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Better oversight of Batavia Business Improvement District budget is urged

BATAVIA – City Manager Jason A. Molino on Tuesday asked City Council to become more involved in the oversight of the Batavia Business Improvement District in light of concerns raised about the district’s budget management and compliance with general municipal law.

Molino said his review revealed that the downtown enhancement district’s 2016-17 budget had requested more funds than allowable by law, and has accrued a balance of more than $216,000 due to incorrect assessment charges from prior budgets.

“Despite being advised of these issues and the urgency to become compliant, the BBID board did not address the issues expeditiously and, as a result, the May 1 tax bills were issued with incorrect assessment charges,” Molino said.

Molino said that the city will hold on to the business district’s operational funds until its budget is amended to show that its assessment charge, excluding debt service, does not exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the district.

“We also found that (the $216,000) includes commingled capital funds that need to be separated, and capital funds should be turned over to the city until the district plan is updated and adopted by City Council,” Molino said.

His other recommendations include requiring the business district to adhere to open meetings and freedom of information laws, and to post its bylaws and meeting notices and minutes on its website.

Laurie L. Oltramari, director of the business district, speaking after the meeting, said she believes that the city is in breach of contract by withholding operational funds.

“They were supposed to give us our money on May 1. We feel that they should at least give us $55,000.” That would be the difference in what the business district budgeted and the amount allowed under general municipal law.

Oltramari said the business district is facing financial difficulties and, without the operational funds, may have to shut down in the near future. “We’re already looking at other spaces for a lower rent. We dropped the Summer in the City event, and we may have to let go of my assistant,” she said.

Molino said he hopes to set up a meeting of the business district board prior to the next Council meeting June 13.