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Merger of city and town is facing year's delay

The road to a merger of the City and Town of Batavia into "One Batavia" is facing a detour that may postpone an enabling referendum for one year.

In a letter to the Consolidated Charter Task Force, town officials expressed concerns about how a new charter is being drafted. The city is operated under a charter; the town is not.

Town Supervisor Gregory H. Post and others want the process started with "a blank sheet of paper." However, the original outline of "Creating One Batavia" had nine pages, including "what the task force can and cannot address."

It included a three-step "tiered taxing" that maintained the town's zero property tax rate. It also exempted the town from assuming any of the city's debt or paying for services now provided by the city.

That apparently is not enough for the Town Board and some residents. The task force is advising those interested in specifics to view the 35-page proposed charter online. Critics say that's not the way to sell a controversial issue and that people want a simple explanation of how it will affect them.

Voter approval depends on services, cost or savings of services, and added state aid for cities.

The City Council approved the draft charter a month ago after copies of the document were given to both governing boards. The Town Board wants its concerns clarified before it considers the charter.

Home-rule legislation from the state is required for what is believed to be the first city-town merger in the state. Thus, the required referendum in both municipalities will likely be postponed until November 2013.

That poses another problem: A $50,000 shared services agreement, a state grant that is funding the study and attorneys' fees, may run out of money.