require big solutions.

"People have been leaving," Cuomo said. "Jobs have been leaving. At the same time, we have more and more government and the costs of governing are going up and up while there are fewer and fewer people to pay for the increasing cost of government, which makes taxes higher, making the tax burden higher, which causes more people to leave. That's the dynamic and the longer the dynamic continues, the worst it gets."

Upstate, especially, needs the help, Cuomo said, and with 55 of the 64 SUNY campuses located in Upstate, and 95 percent of Upstate residents living within 30 miles of a SUNY campus, this proposal makes a lot of sense.

In the past several years, there has been only a 5-percent increase in new jobs in Upstate, while New York City has grown jobs at a clip of 16 percent. The 5-percent growth rate doesn't even keep up with the national average.

The proposal would create 120 million square feet of entrepreneurial space in Upstate, Cuomo said, which is more commercial space than in San Francisco and Philadelphia combined, and more than Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse combined.

Speaking with reporters after his speech, Cuomo said the major criticism he's heard of the proposal is that taxes should be lowered to zero for everyone.

"It's the right idea to have zero taxes across the board," Cuomo said, "but there's some problems with the details."

If the proposal seems unfair, Cuomo argued that the current tax system is unfair.

"There is not a level playing field in the current tax code," Cuomo said. "The more you make, the more you pay. Some businesses get tax breaks that others don't. We have tax breaks for manufacturing. Why? Because we decided we want manufacturing businesses here. We have tax breaks for the film business ... because we want to produce movies here. It's a falsity that the tax code is equal, but for this. The tax code is anything but equal."

He also argued that residents around SUNY campuses will benefit from the job creation, with employees of these companies buying groceries, cars and houses locally.

"There will be economic activity in your community and that will be a good thing for you," Cuomo said.

He added, "We can't sustain what's going on now in Upstate New York. We cannot sustain the population decline. Nobody moving in. Everybody moving out. Fewer and fewer people paying the cost of a growing government.  We cannot continue the trajectory we've been on."

May 16, 2013 - 1:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes.

Press release:

New York State Taxpayer Rights Advocate Camille Siano Enders today encouraged homeowners, businesses and others who own property to review their assessments before the deadline, which is May 28 in most communities.

“In only two years, the property tax cap is controlling the growth of property taxes and shining unprecedented light on local budgets,” Enders said. “By visiting your city or town’s Web site and checking your assessment, you can make sure that you are not paying more than your fair share of local taxes.”

Local assessment rolls, required to be available from local Web sites, list the property’s estimated market value and property tax exemptions. If the market value is significantly higher than the price for which the property could be sold, the property owner should consider the following steps:

  1. Talk with the assessor -- Often, an informal discussion between a property owner and an assessor can be beneficial to both parties.
  2. File an assessment grievance -- If an informal meeting doesn’t result in relief, property owners can file for assessment review. The local board of assessment review will review and respond to the information provided.
  3. File for small claims assessment review -- Available only to homeowners who don’t receive relief through the formal grievance process. Cost is $30 and review will be conducted by a court-appointed hearing officer. 

When requesting an assessment reduction, it is helpful for property owners to have an estimate of the market value of their home and documentation to support the decrease.  

Is your community keeping assessments up-to-date?

Reassessments enable cities and towns to ensure that assessments reflect current market values. During a reassessment, all of the properties in the community are reviewed, and assessments are increased or decreased where appropriate.

“The longer it has been since your locality has done a reassessment, the more likely it is that your assessment no longer reflects the market value of your property,” Enders said. “For each property that is under-assessed, there is another property that is paying more than its fair share of taxes.”  

Some municipalities keep assessments up-to-date annually, while others haven’t reassessed in decades.  

When properties do not reflect market value and are under-assessed, it does not mean the town, county or school district is collecting less in taxes. Rather, the under-assessment shifts the tax burden to other properties that are over-assessed or assessed fairly. 

For more information:

May 10, 2013 - 10:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Mike Ranzenhofer.

