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Ways & Means Committee

February 17, 2021 - 5:37pm

It looks as though the Genesee County Legislature has found a qualified person to fill the vacant position of county coroner.

Minutes ago, the governing body’s Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a resolution appointing longtime paramedic Wade Schwab as coroner, effective Feb. 24 through Dec. 31.

The measure will be put on the agenda of next Wednesday’s full legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

One of the four county coroner jobs became open earlier this year upon the resignation of Jeffery McIntire, who moved to Florida.

The resolution follows Section 400 (7) of County Law that stipulates that an appointee shall hold office until Dec. 31 following the first annual election, at which the vacancy can be filled by election. The position will be on the ballot in November for the unexpired term, which carries through Dec. 31, 2023.

Schwab introduced himself to the committee, noting that he has lived in Genesee County for many years and has been a paramedic for about 30 years.

Just recently, he accepted a full-time paid paramedic staff position with Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance in Albion. Before that, he was employed for nearly 20 years with Mercy EMS, climbing to the rank of crew chief of special operations. He also is part of the City of Batavia’s Emergency Response Team.

He told the committee that he has become more interested in the coroner position over the years.

“Back when I was employed by Genesee Memorial Hospital as a medic, we used to have a full-service morgue on premises and did autopsies,” he said. “I’ve got a fairly well-rounded background as far as being able to handle the position as I move into the next chapter of my life, and I greatly appreciate the appointment.”

Schwab joins the county team that also includes Karen Lang, Adam Palumbo and Tom Douglas.

He and his wife, Laurie, live in Alexander with their two German shepherds.

February 3, 2021 - 5:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

Whether you call it “refunding” or “refinancing,” Genesee County stands to save a pile of money by consolidating a couple loans and reworking the payment plan.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing this afternoon, County Treasurer Scott German said the municipality may have the opportunity to save more than $20,000 in interest costs over the next 13 years.

“It’s called refunding, but for us, regular folks, it’s refinancing,” German said. “We’re going to refinance two of our existing debts.”

The two debts in question, both Public Improvement Serial Bonds, are from 2009 and 2014, totaling $2,050,000 and $4,745,847, respectively.

German said there are four years left on the 2009 debt, but “doing that one by itself wouldn’t be worth it because the cost would be prohibitive.”

So, working with Financial Advisors of Syracuse and the bond counsel firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe of New York City, the county is prepared to put the two loans together and, if interest rates are favorable when the time comes to refinance in September, it could result in a net savings of $263,819.63.

“We technically can’t refinance that until September, so all we’re doing right now is taking care of all the paperwork – getting that out of the way – so when the market looks good in September, we’ll go to market,” he said. “If the rates go up between now and then, we won’t do it. We’ll just pull it.”

Committee members approved a resolution authorizing the debt consolidation with the goal of realizing a savings in interest fees.

In other action, the committee recommended approval of an affiliation agreement with Brockport State College for Rebecca Nigro to participate in and complete an internship that will help her complete her master’s degree in Public Administration.

It was reported that Nigro is in her last semester and is carrying a 3.95 grade-point average.

The college approved the internship as long as the county had someone with a master’s degree to oversee Nigro’s activity. Nigro works for the county, serving as the supervisor/cluster care for the Department of Social Services.

January 8, 2021 - 12:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, COVID-19, Ways & Means Committee.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee has agreed to give Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein the authority to sign documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic that need prompt attention without prior formal consent of the full board.

At a meeting via Zoom videoconferencing on Wednesday, Stein referred to a memorandum of understanding from the New York State Health Department that “came very quickly (this week) and in order for Genesee County to receive COVID vaccine this had to be turned around immediately,” she said.

“This is actually on our agenda today as a ratification of my prior signature. This really helps the public health department to keep the process rolling so that Genesee County has the opportunity for that vaccine to be delivered here locally.”

Stein reasoned that while in the pandemic, the county must act quickly and prudently to support the health department.

“So, in consultation with our public health department and our county manager and the county attorney – once having all of their approvals to sign this MOU – I did provide my signature,” she said. “If there are other COVID-related agreements that need to be signed very quickly, such as this, I think that I would feel better as the chair having the weight of the rest of the legislature with me as I take that on.”

Therefore, she asked for the committee’s approval to sign these types of documents, only as they relate to COVID-19.

Committee members were in full agreement, with Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg noting that she believed Stein already had this authority during emergency situations.

“And she’s not going to sign anything where any funds are expended or anything like that,” Clattenburg added.

The recent MOU with the state DOH to ensure distribution and administration of the vaccine by the Genesee County Health Department was time sensitive, prompting County Attorney Kevin Earl to render an opinion “that under these exigent circumstances to obtain vaccine that is crucial to the health and welfare of Genesee County residents, the Chair could sign the MOU, subject to ratification and approval of the terms and conditions by the full Legislature.”

Legislators Gary Maha, Christian Yunker, John Deleo and Gregg Torrey spoke in favor of the request, with Torrey asking if a formal resolution was needed to put this plan into action.

At that point, Earl said he was first looking for a consensus and then will draft a resolution to be considered at the next full legislature meeting (on Jan. 13).

Legislator Gordon Dibble said he wanted to make sure that the legislature was informed in a “timely fashion” when these situations arise and Stein assured him that would be the case.

Clattenburg, speaking directly to Stein, said lawmakers have “total confidence in you and you’re doing a great job.”

“We want to thank you on behalf of all our citizens for the work that you are doing as the chair. This is something that I know you didn’t anticipate last January,” Clattenburg added.

Stein thanked legislators and county employees for pulling together during some trying times.

“We could not do this without a full team effort and everyone working on behalf of the citizens of Genesee County,” she said. “It really is amazing what you can do when you decide to work together.”

December 3, 2020 - 9:39am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday recommended distribution of more than $400,000 in mortgage tax revenue to the county’s towns, villages and City of Batavia.

The resolution will be considered by the full legislature on Dec. 9.

County Clerk Michael Cianfrini and Treasurer Scott German reported that $418,882.58 is available to be dispersed to the municipalities as the second such payment in 2020. The amount is about $26,000 more than the second distribution in 2019.

Mortgage tax money per municipality is as follows:


Batavia -- $95,905.39


Alabama -- $11,089.24

Alexander -- $13,616.07

Batavia -- $48,557.18

Bergen -- $30,595.20

Bethany -- $11,101.99

Byron -- $10,696.76

Darien -- $24,213.72

Elba -- $12,788.20

Le Roy -- $54,789.53

Oakfield -- $12,464.24

Pavilion -- $16,056.13

Pembroke -- $29,194.08

Stafford -- $20,570.76


Alexander -- $1,402.37

Attica -- $493.46

Bergen -- $4,227.01

Elba -- $1,580.73

Le Roy -- $15,850.24

Oakfield -- $1,924.86

Corfu -- $1,765.42

In other action, the committee recommended approval of:

  • Resolutions to recoup delinquent water/sewer accounts and unpaid school and village taxes, which will be added to the 2021 tax levy as permitted by law.

The county will need to relevy $215,266.39 in outstanding water/sewer bills, with more than half of that amount ($142,941.72) from the Town of Batavia.

