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With three votes against funding GCEDC, legislature approves 2013 budget

New version of what was originally posted at 9:45 p.m., Wednesday, to include more information.

On a 6-3 vote Wednesday, the Genesee County Legislature passed a 2013 budget that holds the line on property taxes, raises the pay for management and includes a $213,000 subsidy for GC Economic Development Center.

The three no votes came from legislators Ray Cianfrini, Frank Ferrando and Marianne Clattenburg, who all objected to the subsidy.

It's rare for members of the public to speak at regular meetings of the Genesee County Legislature. In fact, there is never a regular agenda slot for public comment, but last night one resident did show up and was permitted to speak.

Kyle Couchman (photo at right) was at the meeting to suggest the majority of the legislature is out of touch with the wishes of their constituents.

He pointed to a poll that ran on The Batavian that he said indicated 70 percent of county residents oppose continued funding for GCEDC.

"I find it a bit ridiculous that people would glaze it over," Couchman said.

Cianfrini (top photo) said he agreed with Couchman's assessment of voters' wishes.

"The public is overwhelmingly opposed to we as a legislature funding GCEDC while they continue to insist upon paying bonuses to their employees," Cianfrini said. "As a result of last week’s vote, it appears a majority of our legislators are not sensitive to the public’s mood on this matter."

Over the past few years, Cianfrini said, the legislature has made budget cuts that have cost county employees their jobs. Those job losses have meant hardships for individuals and families as former employees struggled to make ends meet, he said.

"Yet we continue to fund the Genesee County Economic Development agency with taxpayer dollars so that a few privileged employees can share in the astronomical bonuses the board of GCEDC continues to award," Cianfrini said.

Incoming GCEDC Board Chairman Charlie Cook has said previously that while employees will be paid bonuses based on 2012 performance measurements, as the board is contractually obligated to do, there will be no performance bonuses for 2013.

Ferrando (bottom inset photo) said the legislature should not give GCEDC a blank check. There should be some method for ensuring the funds from the county are being used appropriately.

"I do my best to listen to the constituents who put me here," Ferrando said. "Everything I hear, they object to funding GCEDC, at least without some strings attached."

For Clattenburg, who also opposes taxpayer money going to bonuses, the big issue is that while GCEDC has done a great job of driving business development in the county, none of GCEDC's efforts seems to be focused on the City of Batavia, which Clattenburg represents (along with Ferrando and Ed DeJaneiro).

"I don't think the focus on the city hasn't gone where it needs to go and that's where my constituents are," Clattenburg said. "I would hope that next year when this comes around I'll be able to support the GCEDC, but I can't do it this year."

None of the other legislators spoke up to defend their votes on the budget, though Esther Leadley did say, for the benefit of the first-year legislators, that if the budget didn't pass, the responsibility would fall to the county's budget officer (County Manager Jay Gsell).

"That means considerably more in terms of tax levy," Leadley said.

For 2013, the county's property tax rate will remain the same at $9.89 per thousand of assessed value.

The $144,980,450 spending plan represents a 2.2-percent increase over 2012, with much of the increase in spending driven by state mandates, especially in pensions and Medicaid.

The tax levy for 2013 will be $26,303,725, an increase of about 2 percent over 2012.

Pay raises for management were approved unanimously in a separate resolution vote.

The following positions will receive a 1.5 percent pay increase:

The following are elected officials and department heads in line for a salary increase of 1.5 percent next year:

  • County Manager Jay Gsell -- $1,551 raise for 2013 salary of $104,935;
  • Sheriff Gary Maha -- $1,374 raise for a salary of $94,957;
  • County Treasurer Scott German -- $1,282 raise for a salary of $87,377;
  • County Clerk Don Read -- $1,207 raise for a salary of $82,702;
  • County Attorney Charles Zambito -- $1,338 for a salary of $91,338.

Listen:

John Woodworth JR
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Why does the GCEDC need subsidy? Especially, after the bonues they received last year? They bring in some much into Genesee County.

RICHARD L. HALE
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As Gomer Pyle would say..."Surprise...surprise....Gooooooolly"

Kyle Couchman
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I made that point John as well as others like the fact that the Gcedc's little cheering section must think very little of the people they represent by voting to continue funding them. I also pointed out how they ignored the option of not removing the funding but making them apply to ways and means and show cause. I'm sure Howard will cover it in the morning. I also mentioned the poll results we had on the gcedc issue.

John Roach
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John W.,
They don't need the money. This money just helps subsidize the bonuses and the highest pay rates for this type of operation in all of WNY, higher than Erie or Monroe counties pay. There was a State audit that said we need reform, but that it had to come from the legislature. And with the exception of 3, they have failed.

Christopher Putnam
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Once more, they had there little special club meeting at a time when it would be difficult for normal people to attend.
The council completely ignored the constituency that clearly does not want to fund this anymore. FAIL

Raymond Richardson
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+1 Howard.

Oh another thing Putnam, it's their little special club meeting.

Not there little special club meeting.