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today urged New Yorkers to sign his new online petition, rejecting Federal budget proposals that would increase taxes on Western New Yorkers by an average of $2,800. Residents can sign the petition by visiting Senator Ranzenhofer’s Web site, ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov.
“If enacted, this federal budget proposal would negatively impact the budgets of thousands of Western New Yorkers. I am urging Western New Yorkers to say NO to a new $2,800 tax increase,” Ranzenhofer said. “It is important for residents to be heard on this issue. By working together, we can send a strong message to Washington that Western New Yorkers are not an ATM machine.”
New Federal budget proposals would end a longstanding policy of allowing taxpayers to deduct state and local tax liability, including property taxes, on Federal tax returns. Eliminating the deduction would effectively double tax residents, since residents would be subject to Federal tax on income used to pay state and local taxes.
The impact of the proposal in Western New York is estimated to increase tax bills by an average of $2,800 for more than 139,101 residents. Federal tax bills for affected taxpayers would increase by an average of 30 percent.
Additional information is available in a report by Governor Cuomo, entitled "Impact on New Yorkers of Federal Tax Proposals," at http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/Impact-of-Federal-Tax-Proposals.pdf.
May 8, 2013 - 5:47am
posted by Bob Harker in politics, business, taxes, Andrew Cuomo, ny.

"ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Chief Executive magazine ranks New York as the49th worst state for business in the opinion of CEOs questioned. The ninth annual survey of CEOs blamed New York's high taxes, bureaucracy and a regulatory system that is difficult to navigate. The CEOs ranked New York just better than California. Most larger states with strong labor unions faired poorly in the rankings. CEOs liked Texas most for the ninth straight year, followed by Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana. The ranking comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is continuing a "New York Open for Business" campaign with TV ads that say the Empire State is now far more welcoming of business and employers. A Cuomo spokesman notes the state is now at its highest work force size ever."

March 19, 2013 - 9:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Steve Hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) recently joined his legislative colleagues and members of the business community at a press conference in opposition to a hidden utility tax. The 18-A Utility Assessment was enacted in 2009 and was set to expire this year, although the governor’s Executive Budget includes an extension of the tax. Hawley sponsored Assembly Bill 382 to repeal the tax as soon as it was enacted, receiving 17 bipartisan cosponsors, and noted the strain the surcharge puts on both families and businesses.

“This tax hurts every family, senior and job creator who pays utility bills in New York State,” Hawley said. “It was a bad idea when it was passed and it’s an even worse idea to extend it. This is an example of state government saying one thing and doing the exact opposite. That’s why I have sponsored legislation to repeal the tax, and that’s why I was proud to stand with my fellow Assembly members and business leaders urging that this tax expire as promised.”

In attendance at the press conference were representatives from the Business Council of New York State, Inc., Manufacturers Association of Central New York, National Federation of Independent Business, Unshackle Upstate and the New York Farm Bureau.

February 4, 2013 - 11:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes, GCEDC.

A proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to curtail sales tax exemptions on new development and redevelopment projects could hurt such projects locally, according to City Manager Jason Molino and Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

"Losing the ability to offer state portion of sales tax exemptions dilutes our financial assistance offerings at the local level," Hyde said. "That hurts since we remain the 49th most expensive state to do business in."

Nearly all projects that come to the Industrial Development Agency for assistance and the promise of job growth receive a sales tax exemption on building materials, plant expansion and/or new equipment.

The City of Batavia has been aggressively pursuing projects that redevelop commercial parts of the city -- called "brownfield redevelopment" -- and the loss of the sales tax exemption could be a setback for those plans.

While Molino is reserved in his judgement since the governor's budget is still in the early proposal phase, he said if the elimination of sales tax exemptions goes through, it won't be good for Batavia.

"I think it has the potential to negatively affect any economic development effort that would use sales tax exemptions as part of its model for development," Molino said.

Hyde said much of the redevelopment necessary in the city won't qualify for the state's "excelsior program," which provides tax credits for strategically targeted industries, so maintaining the sales tax exemption is critical.

"We can support some really exciting things developing in the city to the fullest extent possible," Hyde said.

The Buffalo News carried a story this morning about how the budget proposal will be a setback for redevelopment in Buffalo.

Hyde encouraged constituents to reach out to the governor's office and express concern about the proposal.

"This topic is important as community development projects will be negatively impacted considerably and those are the lifestyle projects important to our  residents," Hyde said.

January 30, 2013 - 7:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, taxes, Arc GLOW.

Genesee ARC will be able to claim its recycling center at 3785 W. Main St. Road, Batavia, as a tax-exempt property despite missing an important deadline.

According to the county's Deputy Treasurer Matt Landers the nonprofit organization failed to apply for tax-exempt status on the property by the tax status deadline date.

As a result, three local government agencies included in their budgets anticipated revenue from the 5.3-acre parcel, which has an accessed value of $860,000.