Other towns affected are Alabama ($6,351.53), Alexander ($1,138.64), Bergen ($1,187.11), Byron ($36,829.40), Darien ($13,504.56), Elba ($2,027.66), Oakfield ($995.45), Pavilion ($9,852.56), Pembroke ($309.31) and Stafford ($128.45).

The county’s share of the total amount collected is $14,082.80.

In 2020, the total was $172,303.13 with $11,272.23 being the county’s share.

Per Real Property Tax law, more than $1.8 million in unpaid school taxes are to be returned to the county for inclusion in the 2021 county and town tax levy.

The amounts not paid range from $429,215.50 in the Town of Le Roy to $66,864.83 in the Town of Bethany, with the Town of Batavia reporting $99,100.70.

The county makes the school districts whole for their portion and retains a 7-percent fee. The 2020 total was $2,265,897.64.

On the village tax side, unpaid taxes to be levied again amount to $164,023.11 – ranging from $137,935.92 in the Village of Le Roy to $601.35 in the Village of Elba.

Again, the county makes the villages whole for their portion and retains a 7-percent fee. The 2020 total was $199,731.83.

  • A resolution to renew a contract with the Genesee County Economic Development Center for 2021 that calls for county support of $233,513 to the agency, the same amount as 2020.

The sum shall be paid in regular installments and is subject to an “out clause” just put into outside agency contracts that gives the county the right to withhold funding in emergency situations.

  • A five-year lease with Genesee County Job Development Bureau for the continued operation of the Genesee County Career Center at the Eastown Plaza in Batavia, effective Feb. 1, at an annual cost of $126,000.

The amount is $9,108 more than the current lease, but there will be no increase in costs to the county since rent payments are covered by grant and fee-for-service funding.

  • A resolution to appoint Kathleen Carlson (Byron-Bergen), Erik Fix (Le Roy/Stafford) and Caris Carlson (youth representative) to the Genesee County Youth Board for terms running from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023.
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 18, 2020 - 6:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

Some late changes to the 2021 Genesee County budget require using a bit more of the municipality’s fund balance, but they won’t affect the property tax levy or tax rate, County Manager Matt Landers said this afternoon.

The county legislature’s Ways & Means Committee forwarded resolutions to both amend and adopt the $143,204,679 All Funds spending plan and to finalize the tax levy at its next full meeting on Nov. 23.

Per the resolution, the budget as presented and amended calls for $31,451,727 to be raised by property taxes – an increase of $400,069 from 2020 – and a tax rate of $9.80 per thousand of assessed value.

Landers said that $2,407,767 is being appropriated from the fund balance to help get the tax rate to that figure, which is 31 cents less than the 2020 tax rate. The fund balance amount is $607,732 more than what was allocated in 2020.

The county’s General Fund budget figure is at $110,276,137.

Landers mentioned the major changes to the budget, which were implemented after a final review by management and departmental leaders.

“Most of the budget changes are due to a recent contract settlement with our AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL–CIO) union, which represents the highway and facilities management employees,” he said. “My proposed budget had the costs sitting in the contingency account, but since we settled the contract we are going to move the funds into the appropriate departmental lines.”

Landers said that some costs in the mental health budget were under-budgeted as officials attempted to gauge the decrease in reimbursements from New York State. Additionally, changes were made on both the revenue and expense side in the public defender’s office in light of the county’s five-year plan.

“We are utilizing additional fund balance in the 2021 budget to cover this. The changes don’t impact the tax levy or the tax rate at all,” he reported.

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg thanked Landers and his team for conducting “a very smooth budget process considering the times that we’re in.”

“I appreciate the give-and-take from everyone and I think we did a good job with this budget,” she said.

The committee also set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 on a local law to approve the salaries of county officers who are elected or appointed for a fix term in accordance with a section of the Municipal Home Rule Law.

The salaries of these officers, which will take effect Jan. 1, are as follows:

  • Commissioner of Elections (2) -- $49,761;
  • Highway Superintendent -- $115,110;
  • Director of Real Property Tax Services -- $66,385;
  • Director of Human Resources -- $80,050;
  • Commissioner of Social Services -- $89,319;
  • Public Defender -- $103,453;
  • County Attorney -- $127,845;
  • County Clerk -- $97,862.

In another development, the committee reappointed Richard Siebert of Stafford as Genesee County Republican Election Commissioner for a three-year term, effective Jan. 1.

Legislators commended Siebert, Democratic Election Commissioner Lorie Longhany and all those who worked during the recent election for a job well done as they dealt with several changes to the system while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

November 6, 2020 - 1:13pm

Employees of the Genesee County’s Central Services department, while not in the public spotlight, are worthy of recognition for their efforts to keep municipal buildings clean and control costs related to purchasing, printing and mailing, the county’s purchasing director said earlier this week.

“This year our main focus was on the safety and health component,” said Eve Hens during her department review at the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Hens said a heightened emphasis was placed upon the physical safety of the custodial crew, making sure that all practices complied with Center for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines. Those included the purchase of nontoxic cleaning supplies throughout all the facilities and three electrostatic cleaners to meet COVID-19 standards.

“(The custodial staff) maintained communication with building occupants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to coordinate increased cleaning and sanitation practices as required,” Hens reported, noting that custodians maintained and cleaned 36,000 square feet per full-time equivalent (position) for most of 2020 – more than the industry standard of 28,000 square feet per FTE.

Hens said the department met its objectives of reducing expenses and staying within budgets for purchasing, ensuring that officials were properly trained to follow purchasing policy and procedure, operating in a safe and secure manner, and striving to improve efficiency in all areas.

“We continue to provide top level customer service both internally (for county employees) and externally (for the public),” she said, reporting that the cleaning staff received a 90-percent rating via a survey of county employees.

In the area of purchasing, Hens said a “paperless” office was created to save money, specifically transferring paper documents to computer storage, which is safer as well.

Through the use of P-Cards for vendor invoicing, the department will save $77,500 this year, she said, significant in light of reduced transactions due to COVID-19.

Hens said mail room/print shop activities were “a bit of a challenge at 50-percent staffing” (due to furloughs), but her staff continues to perform courier service to all 12 county buildings, plus the Town of Batavia offices, City of Batavia Police Department and Premier Genesee Nursing Home (on behalf of the Department of Social Services).

A contract with IMS Inc., of Liverpool, a data and mail services company, enables the county to receive a reduced postage rate for first-class unsorted mail.

The county is expected to spend about $51,000 in mail costs this year, a decrease of $12,000 from 2019 and less than the “benchmark” figure of $60,000, Hens reported.

October 8, 2020 - 8:29am

After a trying, stressful and – ultimately – successful time managing the Primary and Special Elections in June, Genesee County Board of Elections commissioners say they are reenergized and ready to tackle the national Election Day next month.

“We are full staff now and we’re prepared as we can be for the big one,” said Republican Commissioner Richard Siebert on Wednesday afternoon during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee at the Old County Courthouse.

Siebert and Democratic Commissioner Lorie Longhany recapped their efforts during the June 23 Primary and Special Elections for the 27th Congressional District prior to outlining plans for the Nov. 3 general election.

Calling it a “year like we have never experienced before,” the officials stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing guidelines from Albany made it very difficult for their team of poll workers, inspectors and technicians.