Bonnie Klein
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I would like to commend Kyle and the rest of you that attended the meeting and voiced their concerns. I am one that lost my job with budget cuts, so I am in complete agreement that if they didn't fund GCEDC then employees could have possibly kept their jobs. Obviously, the legislature does not care what the voters think, that is why new people need to run against them and get them out, starting with the Chairman. But I do have to say, that funding GCEDC is not the only area that could be cut, there are several things within this county that needs to be evaluated, but then again, legislatures choose not to. I can honestly say that I did not attend the meeting, only because time in and time again myself and many other people have approached the legislature and it has done nothing. I know that it is no excuse, but people just feel why bother, they will do what they want. Maybe all taxpayers should not pay their taxes, then what will Gsell and the legisature do? As far as Steve Hyde and his staff goes, really what kind of jobs did they bring this county? The positions that he so called brought into this county are low paying and no person can support a family on the wages. Look at some of the businesses that he so called "brought in" and how many of them are still here?

Doug Yeomans
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The tax levy for 2013 will be $26,303,725, an increase of about 2 percent over 2012.
Pay raises for management were approved unanimously in a separate resolution vote.

I wonder how they can sleep at night. I can't remember exactly when my last raise was, but it was more than 6 years ago. Since then my wages have been frozen which means I'm actually taking a pay cut over time. The company I work for is laying people off by the thousands while people at the top of the pile receive bonuses.

I'm thankful to have a job, but I can feel the boot heel to my teeth delivered by people in power. At least I can sleep at night knowing that what I have, I earn it and I own it.

Thanks for standing up for all of us, Kyle.

Mark Potwora
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Doug i agree ...But in reality spending is up over 3 million dollars. 2012 budget was 141.7 million this new budget is 145 million...And they feel that they all deserve a raise.. .Kyle i do hope you run for office ..You do a great job at getting the point across,Thank You for standing up....Glad to see that my legislator Mr. Ferrando voted no.. Bonnie you make great points..To allow the GDCEC to pay out these crazy bonuses over the years and lay off county workers such as you should be a crime..Do they ever lay off or get rid of anyone in county management..It is always the ones who make the least suffer the most ..If they didn't give out these raises and hand out over 200,000 dollar to the GCEDC maybe they could keep people like Bonnie..If they have less people to manage why do they need a raise...

Dave Olsen
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Mr. Ray Cianfrini represents the district I live in, and I'm proud to say he represents my position at least, if not many others in the district. Good job and well said Ray, even if it fell on deaf ears.

Kyle Couchman
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Sorry guys and ladies I had a busy day yesterday with several medical appts. My real question now is what to do from here? Even though it has been budgeted can it be delayed in disbursement, is it too late to make them have to show documentation before the ways and means committee. What can we do fromn this point now, call the AG and have this investigated? Start rounding up petitions and working on getting it out of next years budget? Maybe start an anti campaign against those 5 on the council who seem to be mindless cheerleaders for GCEDC. I am discouraged (by the rest of the Legislature not those who voted no) I havent seen totals but according to the grapevine this years bonuses at GCEDC are gonna get alot of people angry. I'm willing to bet enough so that they arent gonna be very forthcoming on them. I give it a 50/50 shot as they like to brag as well. I am open to ideas and judging from te reaction to my speaking if we got more and more people in those chambers making a stink about this it might turn around some attitudes. But it means an effort.

John Roach
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Kyle,
The AG would have no jurisdiction here. The State Comptroller did an audit and found the GCEDC in need of reform. But the audit also said that it was up to the County Legislators to do the reform. As you can see, most are not interested.

The best way to get reform is to find candidates to run next year for the legislature against the 6 who voted for this.

Kyle Couchman
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But corruption is within the AG's pervue isnt it. This is beginning to look like it to me. Salaries way out of line with the county, bonuses and tax monies being sunk in and whats going in isnt really balanced out with results. They recieve state pensions as one legislator pointed out so that does make them public employees. How many years ago was that audit and what has been done despite the public input? And if no one runs and we have no choices? It really doesnt seem fair at all. I was once told by a person up in clayton who told me NYS had no jurisdiction over his salvaging an anchor in the St. Lawerence. I made some phonecalls and he ended up in maritime court losing his claim over said anchor fighting with NYS over it. Nothing is absolutely impossible if you make a big enough stink about it.

John Roach
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Kyle,
High out of line salaries are not illegal and neither are the bonuses. Being given tax money is not illegal either.

The audit was about 4 years ago and was available to be read on line. You can probably get a copy from the County if it not still available on line As for what was done, the answer is 'nothing'. The audit was clear, the legislators are responsible for reform. And up to now they saw that there is really no downside to continuing the funding.

Now, we have 3 out of 9 trying to do something. That's a start. But as you saw at the budget hearing, most people will not step up and speak out so this will take a long time to fix.

kevin kretschmer
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"Nothing is absolutely impossible if you make a big enough stink about it."

I believe Susette Kelo or all the folks who were involved in the suit against former State Senator Barclay would disagree with you.

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