When ARC asked to receive tax-exempt status, Landers said his initial reaction was "no," because of the budget concerns.

Then a staff member found a legal opinion that states that an owner is eligible for reconsideration of tax-exempt status after a missed deadline if the assessor concurs in writing that the property was eligible on the tax status date.

The decision wipes out more than $30,000 of anticipated revenue for local governments.

Batavia City Schools anticipated in its 2012-2013 budget revenue of $21,543.07.

According to Landers, district officials, when faced with the revenue loss, double checked the legal opinion and reached the same conclusion as the county Assessor's Office.

The county was set to receive in 2013 $3,650.37 in Medicaid mandate taxes and another $4,189.84 in county property tax.

The Town of Batavia Fire District will see its revenue for 2013 drop by $2,012.36.

Genesee ARC held its grand opening for its new recycling facility on West Main, formally a location for Duro Shed, in September.

March 28, 2012 - 4:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Steve Hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) today sponsored Assembly Bill 1202, a budget amendment to repeal a crippling utility tax on local homeowners and businesses.

Other amendments brought to the Assembly Floor for a vote by the Minority Conference included a repeal of unfunded mandates and ban on future levies and a state spending cap to end the irresponsible use of tax dollars.

Hawley supported these measures as part of his ongoing fight to deliver real, tangible savings for taxpayers in Western New York.

“I sponsored and advanced the budget amendment to reduce utility taxes on homeowners and businesses because Western New Yorkers can no longer afford to foot the bill for state government’s irresponsible spending habits,” said Hawley.

“Utility taxes hurt our most vulnerable citizens, like seniors on fixed incomes, who need to heat their homes during the cold winter months. Coupled with the state spending cap and unfunded mandate relief that I voted in favor of today, the taxpayers of Western New York have made their voices heard loud and clear.”

January 19, 2012 - 6:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, taxes, sales tax.

Genesee County will likely close the financial books on 2011 with an unexpected revenue surplus and County Treasurer Scott German is recommending the legislature roll the money over into its reserves.

The extra money will likely come from a windfall of $997,000 in sales tax revenue that came in above budgeted expectations.

At Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee meeting, Legislator Ray Cianfrini asked if the 2012 budget could be amended so some of this unexpected revenue could be directed at programs cut in 2012, such as Meals on Wheels, which is being forced to reduce delivery days.

In an interview Thursday, German said the legislature could do that, but his recommendation is that the money be held in reserve.

Reserves, he said, should be used for emergency expenditures, such as a bridge falling down, and not to fund programs legislators already decided already to cut.

"Under the tax cap, the legislators still had room to raise taxes if they wanted to fund those programs," German said. "The fact the sales tax came in better than anticipated, that's not a good justification to fund a program."

The treasurer said he anticipates the county will close its books on 2011 -- which happens in March -- with $13.2 million in revenue, up from the anticipated $12.2 million.

Total sales tax for the county -- which is shared among the county and various municipal agencies -- was $35.2 million, beating the 2008 record of $34.3 million.

Higher gas prices and the three-week close-out sale at Lowe's were probably the main contributing factors to the strong sales tax numbers, German said.

Is the local economy improving?

"I would hope that would be the case, but that would be speculation," German said. "I would hope business is getting better."

November 21, 2011 - 2:53pm
posted by Bob Harker in spending, Albany, taxes, GCEDC.

ALBANY — The state’s top court threw out a lawsuit today that would have upended the way New York funds economic development projects. In a 5-to-2 ruling issued this morning, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the state’s right to transfer funds to “public-benefit corporations,” which then take the money and offer it to private businesses in the form of grants and tax incentives. The state’s main economic-development branch is the Empire State Development Corp., which is technically independent of the government and therefore isn’t bound by a constitutional ban on giving state money to private entities, the court found. Although some “may question the wisdom of policy choices,” the court found “no constitutional infirmity to the challenged appropriations,” according to the majority opinion. A Niagara County businessman and 49 other generally conservative taxpayers originally filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in 2009. The group alleged that grants doled out by the Empire State Development Corp. and other public-benefit corporations violated Article VII of the New York state Constitution, which prohibits state money from being “given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association.” A state Supreme Court judge had ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, but the Appellate Division reversed the ruling last year. Today’s ruling upheld the Supreme Court judge’s original decision. [email protected]

October 25, 2011 - 12:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes.