Beyond the state-mandated coronavirus health and safety protocols that were put into place at 24 polling sites, the local election office had to send out 40,000 absentee ballot applications – paying for printing and postage both ways.

“It was a big expense to the county,” Siebert said.

The commissioners reported their deputies “worked tirelessly and seamlessly to navigate through each Executive Order, delegate job duties to various county employees who helped with the large volume of election mail and to run point on every aspect of this most difficult election, including post-election absentee ballot counting.”

Siebert said the technicians charged with preparing the ballots had to program the electronic voting machines for six elections. Unable to meet strict deadlines and without scannable absentee ballots, staff had to hand count approximately 5,000 ballots.

Longhany noted that the teamwork of election workers on both sides of the political aisle and the assistance of Genesee County employees – led by County Manager Matt Landers and Human Resources Director Anita Cleveland – enabled the Board of Election to fulfill its duties and provide all the opportunity to vote without unreasonable wait times.

“We received a great deal of help from around the county,” she said. “It showed how cooperation is the name of the game for us.”

Siebert said the four complaints they received were addressed “and satisfied with explanation,” while Longhany added that an issue at the 400 Towers senior apartment building at East Main and Swan streets has been rectified.

“With the COVID and (having a senior population), they didn’t want us there, but they’ve come back on line with us for the general election,” she said.

Both officials said they are prepared for around an 80-percent turnout of the county’s 37,000 eligible voters for the November election.

They reported that 4,000 absentee ballot requests have been processed thus far, and that training is ongoing for 200 poll workers to use new electronic poll books in addition to their other duties.

Siebert said the electronic poll books are advantageous in that “it will tell us if a person has already voted.”

Additionally, Longhany said the absentee ballots for the coming election will be scannable – enabling workers to count the 6,000 to 7,000 they expect to receive in a timely fashion.

In summary, the commissioners thanked the legislature for its support -- both financially and by providing volunteer hours -- to ensure voters have the opportunity to “exercise their rights and feel confident in the integrity of our system.”

In a related development, the Ways & Means Committee forwarded a pair of resolutions concerning “chargebacks” to the county’s 13 towns and the City of Batavia stemming from costs incurred during elections in 2019.

The first authorizes the county treasurer to bill the municipalities for $7,794 in charges for expenses during the early voting period of Oct. 26-Nov. 5, 2019. Those charges range from $233 in the Town of Bethany to $1,817 in the City of Batavia.

The second allows the county treasurer to bill the towns and city for $54,785 in charges related to training and per diem fees for poll workers, inspectors and coordinators during the local primary (June 25, 2019) and general election (Nov. 5, 2019). Those charges range from $1,470 in the Town of Pavilion to $19,450 in the City of Batavia.

Landers said the county’s real property department will notify all the municipalities of the charges this year with the expectation that the county treasurer will bill and collect what is owed in 2021.

August 20, 2020 - 8:29am

Genesee County is preparing statements totaling nearly $100,000 for assessment services provided to towns and the City of Batavia in 2019.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution authorizing Kevin Andrews, director of real property tax services, to bill the municipalities for assessment rolls, tax rolls, tax bills, supplies, and assessment updates that were provided by the county in the previous fiscal year.

These “charge-backs” amount to $87,477 in services rendered and another $10,950 in licensing fees charged by New York State for specialized software “that assessors use to keep track of their assessment inventory and that we use to then produce assessment rolls, tax bills and tax rolls,” Andrews said.

Bills will be mailed to the towns and city in January, with the expense applied to their 2021 budgets, Andrews added.

The charge-backs and fees range from $3,336.83 for 1,107 parcels in the Town of Bethany to $17,715.23 for 5,531 parcels in the City of Batavia. The total number of parcels assessed was 29,159.

In another development, the committee authorized the appointment of Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer as the administration officer and to act as the Genesee County STOP DWI coordinator for the Genesee County STOP DWI Advisory Board.

The committee approved the following referrals from Monday’s Public Service Committee meeting:

  • A consultant agreement with CPL Team of Rochester in an amount not to exceed $80,000 to develop Well C of the City of Batavia’s well fields on Cedar Street to increase the water supply during times of high creek water turbidity or during times of low groundwater that negatively impact Well A or Well B.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said Well C could produce up to a million gallons of water per day – “almost as productive as Well A and B.” He said the emergency water situation in July prompted a meeting with city officials to expedite action to make Well C a viable option.

Hens estimated the total cost for construction, including cleaning, screening and re-casing the well, at $200,000 to $300,000.

  • A change-order contract for $8,682.50 with Suburban Electric in Albion to install Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol communication controls and fuel pressure sensors for backup generators at pump stations in Churchville and Mumford.

The pump stations are being constructed at those locations as part of Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program.

Hens said the change order was necessary so that the Monroe County Water Authority can monitor the generators remotely during emergencies.  The change order increases the total cost of the contract to $767,682.50.

  • The appointment of Candace Hensel of Byron to the Genesee County Planning Board for a three-year term effective through May 31, 2023. Hensel owns the Byron Hotel and Trailhouse.
August 19, 2020 - 1:08pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

The Genesee County Legislature is preparing to make another round of voluntary payments – the third such distribution this year – to towns and villages.

Later this afternoon, the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is expected to put its stamp of approval on a resolution to appropriate $2 million to 19 municipalities in the county.

These voluntary distributions became a lightning rod for debate among town and village administrators in late March after the county decided to suspend payments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect upon its revenue stream.

The legislature did authorize voluntary distribution payments to towns and villages on April 24 ($3.025 million) and on July 22 ($1.1 million).

County Manager Matt Landers said that the April distribution was money “originally planned, pre-COVID” while the July payment was made and the proposed current distribution will be made after “month-by-month reviews, recommendations and decisions going forward.”

The latest proposed payments (subject to a vote by the full legislature on Aug. 26) are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama -- $79,106;
  • Town of Alexander -- $81,708;
  • Town of Batavia -- $341,998;
  • Town of Bergen -- $98,996;
  • Town of Bethany -- $82,082;
  • Town of Byron -- $94,960;
  • Town of Darien -- $197,872;
  • Town of Elba -- $73,874;
  • Town of Le Roy -- $165,332;
  • Town of Oakfield -- $61,130;
  • Town of Pavilion -- $109,162;
  • Town of Pembroke -- $200,050;
  • Town of Stafford -- $126,390;
  • Village of Alexander -- $14,732;
  • Village of Bergen -- $37,864;
  • Village of Corfu -- $26,846;
  • Village of Elba -- $21,500;
  • Village of Le Roy -- $145,194;
  • Village of Oakfield -- $41,204;
  • Total Distribution -- $2,000,000.
July 19, 2020 - 6:35pm

Whether you call it cooperation, consolidation or collaboration, the concept of municipalities engaging in shared services agreements likely will become a hot ticket item as time goes on.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said he believes New York State leaders increasingly will look favorably upon counties, cities, towns and villages that pool their resources toward a goal of more efficient government.

And in this period of COVID-19 -- the cause of game-changing reductions in revenues, Gsell agrees that sharing services are more crucial than ever.

“Realistically, yes, I think they are -- at least to have that kind of notification back to the state that here are the things we’re considering,” he said, following the submission of the county’s 2019 shared services plan to the Genesee County Legislature for possible adoption this week.

