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Orleans County

Orleans sales tax was up nearly $500K in 2018

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 February 2019 at 9:46 am

Rate of growth among lowest in WNY, Finger Lakes

Photo by Tom Rivers: Open flags are outside the Uptown Browsery in downtown Albion in this photo from last month.

Sales tax in Orleans County grew by nearly $500,000 in 2018, part of a trend around the state.

However in Orleans County the rate of growth, at 2.92 percent or $475,614, was among the lowest in this part of the state. Of the 14 counties in Western New York and the Finger Lakes, only Monroe at 2.38 percent and Wyoming at 1.81 percent had lower growth rates.

Sales tax revenues jumped by $1 million for Orleans County in 2017, up 6.45 percent from $15,287,529 to $16,273,192.

The county budgeted for a $610,000 increase in 2018, and just missed that projection, with sales tax increasing from $16,273,192 to $16,748,806. (The county keeps about 92 percent of the sales tax and shares $1,366,671 with the four villages and 10 towns. They have been frozen at that level since 2001.)

The county budget for 2019 is counting on additional growth of $560,000. The sales tax increases have helped the county pay for infrastructure projects and also stay under the state-imposed tax cap, which is usually about 2 percent a year.

Sales tax collections across the state came in at $17.5 billion, which was up by $872 million or 5.3 percent, according to a report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“Local sales tax collections grew at a faster pace in 2018 than in recent years, boosting local revenues,” he said in his report. “Despite the good news, a slowdown in collection growth in the fourth quarter shows that sales tax revenue can be unpredictable. Local officials should keep a watchful eye on consumer spending and this revenue source and be prepared to react accordingly.”

Among the rural GLOW counties, two had robust growth while the other two had a modest increase.

Genesee County’s sales tax grew by 9.00 percent, from $38,683,226 to $42,163,430, and Livingston went up by 9.12 percent from $31,880,449 to $34,788,736.

Orleans grew 2.92 percent, which was more than the 1.81 percent for Wyoming County, which increased from $18,262,292 to $18,592,593.

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County offices will close again on Thursday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 January 2019 at 8:07 pm

Treasurer’s Office will be open and some county employees will report for work

ALBION – Most Orleans County government offices will be closed again on Thursday with bitterly cold temperatures in the forecast.

Although most of the county buildings will be closed, some employees should report to work including county dispatchers, jail employees, deputies on the road patrol, highway department workers and buildings and grounds.

In addition, the Treasurer’s Office will be open for people to pay delinquent taxes.

The County Courthouse also is planned to be open on Thursday.

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County approves agreement to have rescue dogs trained by inmates at Albion prison

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Orleans Correctional Facility in Albion welcomed its first group of dogs to be trained by inmates this past fall. They are shown on Oct. 10 during a graduation program. The women’s prison in Albion now has a similar program.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 January 2019 at 12:14 pm

ALBION – Dogs at the Orleans County Animal Shelter are now being trained by inmates at the Albion Correctional Facility in a partnership between the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The county has two dogs staying in a dorm at the women’s prison for 12 weeks. Inmates will teach the dogs obedience, socialization and help make the dogs house-broken for when they go to their “forever homes,” said Kathy Smith, the county’s animal control officer.

The program is similar to one at the Orleans Correctional Facility, which trains dogs from the Genesee County Animal Shelter in Batavia. That men’s prison graduated its first class of trained dogs in October.

Susan Squires, the Albion Correctional Facility superintendent, saw the success of that prison and welcomed the program at the women’s prison.

Kelly Kukucka will work with the inmates, helping them to train the dogs, which will stay in a dorm at the prison in crates.

“It’s wonderful program,” Smith said today. “It’s a win for everybody.”

There will be three inmates working closely with each of the dogs. There is a lead handler and then two backup handlers for each dog. That gives the dogs lots of attention.

Working with the dogs also is good for the inmates.

“It gives them a feeling of accomplishment,” Smith said. “It also helps them deal with things in real life. They might feel frustrated and get upset because the animals aren’t doing what they want. You’re going to run into that in real life.”