It seems like a simple thing -- the New York State Legislature passed, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law -- a bill capping local property tax increases at 2-percent annually.

Except it's not so simple.

If you think that one of these years, your taxes can't go up more than 2 percent over what you paid the previous year, think again.

The tax cap is actually on the tax levy. The tax levy is the amount of revenue a local jurisdiction needs to help pay its bills. A local jurisdiction determines what the levy needs to be and then calculates the tax rate for that budget year.

The tax cap doesn't touch the tax rate at all, nor does it control assessed value. 

The law caps the levy increase at 2 percent, or that's what you might think.

It really doesn't cap it at 2 percent at all. There are exceptions for changes in assessed value and exclusions for increases in pension costs.

For the City of Batavia, for example, the city council could -- perfectly within the tax-cap formula -- increase the tax levy for 2012-13 and raise the tax levy 4.3 percent.

City Council President Marianne Clattenburg's reaction after seeing a tax cap presentation at the council's Monday night meeting: "Unreal."

"This (the tax cap) is misleading to taxpayers," Clattenburg said. "They’re expecting a 2-percent tax cap when they can get a 4-percent tax cap."

Besides not being a straightforward cap on tax increases, the law also provides local jurisdictions with the ability to override the cap with a 60-percent vote of the governing body -- something New York's cities, villages, towns and school boards seem prepared to do across the board, according to The New York Times.

In fact, because there are penalties for failure to abide by the cap, and because the formulas for calculating it are complex, city staff  New York Conference of Mayors is recommending that the council enact a local law to override the cap every year, even if there isn't an increase in the levy at all. That way, the city is protected if a subsequent audit finds the tax levy increased more than allowed under the law.

For the city, once the calculation is done for the 2012-13 fiscal year, the city's levy could increase more than 4 percent, from $5.8 million to $5.9 million.

It hasn't been determine how that potential levy (there's no recommendation or budget decision in the calculation) will impact the tax rate paid by individual property owners.

In 2009, for example, the tax levy increased 4.2 percent, but the tax rate went up by only 1.62 percent.

In 2011, the levy went up 2.5 percent and the rate increased 1.26 percent.

City Manager Jason Molino was quick to point out at the start of Monday's meeting that in any of the financial presentations made, there were no budget recommendations. The presentations were merely to help the council understand current economic factors affecting the upcoming budget.

Part of the presentation, Molino (pictured) provided an overview of the recent "positive outlook" given the city by the bond-rating agency Moody's.

Though Moody's said the city has some financial challenges -- too small of a reserve fund and an unresolved contract with the police union, among them -- the city has made tremendous progress in going from a municipality having a hard time paying its bills to one planning for the future.

"It’s a good feather in the city’s cap that you’ve done the right budgeting, the right financing, over the past several years to get to this point," Molino told council members.

Also on Monday, the city approved an emergency expenditure of up to $35,000 to replace the roof on City Police Headquarters.  

A proposed donation for a veterans memorial was put off until it's time for the city to discuss the budget.

October 20, 2011 - 11:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes.

Greg Post, supervisor for the Town of Batavia, which currently has no town property tax, is tempted to announce a 50-percent increase in the tax levy.

For those who haven't done that kind of ciphering in a few years, 0 x 50 percent = 0.

But Post is rather irritated with Albany and the state legislature's passage of a 2-percent cap on property taxes without corresponding mandate relief.

Mandates include increases in health care costs for employees, an increase in power rates without local input, and an increase in pension benefits.

Meanwhile, many local governments are facing problems with aging infrastructure -- infrastructure that needs to be in good repair to attract jobs and retain businesses and help emergency responders get to where they need to go.

Albany, Post, said, should just butt out of local government.

"I’m perfectly capable, as is my board, of making decisions," Post said. "Whether they’re good decisions or not can be judged by the community. The community can show up here at public hearings and voice their concerns and if they don't like our decisions they can vote us out of office."

For the most part, Post said, the small towns and villages of Upstate New York are fiscally conservative and do a good job of holding down expenses. Albany, he said, has no idea how to run a town in Western New York and shouldn't even try.

But some towns have put off infrastructure repairs and their needs are getting critical.

He said he knew of one town that wanted to raise its tax levy 20 percent, which would have meant only a $20 increase in the average property tax bill.

But because of the tax cap, the board is faced with a tough decision -- take a special vote to override the cap, or not go out and get the revenue it needs for the town to survive.

