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City of Batavia’s 2016-17 budget passes, but not without dissent

BATAVIA – City Council passed its 2016-17 budget, which calls for a miniscule tax hike, but not before three members of the board expressed their displeasure with proposals to increase pay for non-union, part-time and seasonal employees, and boost water rates and meter fees.

The $25.1 million spending plan includes revenues to be raised through the property tax levy of $5.1 million. The tax rate will move from $9.16 to $9.29 per thousand of assessed valuation – about $12 more for the entire year on a home assessed at $90,000.

Council members Kathleen Briggs, Paul L. Viele and Rose Mary Christian said they were looking for the tax rate to remain the same as 2015-16.

All three voted against the budget measure as well as a 2.75 percent pay raise for the city’s dozen non-union management workers and a 3 to 3.5 percent hourly raise for part-time and seasonal employees. Christian and Viele voted “no” to a 3.5 percent increase of water rates and meter fees.

John L. Canale, Adam M. Tabelski, Brooks M. Hawley, Patti Pacino and Eugene A. Jankowski Jr. voted in favor of all three proposals. Alfred McGinnis was absent.

“A 2.75 percent pay raise is too high, especially the way the economy is now,” Briggs said.

“I wanted to see a zero tax increase, and felt we could work on getting it there. But there was no compromise on the 2.75 percent … no give-and-take. It was one-sided.”

Viele acknowledged that city employees “work hard,” but added that “taxpayers need relief.”

Christian made her views known before each vote, calling the 2.75 percent wage increase “ridiculous.”

The city’s 2016-17 fiscal year begins on April 1.

In other action, the Council:

• Accepted a low bid of $1.02 million from Blue Heron Construction Co. of Jordan for the replacement of about 2,330 feet of sanitary sewer main on portions of Washington Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and State Street and the resurfacing of Washington Avenue. Work is scheduled to begin in May and take about four months to complete.

• Approved an inter-municipal agreement with the Town of Batavia to split the $340,000 local cost for the design, construction and inspection of the Ellicott Trail Project, a 4.6-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail that will travel through the city and town. A grant from the state Department of Transportation Transpiration Enhancements Program will cover the remainder of the $1.3 million projected cost.

Construction is expected to begin next year.

• Scheduled a public hearing for March 28 on a proposal to enact a local law to amend the city code to allow for property tax exemptions to home owners willing to invest to redevelopment inhibited and abandoned homes.

• Approved a new five-year lease – with a five-year renewal option – with Firland Management, operator of the Falleti Ice Arena on Evans Street. Firland’s annual lease payments to the city will increase from $20,000 in 2016-17 to $25,000 over the five years.