Currently, Genesee County is contemplating shared services opportunities in the areas of criminal justice/law enforcement, water systems, weights and measures, procurement and real property assessment with its partner municipalities as well as neighboring counties.

After the county held three public hearings as required by law, its Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of the plan, which, upon approval, would be forwarded to the Department of State, Genesee Association of Municipalities and eight local school districts.

The resolution is on the agenda of the full legislature's meeting this Wednesday.

Gsell said this is the county’s second shared services proposal in accordance with the state’s “soft mandate” (the first was submitted in 2018).

The new plan prioritizes two projects: county assistance with the City of Batavia’s upgraded water system and a joint Genesee/Orleans county jail to replace the current jail on West Main Street.

He said that he sees these two ventures as prime candidates for state funding under the shared services program – as long as funding continues to be made available.

“By helping the City improve its water system – which it already is addressing in the areas of lead services and new water meters -- it can revert to retail,” Gsell said. “With that in place, we can help make sure that all the rates across the county are uniform.”

As far as building a new jail, Gsell said Genesee County has a designed facility (near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road) ready to go out to bid, but is on a temporary pause due to the coronavirus.

“One of us builds it, the other one hosts their inmates and we have a longstanding funding agreement to do that,” he said.

Gsell said the state needs to get on board to make it work.

“The state, itself, needs to be engaged and involved and make the changes to state statute,” he said. “So, we’ll put that on their radar screen.”

He said officials from both counties have talked to people in the governor’s office in Albany about moving the shared services agreement forward.

“We’ve told them that we’re thinking about this (and said) are you people going to be more than just standing on the sidelines or will you be progressive with us, when and if it gets put into a state budget?” he said.

Gsell said that the jail project was in the governor’s budget at one point but was left out when the 2020-21 final state budget was adopted.

“But that doesn’t mean it is a dead issue … it’s something that our two counties think is at least something to do more than just kick the tires on,” he said.

He added that this type of a “significant first-of-its-kind in the State of New York venture might also attract some funding to actually make it happen.”

The shared services plan also includes school resource officers.

At the present time, the county supports a police presence at Alexander, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion, Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (Board of Cooperative Educational Services -- BOCES). Le Roy and Batavia school districts have SRO (School Resource Officer) agreements outside of the scope of the county.

“With SROs, some of the schools may not have a physical presence the way it has been in the past, so where does the SRO go in the future?” he asked. “We believe that it is pretty vital in the day-to-day function of a school system, but it may not be afforded. As schools continue to utilize SROs, it could be done as part of the state’s shared services program.”

July 15, 2020 - 5:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

Update: 7:45 p.m. with comments from Rochelle Stein, County Legislature chair

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon approved $1.1 million in voluntary distributions to the county’s towns and villages.

The measure will now go to the full legislature for final approval at next Wednesday’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

According to the resolution, the payments are being made “in good faith” despite “the unprecedented financial constraints that Genesee County faces in determining a voluntary distribution.”

The amount of the payments, which are based upon taxable assessed valuation, are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama, $43,508.30;
  • Town of Alexander, $44,939.40;
  • Town of Batavia, $188,098.90;
  • Town of Bergen, $54,447.80;
  • Town of Bethany, $45,145.10;
  • Town of Byron, $52,228.00;
  • Town of Darien, $108,829.60;
  • Town of Elba, $40,630.70;
  • Town of Le Roy, $90,932.60;
  • Town of Oakfield, $33,621.50;
  • Town of Pavilion, $60,039.10;
  • Town of Pembroke, $110,027.50;
  • Town of Stafford, $69,514.50;
  • Village of Alexander, $8,102.60;
  • Village of Bergen, $20,825.20;
  • Village of Corfu, $14,765.30;
  • Village of Elba, $11,825.00;
  • Village of Le Roy, $79,856.70;
  • Village of Oakfield, $22,662.20.

"This proves that we are being true to our commitment that there is an intention to share when we gain information," Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said. "We said that there are four things that we have to understand before we can send out any distribution, and we learned one of them -- sales tax and other revenue that has or hasn't been adjusted by the state. That is so important."

Stein said the total of $1.1 million is "a step in the right direction," especially in light of the fact that state aid for the county's mental health services, highway improvement fund and video lottery terminal revenue each were cut by 20 percent.

"We've asked the town and village leaders every Saturday to stick with us and have patience," she said. "We can make a better decision when we have facts. We are holding up to our word and we are doing what we can, when we can."

Stein, in late March, advised town and village leaders that the county couldn't abide by the current distributuion schedule due to COVID-19 and the state being "on pause," stating at the time that "the county would not be able to write checks that we could not cash.”

Action by the legislature to cancel distribution agreements from 2018 and 2019 caused quite a stir among leaders of the municipalities that also were facing serious budget problems.

Assistant County Manager L. Matthew Landers said the distribution is "an amount that the legislature feels is safe for the county to make and prudent for the county to make at this point in time, considering there are still a lot of unknowns."

Landers mentioned the uncertainty surrounding the four measurement points that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put in place to possibly cut state aid, although two of them – April 30 and June 30 – have come and gone.

He said the board has continues to wait and see if another federal stimulus package will be passed, which would factor in concerning the amount and/or frequency of future distributions. 

Landers to Replace Gsell as County Manager

In other action, the committee recommended the appointment of Landers to replace Jay Gsell as the county manager, effective Aug. 15 – the day after Gsell’s scheduled retirement date following 27 years of service.

Landers, an Elba Central School graduate, has been employed by the county for 16 years, serving as Deputy Treasurer for 10 years before taking his current position.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and master’s degree in Public Administration from Brockport State College.

A longtime Kiwanis Club member, Landers, 43, and his wife, Melissa, reside in Batavia with their two children, Kaitlyn, 14, and Benjamin, 10. He is active as a girls' softball coach and league official.

His base salary is set at $120,000, plus longevity.

The full legislature also will vote on this resolution next Wednesday.

June 17, 2020 - 9:20pm

Genesee Community College President James Sunser couldn’t have used a more appropriate word than “retrenchment” while sharing the financial plight of the two-year institution with the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon.

Sunser and his staff were forced to implement large-scale retrenchment – the reduction of costs or spending in response to economic difficulty – to formulate a 2020-21 operating budget that takes into account an anticipated 30-percent reduction in aid from New York State.

And drafting a spending plan that compensates professors, teachers and staff while providing necessary student services will be a daunting task for quite some time, he said.

“Indications from the state are that these reductions should be planned for 2021-22 as well, so we’ll continue to work with bringing our budget into line,” Sunser said. “It is going to be, not surprisingly like it is for the county and all other groups, painful.”

Sunser emphasized that the dilemma isn’t due to “deficiencies on the part of the staff or the faculty … but, unfortunately, it is going to require some substantial changes in what is going on at the college.”

The college’s Board of Trustees approved a $38.1 million budget for the next fiscal year that starts on Sept. 1, and that’s about 8 percent less than the target of $41.6 million (the amount of the 2019-20 budget).

Furthermore, around $2 million from the college’s reserves was used to balance this year’s budget, which may take another state aid hit in the fourth quarter.

