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At least four legislators leaning toward tightening purse strings on GCEDC

At one time, it seemed unthinkable that the Genesee County Legislature would cut or eliminate funding for the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

At a budget discussion Wednesday, Legislator Ray Cianfrini raised the topic and found at least some level of support from Frank Ferrando, Marianne Clattenburg and Annie Lawrence.

No action was taken, but the legislators agreed to discuss the topic further.

There is a budget hearing -- where the public will comment, but not legislators -- at 7 p.m., Thursday, at the Senior Center, as the county moves toward wrapping up its 2013 budget process.

"I want to go on the record that I am opposed to funding GCEDC to the tune of $215,000," Cianfrini said. "It's no secret, and I'm told, that they are planning bonuses again this year, or salary adjustments, or whatever they're going to call them. I'm vehemently opposed to this and I'm not even sure it's legal."

Ferrando said he agrees with Cianfrini's overall position, but wonders if a compromise position can be found.

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, has said the county share of funding is critical to meeting operational expenses for the industrial development agency.

Mary Pat Hancock expressed concern that a cut in funding might send the wrong message to potential businesses looking to set up shop in Genesee County, that it might signal that Genesee County doesn't want the business.

County Manager Jay Gsell said he knows businesses are sensitive to any perception that the county isn't committed to meeting their needs. He said when Pepsi and Alpina got wind of possible restraints on infrastructure spending, executives from those companies expressed concern.

So Ferrando's idea is that if the funding is truly essential to the GCEDC, set it aside in the budget, but don't give it to the agency until staff members come before the Ways and Means Committee and makes a case for specific expenditures.

Ferrando acknowledges that setting the money aside would mean it gets neither reallocated to other programs nor returned to taxpayers, at least for a year, but at least it mutes the perception that the legislature is funding bonuses for GCEDC executives.

"Right now, they are very successful in many ways," Ferrando said. "I'm very appreciative of what they're doing for our county, but if they don't need the money, we do need it now. That's the only point I'm trying to make. If there is some process where we can determine that they need it, then we give it to them. If they don't need it, we sure as heck do."

Clattenberg leaned more toward just ending the subsidy, Lawrence seemed to lean toward Ferrando's idea of having GCEDC make a case for funding when they need it.

After discussing another matter, the topic came up again and Hancock expressed reservations about cutting funding to the agency.

"Certainly, I see your concern, but to wash it right from under them and say no, I'm not so sure that would be a helpful message (to the business community)," Hancock said.

Legislator Robert Bausch noted that for 30 years the IDA existed and there was no controversy over bonuses to staff. It's only something that has come up in the past few years.

That's because, he said, for 30 years the IDA didn't do anything. Now it does. Now it is making things happen.

"They did nothing and you didn't incentivize them to do anything," Bausch said. "The first issue you have to address is that now they have incentives and they're doing something."

Hancock's advice to legislators when faced with constituents who complain about the bonuses and the county's funding share is to tell them that for every dollar the county puts into GCEDC, $16 is returned.

Lawrence noted that when the legislature met with the GCEDC board over the summer and expressed concern about how staff was compensated, the concerns largely fell of deaf ears.

"Yes, they're doing great things for our county and project a growing work force, but they have to come to a realize that here are the facts," Lawrence said. "It's dollars and taxes."

Legislator Shelly Stein, who now represents the legislature on the GCEDC board, said the county's issue with bonuses and funding hasn't fallen on deaf ears. Employment contracts are being renegotiated and she said she doesn't believe that next year bonuses will be paid. However, any bonuses that might be announced in early 2013 are for 2011 successes.

While Cianfrini said he supports GCEDC, the work they do and believes Hyde and team are doing a great job, he thinks cuts to their funding may need to come sooner rather than later.

"My recommendation is that we reduce their contribution by the amount that they pay out in bonuses or salary adjustments," Cianfrini said. "If they feel the necessity to pay out then they really don't need our money and the money can be allocated to other programs that need funding, or we adjust our tax rate."

Mark Potwora
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Glad to see that there are some legislators that listen to the people they represent....Ms Hancock on the other hand thinks that the people should be told to deal with it..Her quote..
Hancock's advice to legislators when faced with constituents who complain about the bonuses and the county's fund share is to tell them that for every dollar the county puts into GCEDC, $16 is returned..Just tell us that and we will be happy...Mr.Hyde's pay with bonus last year was more than what Gov. Coumo made...Now they are playing a game saying they are getting rid of the bonus program but raising everybody's pay.. Ray Cianfrini , Frank Ferrando, Marianne Clattenburg and Annie Lawrence. should be commended for this move...Ms.Hancock has been there to long and needs to be replaced...If the people want it cut out of the budget then so be it..Its not what Ms.Hancock wants..
Gsell wants to raise the tax rate ..cut jobs at the nursing home ..add a health educator..hand out 1.5% raises...But not cut the GCEDC funding...I read a story a few weeks ago that called the Yogurt plant incentives a waste of tax money..The Pepsi yogurt project ranked No. 24 out of 100 on a government list for 2012 .
In an entry titled “Corporate welfare for the world’s largest snack food maker,” Sen .Coburn points out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce are spending more than $1.3 million to help PepsiCo Inc. build a Greek yogurt factory in Genesee County............

Kevin Squire
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The GCEDC "need's" the $215,00 from the county......What was the total amount & distribution of the last bonuses paid out......and the budget for the next round of bonuses ?

John Roach
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Good to see a change start in thinking. And pleased to see that for the first time Frank Ferrando is looking a cutting cost. He and legislators Lawerence, Cianfrini, Clattenburg, should be supported.