The County Legislature last week approved the program, saying it is “a mutually beneficial program designed to enhance vocational skills to inmates and to make possible the adoption of trained canines.”

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County says expanded broadband Internet still a priority

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2019 at 1:34 pm

‘We haven’t given up the fight.’ – Lynne Johnson, Legislature chairwoman

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, speaks during Friday’s Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn. Nathan Pace, moderator of the event, is at right.

ALBION – Orleans County officials remain committed in pushing for more high-speed Internet throughout the county.

Orleans has tried for several years to expand the service into the outlying rural areas, but hasn’t had much success, even with the state’ making $500 million available for expanded broadband.

“We haven’t given up the fight,” Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said Friday during the Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon.

Orleans and Niagara have partnered to form the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance to push for more broadband, and address other issues for the two counties, including dredging harbors.

The lack of high-speed Internet remains a top concern for the two counties. Johnson said broadband is critical for retaining and attracting residents and businesses. Increasingly, companies file reports online and students can do research and homework through the Internet.

“We will remain fighting for Orleans and Niagara counties to get each and every house wired,” Johnson said.

State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said the $500 million from the state didn’t make much of a dent in reaching underserved areas, like Orleans and Niagara.

The federal government may have funding to help bridge the gap, representatives from U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Congressman Chris Collins said during the luncheon.

Johnson said she is hopeful a new rural broadband program through the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture can help in rural Orleans and Niagara.

• Johnson updated about 100 people at the luncheon on other county initiatives including the

construction of a $10 million addition to the County Administration Building on Route 31. The county broke ground on the 23,000-square-foot addition in April. The construction is expected to be complete on May 3, with furniture, computers and office equipment to then go in. Employees should be moved over and settled into the new space by late June.

The addition will be used by 50 county employees from the Health Department, Board of Elections, information technology department and the Legislative office and staff. The building will be connected to the current Administration Building with the addition on the south side.

The new space will include a meeting room for the Legislature with about 60 seats. The current Legislative chambers has about 30 seats and is one of the smallest municipal meeting rooms in the county.

• The county will be transitioning to new 96-gallon recycling totes in 2019, with an implementation start date in July.

Residents currently use recycling bins that are emptied weekly by Modern. Modern will be switching to 96-gallon totes that have covers. Those totes can be grabbed by a mechanical arm, lifted into the arm and emptied into the recycling truck.

The change will allow Modern to staff each recycling truck with one employee. The company can also speed up the collection effort, spending an every of 12 seconds per stop.

The county will have public meetings to help educate the public about the new recycling totes, Legislator Ken DeRoller said.

The Orleans County Courthouse, shown last week, will get have a rubberized coating put on the roof this year to protect the dome from leaks.

• The dome for the Orleans County Courthouse needs $140,000 in repairs. The dome has several leaks. The county will have a rubberized coating put on the dome to protect it from leaks. The $140,000 repair on the dome is among $3,181,106 in capital projects for the county in the 2019 budget.

Johnson said work on the pillars on the courthouse will also need attention in the near future.

• The county was asked about its revenue-sharing with local sales tax. There is about $17 million in local sales tax revenue and the county keeps about 92 percent of that. The villages and towns get $1,366,671. The four villages and 10 towns have been frozen at that level since 2001.

The village and town shares shift depending on changes in assessed value. A question submitted to the Chamber about the issue said the revenue shares shouldn’t change based on assessed value.

Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer the past 14 years, said none of the villages have proposed a different formula for divvying up the sales tax money since he’s been working for the county.

He doesn’t want to see a municipality take a big hit with sales tax, given the era of 2 percent property tax caps.

Larger counties share a lot of the sales tax with towns, villages and even school districts. In Orleans the towns and villages may only get a small percentage, but Nesbitt said most other small counties, at 50,000 people or less, keep all of the sales tax.