County's share is $2,636,374

Genesee County has budgeted $2,636,374 for the second straight year for its sponsorship of the college, action that is subject to a public hearing scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 22 at the Old Courthouse. The Ways & Means Committee approved the date of the public hearing as well as the contribution.

Sunser said the county’s decision to not reduce its sponsorship is key to preventing further financial implications.

“We have had a number of conversations with the county about maintenance of effort,” he said. “Without maintenance of effort, it puts into play a number of additional considerations that SUNY (State University of New York) would impose on the college.”

Sunser said a multistep plan was put into place in order to “deal with the deficits coming from the state” and achieve the $38.1 million mark.

“Currently, the state is suggesting that next year’s budget for the college will include a 30-percent reduction in state aid. Obviously, when your operation is labor-intensive – we teach and we support students to get through their academic programs – you’re not going to be able to go through that without having some type of adjustments made,” he explained.

He outlined some of the cost-cutting measures:

-- Freezes of travel and training;
-- Deferral of capital projects, other than critical maintenance issues;
-- Deferrals of a printer purchase replacement, office supplies, contractual services, facility improvements;
-- Freeze on hiring of adjunct professors.

Salaries to be Frozen in 2020-21

He also indicated that to close an additional $2 million budget gap during the course of the 2020-21 fiscal year, significant cuts in salaries and positions have to be realized.

“We have looked at instituting management confidential pay freezes. We have two collective bargaining units on the campus – one is our combined faculty/administrative group and the other is our CSEA group,” he said. “We negotiated with both of those groups to take pay freezes so everybody will be on a pay freeze for the 2020-21 year – and that was approved by both unions.”

Beyond that, management negotiated with the faculty/administration union to give notice to employees who are going to be retrenched (or laid off). Sunser said the union approved a period of Oct. 31-Dec. 31 for retrenchments, and that will result in savings of eight months’ worth of potential salaries.

He also said a process of involuntary retrenchments to close the rest of the gap has begun, with notifications going out to the Civil Service group by July 1 with a July 31 retrenchment, and by Oct. 31 with a Dec. 31 retrenchment for the unionized faculty/administration group.

Employee retrenchment is a cost-cutting tool for businesses or organization to use in times of economic hardship – a form of dismissal due to no fault of workers. Retrenched employees are eligible for compensation along the lines of severance pay, money equal to annual leave or time off, and notice pay, and also may file for unemployment insurance.

There’s more, Sunser said, as the Board of Trustees approved a voluntary retirement incentive beyond stipulations in existing contracts with the unions.

“Through that retirement incentive we have realized 23 voluntary retirements,” he said. “Those are going to be occurring as of July 31, so that will help close that gap (in state aid) that we’re anticipating in the last month of the current year."

Programs of study are under review as well, and some may be discontinued.

“We’re talking about a 41 and a half million dollar budget that’s going to be about five million dollars less by the end of next year,” he said, “and there’s no way of doing that without involuntary retrenchments, which is unfortunate, but that where we find ourselves.”

College Tuition is Increasing

Donna Ferry, a member of the Board of Trustees, reported that tuition has been increased (to $4,550 for New York State residents) for 2020-21, but “GCC still is the second lowest in the state across the board as far as tuition (for two-year colleges).”

She also said that the present uncertainty could result in lower enrollment next year, but “the team is working really hard to get those numbers up.” Enrollment (full- and part-time) as of the Fall 2019 semester was 5,324.

Legislators Gary Maha and Rochelle Stein commended Sunser and his staff for going through the unpleasant process, with the former placing the blame squarely on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“It is nobody’s fault but Albany’s fault, in my opinion,” Maha said. “It’s the governor’s indiscriminate spending. He’s something like $13 million in debt and we all have to suffer.”

Stein said the college’s budget process was “thoughtful, transparent and clear,” and pointed out that the “communications piece of this is very critical to our community, to your staff, to your teachers, to your professors, to the support staff and to our partners in our other counties.”

Sunser thanked the collective bargaining groups for their concessions, attributing that to a “level of trust” during negotiations.

“We had very candid conversations about … how many more people that might not be able to be at the college and they stepped up, I believe, as responsible leaders and advocated with the bargaining unit groups to go ahead and approve these things -- especially the notification claims,” he said.

June 3, 2020 - 9:29pm

chad_klotzbach_.jpgChad Klotzbach of Basom has been selected to replace John Hilchey as the District No. 1 representative (Alabama and Oakfield) on the Genesee County Legislature.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon unanimously approved the appointment pursuant to the county’s Local Law No. 1, 1967. The term takes effect on June 10 – when Klotzbach is expected to be sworn in at a meeting of the full legislature – and runs through Dec. 31.

Klotzbach was endorsed by both the Town of Alabama and Oakfield Republican committees at meetings last month.

 “I’ve been interested in this type of service for a while after learning about the inner workings (of government) through my involvement with the (Town of Alabama) planning board and STAMP (Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) in the Town of Alabama,” Klotzbach said.

A 2006 Oakfield-Alabama Central School graduate, Klotzbach is managing partner of Alleghany Farm Services in Basom, a family business started by his father, Drew, in the early 1980s. The company specializes in commercial construction site work and agricultural drainage across New York State.

Klotzbach earned his civil engineering degree from Clarkson University in Potsdam, where he was a competitive swimmer, before obtaining a master in business administration degree from Canisius College in Buffalo.

Currently, he is a member of the Town of Alabama Planning Board that is in the middle of a zoning update.

Asked to introduce himself at the Zoom meeting, Klotzbach, 31, said he interacts with residents of the district on a regular basis through his business and the planning board.

“I’ve done a lot of surveys and chatting with people in the town, so I have a pretty good status of what is going on in the town at the moment, what the forward thoughts are and where people want to see it going,” he said.

Klotzbach also said he enjoys working with and encouraging young entrepreneurs in the area.

“Just as it’s super important to bring in new businesses to the county, I also think it’s a better idea to foster and kind of encourage the students that we have – the younger people – to build their businesses and mentor them.”

The vacancy on the board was created when Hilchey resigned from the position on May 14, citing “risks of possible negative impact upon his employer.”

The District No. 1 seat will be up for election in November, which gives Klotzbach and any others interested in serving on the legislature, an opportunity to get on the ballot.

November's victor would serve in 2021 and then -- provided that he or she wishes to continue -- would run again in November 2021 when that seat goes for a four-year term.

In other action, the committee:

-- Approved an agreement between the county and Prospect Hill Consulting LLC of Buffalo to coordinate a Comprehensive Planning Process and create a County Recreation plan.

The project is designed to foster interagency cooperation and a smooth flow of information, starting with the vision of community residents about land use and developing into a policy that can be monitored by the legislature, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said.

Oltramari said the $100,000 project will be funded by a $40,000 award the county received in 2019, along with a $45,000 cash match from a previously established county project to create the County Recreation Plan and a $15,000 in-kind contribution.

Legislator Chair Rochelle Stein said she is excited about the prospects of working with Prospect Hill Consulting, which she said will “provide a youthful look at the county and our natural resources.”

“I can not wait for them to meet with our leadership partners – the towns, villages and city – to bring us into 2050,” she said. “It’s going to be a tremendous task, but the plan will make a big difference in Genesee County.”