Post sees the levy as a trap laid by Democrats in Albany to force conservatives in small towns in Upstate New York out of office. 

Uninformed voters, he said, will likely vote out of office any official who votes to override the cap, and they will be replaced by less fiscally responsible, less experienced officials.

That's why, he said, he introduced a local law for the Town of Batavia to override the cap. Even though Post has no intention of allowing a tax increase to go through, passage of an override measure is a protest against the heavy-handedness of Albany.

He hopes it will provide cover for those jurisdictions that really do need to override the cap.

He said he plans to introduce the same measure every year that he's in office so long as Albany refuses to pass meaningful mandate relief.

On Wednesday, the town board unanimously approved a public hearing on the proposed local law. The hearing is set for Nov. 9.

August 31, 2011 - 11:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget, taxes.

It might be a bit of glasnost in the Genesee County Legislature, a weakening of the hard line legislators have taken against a tax increase for the past few years.

The oft-repeated word by the nine legislators during an impromptu budget discussion Wednesday was "tweak," as in, "tweak the current rate just a little bit."

"I think all of us have an interest in keeping the rate the same," Legislator Hollis Upson said. "One thought I have been pondering though is that with the 2-percent tax cap, I could be persuaded to let some expansion take place just a little bit. I'm not so worried about this budget, but the lack of control we have on mandates and what that means in future years. I'm a little concerned about holding the line so close that it puts us in a straitjacket or requires large cost cuts that must come from somewhere.

"I've got to the point," Upson added, "where I can tolerate a little bit of a tweak, as little as possible, and only after exhausting every other opportunity to cut costs."

Several other legislators also said a "tweak" might be exceptable, some even after taking a hardline stance in favor of cuts and against any tax increase.

"I still say there's room among our labor force to where there is still fat that can be cut," Legislator Jay Grasso said.

Grasso expressed concern that some department heads haven't been willing to step up and say what cuts they would be willing to make to help the county trim as much as 5 percent in spending.

"As much as I support public safety, that has to be looked at as well," Grasso said. "If we look at aggressive, across-the-board cuts, everybody feels the pain. If there are cuts, no department should be spared."

While offering tepid support for "tweaks," he also said he was concerned that any rate increase would send the wrong message to Albany -- that Albany can keep pushing unfunded mandates on counties knowing that if they must, counties will just raise taxes.

If a "tweak" means staying under the 2-percent tax cap, then the county could only generate only $500,000 in new revenue. Several legislators and County Manager Jay Gsell acknowledged that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the potential shortfall the county is facing.

"We need to get to $136 million (in spending) and even I think that is highly unrealistic," Gsell said.

The county has cut spending by 30 percent over the past few years. But with about 90 percent of the county's budget going to unfunded mandates, and costs rising year after year on those mandates -- primarily Medicaid and pensions, it's getting to the point where the only cuts left to make are to essential services. 

"As a former mayor of Oakfield, I'm very conscious of our aging infrastructure," Legislator Ray Cianfrini said. "We're still wrestling with our water tower issue. If we keep putting off spending on infrastructure, we're only kicking the can down the road and putting of the inevitable. 

"When I look at the damage caused by Hurricane Irene and the roads washed away and the bridges collapsed, I think 'that can happen to us.' Our bridges aren't safe and our roads barely meet standards. If we don't have the money to (take care of infrastructure), then I would not be opposed to tweaking the rate to see if we can generate some money for that."

Cianfrini also expressed concern about some funding inequalities creeping into the budget. For example, he said, the DA's office now has the same staffing levels as the public defender's office. However, the DA's office handles 100 percent of the criminal cases in Genesee County, while the public defender's office only handles cases for clients who can't afford a private attorney.

The County Clerk's office also came under scrutiny.

Last year, County Clerk Don Read argued that since his department creates revenue for the county, it should be exempt from cuts. Cuts, he argued, would diminish his department's ability to generate as much revenue.

"Why shouldn't they be asked to do more with less and then generate more money that might be applied someplace else," Legislator Bob Radley said. "Just because you pay your way shouldn't mean that you shouldn't be asked to help us along the way."

Radley is also worried about the county continuing to subsidize the nursing home at $2 million per year.

"Something needs to be done about that," Radley said.

Legislator Ed DeJaneiro said that while he supports holding the line on the tax rate, he is concerned about the damage being done to the county.