Notice how two city legislators, Ferrando and Clattenburg, think we should hold down cost, but the other, and the only Democrat, Ed DeJaneiro remains silent as usual? Time to consider replacing him next year with a primary or a Republican?

But, lets see how much support the four cost cutters get. Lets see how many people will get off their butts and go to the hearing, or just stay home and whine. Sure, not everyone can get there, but I know some can, so lets see who will back up their words.

I know that some veterans are planning to speak up over their concerns, but they are use to doing the heavy lifting.

Kyle Couchman
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John while I know we disagree on quite a lot I see that we are of the same thinking on this issue...

I plan to attend this and speak my peace. I have seen some good ideas here and they are sparking more. Where exactly is this meeting taking place?

John Roach
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The Senior Center in downtown Batavia. It's next to the Y.

Dave Meyer
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Let me start by saying that it's good to see the development that's taking place as a result of the GCEDC's efforts. The area needs the jobs that these project will create.

That having been said, what they're doing is THEIR JOB. That's what they get PAID FOR - and handsomely paid at that.
To think that the board of this organization is so insensitive to the community's feelings about this is shocking.
I'm pleased to see that some legislators are seeing the light on this.

I cannot afford to pay any more in taxes. My home is in the second ward and my total taxes last year were neary $6200. Should I pay additional taxes so that Steve Hyde can drive a Mercedes or an Audi while I drive a 2007 Malibu?

Nice job Steve (and the rest of the organization) but again...it's your job. I think you'll be able to survive on your base pay.

Kyle Couchman
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Here is my plan, I am going to research exactly how much was paid in bonuses vs what was given to them by the county in the past few years. Then bring up the ideas mention in this article which had been rolling around in my head for a few months as well. The needs that GCEDC claim they need the money for, I thought it would be perfectly reasonable for them to document and request it dollar for dollar. Then we can support them with such as is needed. As long as it is reasonable.

Also the mention of businesses shying away if it appears we are reluctant to support GCEDC can be countered by publicizing our willingness to fund GCEDC for legitimate needs. As long as they account dollar for dollar we are getting our money's worth, not just throwing into bonuses for people who's salaries already put them in top county income brackets.

I dont think the GCEDC would be having such a hard time if it wasn't for their use of the local media to brag about how much in grants and how successful they are at making money for themselves and the county. As well as bragging about their bonuses, which it seems they will be curbing or through financial smoke and mirrors re-defining so as not to be so obvious.

As for Mary Pat Hancock, and her comment (and I quote)"Hancock's advice to legislators when faced with constituents who complain about the bonuses and the county's fund share is to tell them that for every dollar the county puts into GCEDC, $16 is returned." that shows some pretty careless feelings for what the constituents are concerned about. But my burning question is then... Ok 2010 you gave GCEDC $266,210 since plenty of time has gone by to realize the recovery of $16 for every $1 please show me in the 2011, 2012, or 2013 budget where we had a total of $4,259,360 for 2010 then add to it 2011 where you gave GCEDC 226,330.00 with a return of $3,621,280 for a grand total of $7,880,640 that we should have seen in 2012 or 2013's budgets. If not where do you get the 16-1 dollar ratio from?

bud prevost
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Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, has said the county share of funding is critical to meeting operational expenses for the industrial development agency.

Weren't the last round of bonuses in the ballpark of 200K? Thank you to the legislators who spoke up in opposition. I would like to know if my legislator, Shelley Stein, is also smart and opposed to additional GCEDC funding? And Ms. Hancock, you are totally out of touch with your constituents. I would guess a supermajority of them are also opposed to the trough you have helped set up for this quasi-governmental business.

John Roach
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Lets not forget the State did an audit of the GCEDC and said it was up to the County Legislature to fix the problems. And up to now, they have not done it.

By now we also know that our GCEDC head is the highest paid in the region, including Erie and Monroe counties.

You don't take money from the reserve funds to balance the budget but then give money to GCEDC that is not necessary. Business coming into the area will look to see if GCEDC is doing its job, not how much tax money they get to subsidize pay raises and bonuses. If they want tax money, the have to agree to freeze pay and eliminate bonuses, period.

Mark Potwora
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Kyle great points about the 16 to 1 dollar ratio....They should be accountable..The county appoints a board of directors for the GCEDC ....What is their thoughts on this...The county also pays into the state retirement fund for Mr.Hyde and the other that work at GCEDC.....
Great letter to the editor in todays paper...APOV: Investigate Genesee EDC..

Phil Ricci
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It should be about equality. If you're going cut funding, do it equally.

If you want to see real growth in business, lower your taxes organically by looking at things with real eyes. While I have a great deal of respect for the work Steve's team has done, artificial tax reduction is a band aid on a fractured bone.

Again, I see value in the GCEDC, and as long as the system works the way it does, they serve a role. That said, true economic growth comes when the conditions are allowed for true growth. That should be the long term plan.

John Roach
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Mark,
One of the points in the APOV letter is to attend the meeting tonight. If people don't care, then guess what?

Mark Brudz
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You hit a Homerun on that one Phil

Charlie Mallow
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Cutting the GCEDC might make you feel good but, it will hurt the county in the end. You might not like how the game is played but, if GC is the only place that is going to stop the practice, those jobs will go somewhere else.

John Roach
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Charlie,
The GCEDC is on very strong financial ground. It has no need for county tax money when the county has to reach into it reserves to fund the budget, lay off workers and now raiding the 1% sales tax that was supposed to be used ONLY for debt reduction and capital projects.
They are also going to the bond market.

If they could guaranty no pay raise and or bonuses, for this year, next year or for 2011, then fine. But they will not. Remember the State audit.

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