-- Approved a retail lease agreement between the Town of Bergen and the Monroe County Water Authority for the operation and maintenance of the town’s Water Improvement Benefit Area No. 1.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said authorization by the legislature is required in agreements such as this one, adding that this will enable the town to have the “paperwork to get their district going.”

Residents using water in the new benefit area are subject to the full surcharge to the County Water Fund per a water supply agreement with the Town of Bergen dated June 13, 2018, Hens said.

-- Approved a 2.3 percent raise for Jay Lazarony, the GLOW Workforce Development Board manager, retroactive to April 1. The $1,508 increase bumps his salary to $66,271 and is covered by the GLOW WDB. County Manager Jay Gsell said that no county funds have ever been allocated to the organization.

-- Commended Legislative Clerk Pamela LaGrou following a review of the administrative office.

“We’re extremely pleased to have you sitting in that seat (at the Old Courthouse) and minding the fort for us,” Stein said.

May 20, 2020 - 7:31pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, COVID-19, Ways & Means Committee.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers provided a snapshot of the current financial status of Genesee County government tonight and, although the complete picture has yet to develop, it does present a clear view that steps being taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic are resulting in significant cost savings.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means videoconference meeting, Landers projected that the county will be $1.4 million on the plus side before any potential state aid and sales tax losses are considered.

“When you take into consideration about $800,000 on the departmental level and an additional $600,000 through various measures and means, we’re looking at possibly about $1.4 million to the good,” Landers said. “These are all pre-state cuts and pre-sales tax implications as well, and doesn’t have mortgage tax figured in – and that could be another $100,000 or so.”

Landers reported information received from department heads and County Treasurer Scott German as the basis for his forecast.

“In general, what got reported back to us … in essence, the savings on a departmental level are about $800,000 on their budgets through the course of the year and going forward, projecting out,” he said.

He said departmental revenues would decline by $1.5 to $1.6 million for the year, but expenses will be down about $2.4 million for the year – resulting in the $800,000 savings.

“A large chunk of that is the jail, which has significant savings,” he offered. “They’re looking at roughly a net savings of $370,000, primarily from not boarding out, medical savings, food savings. They budgeted boarding out males and females and, obviously, they’re not boarding anybody out.”

Beyond that, Landers said the county health department’s preschool (ages) 3-5 program will see a savings of $308,000 as schools have been closed. This program primarily consists of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and other programming.

Moreover, the county’s hiring freeze and furlough strategies are on track to produce savings of $236,000 and $160,000, respectively, he said.

Landers said that additional revenue is expected in tax foreclosure properties ($131,000), contingency costs not utilized ($35,000), forfeited bail ($25,000) and delaying of projects ($100,000), which more than offset losses in interest earnings ($100,000) and Western Regional Off-Track Betting revenue ($35,000).

“At this point in time, I’m happy to see that we’re a million-four to the good versus a million-four to the bad … but we’re really at a wait-and-see situation right now until we can really see what is going to happen with the state reimbursement on state aid, the sales tax money and (federal) stimulus four,” he said.

Landers also said that a fourth federal stimulus package to help states and local governments would make paint a much brighter picture for the county.

“If we receive a windfall of money to help offset our sales tax losses, the ripple effect is huge because that would also mean that the state is receiving something else,” he said. “And it would not need to give a pass-down, devastating state aid cut that could be from a couple million to seven or eight million dollars they could hit us with.”

County Manager Jay Gsell advised the committee that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has three state budget “measurement periods” at his disposal.

The first (the month of April) has already passed but an announcement is “imminent,” Gsell said, and the others are May 1 through June 30, and July 1 through the end of the year.

He said that negotiations are taking place at the federal level in regard to another stimulus package, expressing the opinion that the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives will not pass as presented.

“That does not look like that (HEROES Act) is going anywhere,” he said. “Our NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) people last night were telling us that looks like it is strictly a negotiating standpoint, and not a viable piece of federal legislation.”

Gsell said if a bill that is acceptable to both the House and Senate does materialize it likely won’t happen until June.

In a related financial development, the committee forwarded a resolution authorizing County Treasurer Scott German to distribute mortgage tax money to the City of Batavia, towns and villages – an amount totaling $388,967.72 – as follows:

-- City of Batavia, $103,929.86;
-- Town of Alabama, $7,911.34;
-- Town of Alexander, $15,902.45;
-- Town of Batavia, $46,467.74;
-- Town of Bergen, $14,956.42;
-- Town of Bethany, $7,929.85;
-- Town of Byron, $18,118.73;
-- Town of Darien, $31,923.49;
-- Town of Elba, $9,388.03;
-- Town of Le Roy, $33,675.72;
-- Town of Oakfield, $13,118.74;
-- Town of Pavilion, $16,232.73;
-- Town of Pembroke, $31,468.05;
-- Town of Stafford, $18,986.41;
-- Village of Alexander, $1,649.66;
-- Village of Attica, $565.80;
-- Village of Bergen, $1,998.11;
-- Village of Elba, $1,154.38;
-- Village of Le Roy, $9,670.41;
-- Village of Oakfield, $2,021.87;
-- Village of Corfu, $1,897.

The total is more than $126,000 that was distributed as the first payment of 2019 and the most for the same time period in the last eight years.

May 6, 2020 - 8:13pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, Ways & Means Committee, County Legislature.

Genesee County legislators are making it clear to their constituents that there is “no joy in Mudville” after having to strike out previously approved revenue distribution payments to towns and villages due to the financial devastation caused by COVID-19.

The Ways & Means Committee today, via Zoom videoconferencing, supported a new resolution that immediately rescinds measures passed in 2018 and 2019 that authorized the county treasurer to make annual payments – in quarterly amounts – to the towns and villages.

It will now be forwarded to the full legislature for voting, likely at its May 13th meeting.

“The members of the legislature do not take this move lightly,” Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg said. “These circumstances are really something that nobody could have foreseen. Hopefully, they’ll be limited in scope and we’ll get through this and we won’t have a go-around again, but we don’t even know if that’s the case right now.”

Clattenburg emphasized that legislators will stay in contact with town and village officials, adding that “when we are able to get back to them with some more revenue sharing, we will certainly have those conversations.”

The resolution refers to the sacrifices the county has had to make through this crisis, including: the elimination of multiple capital projects and asset acquisitions; instituting a hiring freeze; furloughing many (currently 48) employees; and cutting contracts and agreements with outside agencies.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said they have no choice but to stop the payments until further notice in light of the uncertainty surrounding any aid from the federal or state government.

“Our responsibility is to stay abreast of the situation of where the revenue is coming from,” she said. “The county treasurer has been authorized to make these payments without any further action from the county legislature, and that is the purpose for rescinding these – to remove that authority from the treasurer. We understand that the COVID impact could be with us until 2024 and I think that we’re being generous with that timeframe right now.”

County Manager Jay Gsell cited a report released today by the New York State Association of Counties that, he says, points to “very severe and drastic prospects in the loss of sales tax and state aid.”

The report, Gsell said, predicts that Genesee County could lose from $4.2 million to $9.9 million in sales tax and from $3.3 million to $8.4 million in state aid depending upon the gravity of the economic condition at the state level.