"It will get to the point where we're lessening the quality of life in our community via our nursing home, our health and safety and our infrastructure," DeJaneiro said. "Our infrastructure will be compromised if we don't stay on top of what we can do and our law enforcement will be compromised."

Only Legislator Bob Bausch spoke at length about ways to raise revenue other than a tax increase. His idea -- a marketing campaign to encourage people to spend more of their dollars locally instead of in neighboring counties.

"I have suddenly become very aware of where the heck I buy my gas," Bausch said. "I buy a lot of gas every week for my personal car and my company cars. If I'm going from Bergen to Perry or from Batavia to Perry on my typical runs, I'm buying a lot of gas."

Bausch suggested if more people who travel out of county were conscientious about buying their gas closer to home, it could help generate a good bit of extra money for the county government, taking pressure off the legislature to raise taxes.

"These things start to add up," he said.

"I'm the last person who is going to tell my wife not to go to the mall in Rochester or Buffalo and not to buy clothes," Bausch said. "I fear for my own life. But when you look at the day-to-day things we buy, it starts to make a difference. We need to get that word out there."

June 25, 2011 - 7:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Steve Hawley, Mike Ranzenhofer.

From Assemblyman Steve Hawley: 

The passage of a property tax cap is the culmination of years of hard work from both New York taxpayers and the Assembly Minority Conference who have never wavered in their support of protecting this state’s families and businesses. No longer will Western New Yorkers, facing some of the highest property taxes in the nation, be prevented from obtaining the American Dream of owning their own home.

No longer will upstate businesses be forced out of our community, which has led to massive job loss and unemployment. Today is a new day in New York – a day that we finally say to our family and businesses, “You are welcome here.”

However, the victory in our long battle for this tax cap must also highlight the need to expand mandate relief. Our homeowners and businesses are not the only ones that suffer from Albany’s spending addiction, our local governments and school districts are struggling to cope with these issues as well. The measures we have taken to reduce the crushing burden on localities is not the end of a journey, but rather a first step toward the true, sweeping reforms it will take to repeal the onerous cost drivers that Albany has passed onto local governments.

We have opened the door for real, substantive mandate relief, but we haven’t done enough. I pledge to continue working tirelessly to ease the burden on local governments and school districts so that they can provide the vital services that our communities rely on without increasing costs to the taxpayer. I am confident that the accomplishments made today will serve as a springboard for even more success in the future.

From Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer:

“The State Senate passed historic legislation last night to make New York the 44th state to cap property taxes.  A cap will stop property taxes from spiraling out of control and prevent homeowners from being taxed out of their homes. But in order for the cap to work, mandate relief will be needed.”

“That is why the State Senate also took the first steps to begin to provide $127 million in much needed mandate relief for school districts and municipalities. The act also sets up a Mandate Relief Council to establish a procedure to repeal unfunded mandates.”

“There is still much work to be done on mandate relief, including relieving counties of burdensome Medicaid and pension payments and school districts of onerous and duplicative audits.  As the year progresses, I will work with the Governor, and my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly, to not just take first steps, but to make giant leaps towards achieving additional mandate relief.”

June 6, 2011 - 12:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Steve Hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C – Batavia) is urging legislative leaders to make controlling property taxes the number one priority of the remaining weeks of the 2011 Legislative Session. The Tax Foundation recently released a study that shows homeowners in Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties face a property tax burden ranked in the top 10 nationally, based on percentage of median home value. Orleans, Niagara and Monroe occupy the top three spots respectively, while Genesee comes in eighth.

“To see all four counties in the 139th Assembly District paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation should serve as a loud and clear reminder to legislative leaders that we have no greater priority during this year’s session than to provide property tax relief to Western New York families and businesses, coupled with mandate relief for local governments and school districts,” Hawley said.

“Furthermore, 22 out of the 25 highest-taxed counties are found in Upstate New York. State government has placed Upstate’s economy at a massive, competitive disadvantage by increasing costs on localities and has forced families out of the homes they spent their entire lives working to build.

"I have consistently supported implementing a property-tax cap that will re-open Upstate New York for business and embrace the homeowners that have built their lives here, and I urge my colleagues in state government to join me in putting all of their energy behind this measure.”

Hawley is a co-sponsor of multiple bills to cap property taxes under consideration in the Assembly. While skyrocketing property taxes must be addressed immediately, so must the contributing factors that have led to such crushing levies.

