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Unfunded mandates are targeted

High on local officials' wish list for 2011 are relief from unfunded state mandates and the uncertainty of federal and state aid for local programs.

In recent weeks, the Genesee County Legislature and leading city and county officials have expressed concern about unfunded mandates from Albany adding to the burden borne by local taxpayers.

The Legislature has recently adopted two resolutions, one protesting the delays in state payments that forced the county to be temporary "loan officer" and mandates that without state funds have to be financed locally.

County Manager Jay A. Gsell said the next three fiscal years will be challenging at best and very likely austere, it not downright bleak." He cited the failure of the state to adopt a budget on time, the growing state debt and "unrelenting federal and state mandates against a flat county revenue profile."

Batavia City Manager Jason R. Molino added concerns about "exploding pension costs." He and City Council President Marianne Clattenburg are concerned about future budgets and the need for the city to "find creative ways to save money."

Some steps have been taken to merge services, the most recent being the county takeover of the city's Youth Bureau. Most notable was the consolidation of dispatch services for sheriff's deputies, the City of Batavia and Le Roy police departments. The City and Town of Batavia are also engaged in a three-year study on consolidation, which proponents of "One Batavia" claim could save $1 million a year.

City officials also object to a state-imposed cap on real property taxes unless it is accompanied by a reduction in state mandates that shift costs to local taxpayers. The tax cap, approved by the State Senate, would limit property tax levies to no more than 4 percent or 120 percent of the consumer price index, whichever is lower. Molino says such a cap without other changes would "significantly cripple the city financially," pointing as one example to a $360,000 increase in retirement costs over last year.

With Republicans about to enjoy more clout in Albany in 2011, the city and county are enlisting the help of local Assemblymen Stephen M. Hawley, R-Batavia, and Daniel J. Burling, R-Warsaw, for relief on behalf of local taxpayers.

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