“This is truly not a good 'new normal' but it is something we’re going to have to deal with,” Gsell said. “One of the small glimmers may or may not be federal stimulus 4.0. The U.S. Congress and the President effectuating what we know at the moment does include resources for state, counties, cities, towns and villages -- and that our state senators are solidly behind -- (would help to alleviate the local situation).”

Legislators John Hilchey and John Deleo agreed with the latest action.

“In light of the pandemic now, we can’t fulfill our obligations to those two resolutions of 2018 and 2019 and this gives us a chance to reset with us rescinding until further notice,” Hilchey said. “It’s something we have to do to get out from the obligations of those prior resolutions.”

Deleo said dealing with the potential cuts along with state mandates is discouraging.

“The thing is, we’ve always been very thrifty and frugal, and this is definitely unforeseen and this is going to hurt,” he said. “Now to have this thrusted upon us. With all the mandates that New York State kept throwing on us and now they’re going to cut even more, this is going to be one hell of a ride.”

Clattenburg said that municipalities have entered an “age of austerity … that needs to be across every level of government.”

“I think it needs to be in school districts, our towns and villages and in city budget. The recognition (must be realized) that for a lot of people life has changed dramatically. People are losing jobs and they might not get back those same jobs.”

For Stein, it’s a matter of the legislature living up to its obligations in the most effective fashion.

“We are sharing everything we that we know and being honest and transparent,” she said. “Our responsibility in the county is to provide public health and public safety and emergency operations here, and we are taking care of those responsibilities on behalf of the entire population and communities of Genesee County.”

April 15, 2020 - 8:46pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, COVID-19, Ways & Means Committee.

 Update: April 16, 10:30 a.m.

County Manager Jay Gsell said that of the nine cases that are being evaluated, none of them are due to a county employee being infected with the coronavirus.

"We have to have these policies in place because the federal and state legislation require us to be able to notify employees that deal with a circumstance that either somebody can't come to work or is caring for an individual or is in the protocol due to isolation or quarantine because they came in contact with a person who might be positive or they themselves might be positive," he said. "But the people that we're presently dealing with -- none of them at this point had a positive test as far as being a county employee and therefore being in the much more heightened County Health Department C-19 protocol."


Genesee County management, taking its cue from recent state and federal laws that protect workers stricken by the coronavirus, has developed a COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Policy to cover its employees.

The policy is effective retroactively to March 18, the date that both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Trump signed into law measures that provide emergency paid leave benefits.

“I think we have nine cases right now that we’re evaluating …,” Human Resources Director Anita Cleveland reported on Wednesday to the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee.

Committee members approved a resolution establishing the policy and sent it to the full legislature for a final vote at its April 22 meeting.

The NYS COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law guarantees job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19, while the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act creates two new emergency paid leave requirements -- the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

The new federal statutes allow certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 (effective April 1).

Cleveland said the local policy combines provisions of both the state and federal statutes, with her department charged with evaluation on a “case-by-case basis.”

“When we know of somebody being out, we’re sending them a letter and asking them to return the application along with documentation and then we’re reviewing that across each law to see what they qualify for,” she said. “We’re having them use their sick time at this point and if they qualify, we will go in and adjust them to the appropriate law that they fall under.”

When asked whether any of the affected employees are new and have no sick time, Cleveland said that was not the case.

“Most have had leave credits so they can use some kind of a leave credit, whatever the contract allows, and then we will be reimbursing them if they qualify,” she said.

County Manager Jay Gsell said he sees the policy as additional support to an already substantial benefit package.

“What this is, really for a lot of employers unlike county governments and local governments that don’t have a lot of leave benefit credits and things of that nature, this is a floor underneath a lot of people who because of the illness and the protocols that are established for determining a direct relationship, guarantees the employees something that they normally wouldn’t get,” he said.

“We have a fairly adroit and rich benefit package that includes paid sick leave already, but we have to adapt into this just in case – such as somebody who just started with us and came down with it.”

Cleveland noted that in most cases, employees would get up to a maximum of 80 hours depending upon the number of hours they work in a week.

“And depending on what the issue is – if it’s a child care issue – they actually would get two-thirds pay and they can supplement that with leave credits,” she said.

The county policy was crafted by its labor and relations attorneys, using guidance from the state Department of Labor, Cleveland said.

“Once the Department of Labor releases their forms, we will use their forms. But in the meantime, we’ve created our own by using their guidance – which changes daily,” she said, adding that the law will be in effect through the end of this year.

On another front, Gsell said he is waiting to hear from New York State leaders concerning the distribution of $1.6 billion in federal money “that is literally in Albany, part of which has our name on it, and I mean all 57 counties.”

“We have heard little or nothing as far as the State of New York is concerned as to what they’re going to do with what I believe is a required benefit to the counties to the tune of $1.6 billion, including the City of New York,” he said. “It’s not some kind of (money to be used at the) governor’s discretion.”

Gsell said the state is receiving $5.26 billion in Medicaid aid from the first and second federal stimulus bills and $1.6 billion of that is earmarked for county governments who are paying Medicaid weekly shares (such as Genesee).

“We need to see what the plan looks like as we make all these contingency plans for our county government to survive going into the next two quarters and what we will see likely as changes in our sales tax proceeds,” Gsell continued. “It is disappointing that the counties are not getting that kind of clarity and understanding what the plan is for that benefit to be derived into our budget.”

On another resolution, Ways & Means voted in favor of a measure establishing a pair of capital projects -- a highway department fire alarm system for $97,161 and a 5130 Main St. alarm control panel for $15,000 – to be funded by the 1 percent sales tax.

April 15, 2020 - 5:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, COVID-19, Ways & Means Committee, County Legislature.

Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit reported a bit of welcome good news related to local COVID-19 trends at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee videoconferencing meeting.

“If you look at the (tracking system) mapping around you can see that although our cases climbed collectively, our active cases are actually trending downward,” Pettit said. “That is a great sign as you’ve probably seen that in the numbers that we’ve had, where last week we were pushing eight to 10 to 11 (active cases) a day and this week it’s 1, 2, 3.”

Pettit said he is “very proud” of the department’s tracking system. (See daily update story below.)

“I’ve compared it to some of our neighboring counties and around the state, and we’re able to provide great data for folks in both our counties. We have the confirmed case layer and the active case layer,” he said.

The director was in attendance to advance a resolution showing that the NYS Department of Health has awarded the Genesee County Health Department funding in the amount of $27,883 for COVID-19 investigations, data management, overtime, quarantine support and supplies.

The resolution was passed unanimously by Ways & Means and will go to the full legislature for a final vote.

This money comes on the heels of $67,490 in state funding that was received a couple weeks ago.

While grateful for state assistance, Pettit said his department has been unable to acquire the amount of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that it needs.

“We’re still terribly short, unfortunately. We’re working with emergency management closely; there is a little bit of flow coming through there (with) some reports of levels of PPE coming in for this Friday.”

He said it is a percentage of what the department has been ordering but “it still pales in comparison to what we have asked for and what we really need.”

County Manager Jay Gsell concurred, adding that finding PPE is a statewide problem.

“Our county EMO (Emergency Management Office) people have been constantly, constantly making inquiries, and asking and asking repeatedly,” Gsell said. “The state controls all this. Where is it? When is it coming here? They’ll just tell us that they’ve got tons of hand sanitizer. That’s about what it is.”