“The cost-drivers handed down from Albany to local governments are a ploy to support unsustainable levels of spending,” Hawley said. “The passage of a property tax cap is not only crucial for homeowners, but it is also a vital component of the fight to repeal unfunded mandates that force localities to raise taxes year after year.

"The property tax crisis is truly symptomatic of New York’s most crippling problem – an unending appetite for spending. Passing a property tax cap is not the end of a long struggle, but rather the first domino to fall that will bring down unfunded mandates and reign in state spending.”

May 26, 2011 - 8:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Albany, taxes, County Legislature.

Without mandate relief, local officials say, a proposed property tax cap will strangle county government.

The cap proposal is moving through Albany and today the Genesee County Legislature sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local representatives.

Without addressing the root cause of the problem -- unfunded mandates -- counties will have to begin eliminating all non-mandated, community-based programs and services to stay under the cap. These programs include veterans services and aging programs, local road and bridge maintenance and repair, road patrol, long-term care and substance abuse services, to name a few.

Legislative Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock told WBTA today that rising pension costs and Medicaid expenses that are "forced" on the county are eating up too much local revenue.

"Pension costs have gone up 31 percent," she said. "And in the past several years, Medicaid has continued to escalate in cost."

WBTA also spoke with  Batavia City Schools' Business Manager Scott Rozanski, who predicted dark days ahead under the cap.

"In essence, it means we could only increase our expenditures by about $350,000," he said. "Cutting more is doable, but it would probably create a lot more uproar." 

Superintendent Margaret Puzio blamed the current proposed increase in the tax levy on Albany.

"The only reason we're looking at an increase in the tax levy is because our state aid was cut," she said.

While in Batavia today, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer addressed the issue. Ranzenhofer expressed support for Hancock's call to have the state assume the costs of Medicaid.

"I was a county legislator for 20 years -- I understand that issue," he said. "I'm also very concerned about overuse of the Medicaid system by some, to the detriment of others. I'm talking about not having every possible optional service that you can have.

If the state took over funding Medicaid, Razenhofer, it might take more seriously such as issues of fraud and waste and find ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

May 3, 2011 - 5:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in taxes, Steve Hawley.

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C – Batavia) submitted a motion for an open, transparent vote to ease the overwhelming tax burden on New York’s small business owners, but was denied by the downstate driven Assembly Majority. The bill, of which Hawley is the sponsor, seeks to eliminate the vendor re-registration fee to collect sales tax while providing a refund to those who have paid the fee. The legislation is stuck in the Ways & Means Committee, denying New Yorkers the opportunity to see which legislators truly support our state’s small business owners.

“Business owners should not have to pay for the privilege of collecting sales tax on behalf of the state,” said Hawley. “The vendor re-registration fee is yet another disincentive to own and operate a business in New York. We had the opportunity today to show this state’s job creators that we are ready to re-open New York for business, and by denying a vote on this measure, we have failed to do so.”

The Tax Foundation’s “2011 State Business Tax Climate Index” ranked New York the worst in the nation. The 2008-09 Enacted Budget authorized the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to require all 585,000 vendors that collect state sales tax to re-register and pay a $50 registration fee. While it is set to expire next year, many business owners fear that it will be extended and permanently added to New York’s revenue stream.

March 10, 2011 - 2:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in taxes, GCEDC, Ranzenhofer, IDAs.

Here's a news release from State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer.

The New York State Senate has passed legislation (S.2682), introduced by Senator Ranzenhofer, that repeals the “cost recovery” tax imposed on local economic development agencies in 2009 and also requires the state to reimburse agencies for any monies previously paid.

After being passed in the 2009-10 state budget, the cost-recovery tax hurt the efforts of local industrial development agencies to get New Yorkers back to work by taking away economic development money from local communities and sending more revenue to Albany.

"During a time of high unemployment and an economy struggling from a national recession, the IDA cost-recovery tax made a bad situation even worse,” Ranzenhofer said. “Repealing this unfair tax puts funds back in the right place, in the hands of local community business leaders to entice businesses to locate in the state and create jobs, not in state coffers."

The 2009-10 state budget contained a maximum $5 million statewide cost-recovery tax on local economic development agencies. The tax does not reflect a rational basis for actual costs incurred by the state for providing services to local economic development agencies. Local economic development agencies already pay a Bond Insurance Charge to recover costs.

Members of local economic development agencies expressed their support for the legislation. This tax, based on operating revenue, is a disincentive for IDAs to expand programming or reinvest back into the community.