Gsell said that the county has been working with United Memorial Medical Center and other sources to get testing kits, but is getting no answers from the state Office of Emergency Management when it comes to PPE.

Pettit said the health department is fully staffed at this point (the legislature authorized additional employees through the crisis), and acknowledged a “lot of overtime, especially on the weekends with our nursing level and epidemiologists.”

He credited other Genesee County departments for assisting his agency, including county employees who are helping to drive health officials to the daily mandatory checks on those in quarantine and isolation.

“There are some tired eyes and a lot of yawning, and we’ve been going through a lot of coffee here at the health department, but beyond that we’re holding together,” Pettit said. “It’s a group effort and people are doing a great job in tracing down these contacts and containing them, which is the ultimate goal.”

In a related development, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she signed an extension to Genesee County’s State of Emergency declaration to be in effect until May 12, as per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order.

April 1, 2020 - 9:06pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, County Legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc at all levels of government, producing a degree of uncertainty that has municipal leaders frozen in their tracks.

If that’s not enough, tack on a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shift funding of hospitals and nursing homes to the counties – a potential move that, according to Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, would devastate the county budget.

“If the state gets to go down this road, we could be in a world of hurt that we haven’t seen from the days when we owned the (Genesee County) nursing home and were financing deficits,” Gsell said during this afternoon’s County Legislature Ways & Means Committee meeting, which was live-streamed by Zoom on YouTube.

Calling it a “switcheroo that the governor has pulled,” Gsell reported to the committee that mandating county funding of “distressed hospitals and nursing homes” could be a way New York State generates more revenue – by taking more of counties’ sales tax – without having to increase the burden on counties already obligated to fund Medicaid.

“I’m not really sure where this came from,” said Gsell, adding that Genesee County is on board with the New York State Association of Counties’ plea to state lawmakers to reject proposals that would undo local Medicaid caps and result in higher property taxes for struggling homeowners or cuts to vital local services.

Gsell said it is essential that state legislators accept the $6.7 billion in new federal healthcare funding included in the first stimulus package – action intended to help states and local governments through this public health crisis.

He said the governor's proposal is a “backdoor way” of putting New York counties in a $250 million hole while attempting to plug a state budget gap that could reach $15 billion due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“To involve us in two fiscal entities and, obviously, vital services that we have no control over, no veto or anything else – and we haven’t seen any of the details – is both scary as well as quite off the beaten path,” Gsell said.

The county manager acknowledged that things will be much clearer after the 2020-21 state budget is passed (it could happen at midnight tonight), but he and the county legislature still are taking an ultra-conservative approach when it comes to spending.

He said the county’s current budget calls for approximately $864,000 in outside agency funding, (not including Genesee Community College) for tourism promotion, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Genesee County Economic Development Center, public libraries, Holland Land Office Museum, GO ART! and Finger Lakes Regional Planning.

County Treasurer Scott German reported that the sales tax reserve stands at $1.1 million, and that money from the infrastructure reserve that was earmarked for the new county jail now has been put on hold.

Gsell confirmed that the county will revisit the jail project in the spring of 2021, noting that – due to the effect that the state’s bail reform law has had on jail population -- the plan to build a four-pod jail could be reduced to three pods. He also said they will be looking at the possibility of a shared-services arrangement with Orleans County.

The Ways & Means Committee also put the brakes on, at least temporarily, a $125,000 project to construct a building to house fuel trucks, mowing and facilities equipment and a grader at the Genesee County Airport.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said that the new building – which would replace a 70-year-old pole barn that is in “rough shape” – is necessary because wind and cold weather were causing the trucks’ fuel lines to freeze.

The project had been previously approved by the Public Service Committee and went out to bid, Hens said, adding that Thompson Builds came in as the low bidder at $109,000. That price was to build the frame and shell; county employees will be used to put down the concrete floor and do the electrical work.

Hens said he hoped the project would continue, but in light of the county’s fiscal situation, offered a second option: storing the fuel vehicles in a bay or two of new hangars that are set to be built this summer with money from a state grant.

In an effort to rein in expenses, Hens said he already has cut $600,000 from the 2020 budget by pulling back on capital projects and has deferred another $800,000 in projects scheduled for 2021.

Legislator Gary Maha said he thinks the building is needed, “but I don’t think it’s the right time to spend that kind of money.”

“We don’t know where we’re going to be when this whole thing is said and done,” he said. “We put a stop on the jail. The jail is needed, but we put a stop on that. And I think we need to put a stop on all capital projects until we know where we are budget-wise.”

Legislators Andrew Young and Rochelle Stein agreed, prompting Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg to request more information about construction costs and referring the project back to the Public Service Committee.

June 20, 2019 - 5:49pm

A new proposal was brought before the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for an I Love New York selfie sign on the lawn outside the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center at 8276 Park Road, Batavia.

It's one of the most recognizable logos of New York State. The iconic “I Love New York” letters and bright red heart are frequently seen on tourist souvenirs and apparel.

But its $47,000 price tag raised eyebrows at the meeting.

It would be paid for with bed tax reserves -- not by local taxpayers, according to Chamber President Tom Turnbull, who presented the preliminary design of the selfie sign to the Ways & Means Committee.

He sought the initial reactions of committee members as he spoke about the proposed I Love New York sign, which would showcase the logo with a semi-transparent background and backlighting.

The goal of the selfie sign is to attract visitors to Genesee County and draw tourists to the Visitor Center once they stop for a photo opportunity next to the sign. Similar selfie signs are currently featured at popular destinations like the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks.

“We think this will be a big hit for people … People are into taking pictures at places like that. We hope it will attract people to come inside our visitor center,” Turnbull said.

The chamber worked with Batavia-based companies like smartDESIGN Architecture and John’s Studio in the engineering and design processes.

The price includes design, construction and installation costs.

The bed tax revenue that would pay for it comes from a 5-percent administrative fee that is added to the price of a hotel room in Genesee County and collected annually by the county Treasurer’s Office.

Each year, bed tax revenue is capped at $420,000, and surplus funds are placed in a reserve.

The expected surplus total for 2019 is approximately $100,000, and $47,000 for the proposed sign would come from this surplus.

“The money is there," Turnbull said. "It’s dedicated for tourism, and we think this is a good use of some of that money. We can spruce up our property a little bit more and attract even more tourism to Genesee County.”

Legislators Andrew Young and Shelly Stein opined that $47,000 is a high price for this potential investment. Stein questioned the life expectancy of both the selfie-sign trend and the durability of the design in winter weather.

Turnbull said he is confident that the sign and its popularity will last well into the future.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said that the sign would most likely see a good amount of traffic in that area due to hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and Batavia Downs casino.

“I think we’ve got the funds," Clattenburg said to Turnbull. "And if your board is saying that this is something that is advantageous and you’ll see results from it, then I would support it."

The Chamber of Commerce received tentative permission from NYS Empire State Development to use its trademark logo. Approval of the project can occur once a finalized design has been agreed upon by the chamber and the legislature.

Now the chamber has a better sense of the legislators' thoughts on the project before it drafts a resolution asking for a portion of bed tax money to pay for it.

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