"Senator Ranzenhofer should be applauded for introducing the legislation to repeal this unfair tax," said Genesee County Economic Development Center President and CEO Steve Hyde. "His fellow Senators who joined him to pass S.2682 also deserve congratulations for standing up against this unfair assessment.”

Governor Cuomo has also included an identical provision in his 2010-11 executive budget proposal.

February 7, 2011 - 4:53pm
posted by Bob Harker in taxes, GCEDC.

As most of us have read, the GCEDC recently announced that it is responsible for retaining 21 jobs in the Batavia area. According to the GCEDC, this was achieved by providing two existing hotels with sales tax breaks on their project to replace windows in their buildings.

I wrote to GCEDC inquiring how we can save jobs at $429/job, and specifically, what jobs are being retained. In the email I also questioned the wisdom of granting these tax breaks for a project that will, most likely, pay for itself over time though reduced energy costs.

The following are my original e-mail, and Steve Hyde's response. I call it a response, because I certainly cannot find any answers in the verbiage.

My e-mail:

Many taxpayers would like to know exactly how $429 saves a job.

That figure is derived from your own statement that a $9,000 sales-tax break for two hotels will retain 21 jobs. I cannot, for the life of me figure how that works. Are you asserting that the two firms would not go forward with this project without this tax incentive that constitutes 4 percent of the total cost? I find that doubtful. Even if so, specifically, what jobs will be “retained”?

Please also clarify how GCEDC justifies this tax break for two existing private businesses, when they are replacing older windows with new ones that will obviously pay for themselves over time through reduced energy costs. Your prompt reply is anticipated and appreciated.

Thank you.

Bob Harker

His response:

Feb. 7, 2011

E-mail Correspondence

[ e-mail address deleted ]

Dear Mr. Harker:

Thank you for taking the time to write us with regard to the Days Inn and the Super 8 project in which the GCEDC board approved a sales-tax exemption on Feb. 3, 2011.

The GCEDC Board of Directors, by way of this project and others, is focusing on and taking action in accordance with key elements of our legal authority and with regard to our organization’s mission, which includes catalyzing community economic development success by supporting the growth, expansion and retention of Genesee County’s existing base of businesses.

The GCEDC board’s philosophy is to assist area businesses by helping to ensure that companies across Genesee County remain successful, viable, employ residents and contribute to the overall tax base of the county.

The sales-tax exemption on the renovation project at the Days Inn and Super 8 hotel is an example of a retention project by GCEDC. And through our participation, albeit in a small way (a $9,000 sales-tax exemption), we are supporting and helping retain the ongoing viability of one of our area businesses which is actively investing in our community and contributes a considerable amount to the tax base of our community by way of sales-tax generation and property-tax payments.

Given New York recently ranked number 50 in state business-tax climate as measured in October 2010 by the Tax Foundation – it is pretty clear of the importance to provide tax assistance to new and existing businesses in order to level the cost playing field and to reduce some of the tax burdens on area businesses -- especially in order to ensure their long-term viability and contributions to the community’s tax base and employment base.

Given the Tax Foundation rankings, we must continue to do what we can at the local level to ensure Genesee County is known as a “business-friendly community,” despite the high-cost structures so well known by many at the state level.

It is imperative for our long-term economic success that we continue these practices of providing tax assistance to new and existing businesses, because without viable businesses in our community – we have no economic certainty -- our employment climate would be perilous and the tax burden placed on area residents -- because of a declining business tax base -- would be far worse than it is today.

Thank you again for your correspondence and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of further assistance.


Steven G. Hyde

President, GCEDC

Can anyone help me find the answers to my questions?

January 10, 2011 - 7:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes, City Budget.

The proposed City of Batavia budget for 2011/12 includes an increase in the property tax levy, taking it up to $10.51 per thousand dollars of assessed value, an increase of 1.59 percent.

The owner of a $80,000 home would pay $13 more per year.

It's a 16-cent increase over the previous year.

Total anticipated revenue for the budget year is projected at $14,800,662.

In connection with release of the budget, the city is releasing a strategic plan. Part of the plan funded in the proposed budget is the creation of an economic development director with a salary of $55,000 to $70,000.

In the proposed budget, the water rate is scheduled to go up 23 13 cents to $4.31 per 1,000 gallons. (strke-thru is correcting a typo in original city press release)

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