He said there are 14 counties at 50,000 or fewer people and eight don’t share sales tax. Of the six that do, he said Orleans shares the most behind only Schuyler County, which has Watkins Glen International Speedway, a significant sales tax generator.

“In our peer group we’re number 2 in what we do with sharing sales tax,” Nesbitt said at the luncheon.

The current formula has resulted in a drop in sales tax for the villages. Their amount has declined by about $27,000 from 2013 to 2019, falling from $404,661 in 2013 to $377,019 for 2019. The villages’ decline has resulted in an increase of about $27,000 among six towns that have a village within their boundaries. Portions of the villages of Albion and Medina are in two towns.

• Johnson said she is optimistic a recent arbitration ruling will free up gambling revenues held back from the Seneca Nation of Indians. The county could receive $350,000 to $400,000 in funds that have been withheld by the Senecas in a dispute with the state.

• The Legislature chairwoman also said she supports making the 2 percent property tax permanent, which was passed by the State Senate. That cap will help prevent property taxes from any hefty increases.

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Nearly 1,000 more working in Orleans compared to year ago

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2019 at 12:36 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Brunner International in Medina, which produces components for heavy-duty trucks and trailers, is looking for more employees. The low unemployment rate has businesses competing for dependable and skilled workers.

Orleans County’s unemployment was 4.6 percent in December, much lower than the 6.2 percent in December 2017, according to data from the State Department of Labor.

There were 17,500 people working in county last month, up 800 from the previous December. The number of unemployed was down by 300, from 1,100 to 800.

The 4.6 percent unemployment rate in December ended a three-month streak where the county was below 4 percent. The 3.5 percent rate in October was lowest in Orleans County since at least 1990.

Statewide the number of private sector jobs increased by 120,600 from December 2017 to last month. In December 2018, the number of private sector jobs in the state was 8,243,700, a new all-time high, the DOL reported.

Orleans, at a 4.6 percent unemployment rate, fares better than Niagara, at 4.9 percent, and Wyoming County, 4.8 percent.

Other nearby counties have a lower rate than Orleans: Genesee, 4.1 percent; Monroe, 3.8 percent; and Erie, 3.9 percent.

Columbia County at 2.9 percent has the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

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Sobieraski announces campaign for sheriff, vowing ‘to make this county safer than ever’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Brett Sobieraski speaks about his candidacy for Orleans County sheriff this morning in Holley’s Public Square. He was joined about 50 supporters.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2019 at 4:37 pm

Kent resident says he would attack opioid epidemic with law enforcement, treatment

HOLLEY – A candidate for Orleans County Sheriff, with a 30-year law enforcement career,  says he has the diverse and bold leadership “to make this county safer than ever.”

Brett Sobieraski, 52, of Kent was joined by about 50 people in 20-degree weather this morning in announcing his campaign for sheriff at Holley’s Public Square.

Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, said he would lead a Sheriff’s Office that would be better connected with village police departments in the county, as well as the Border Patrol and State Police.

Sobieraski is challenging Randy Bower, who is seeking a second term as sheriff. Sobieraski said Orleans County residents have a choice in the election.

Brett Sobieraski said he wants to use his experience and skills in law enforcement to lead the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.

“They can have a politician run that office or they can have a skilled, competent, experienced diverse leader at the top roll that can provide leadership that this county hasn’t seen for years,” Sobieraski said during his campaign announcement. “That is my pledge. Every decision I make will be rooted in one thing: what is the best thing for Orleans County residents to make this county safer.”

He started his career in Lockport and worked there for four years. He grew up in Lockport, where his late father John was a detective. His uncle also worked for the Lockport PD and Sobieraski’s cousin is a police officer for Lockport.

Sobieraski went to the Lockport Police Department about 26 years ago. He has lived in Orleans County for more than two decades. His sons graduated from Kendall Central School.

Sobieraski said the opioid epidemic is a powerful scourge in Orleans County, more so per capita than many other counties. Last year 10 people died of overdoses and another 45 had overdoses in Orleans. There were also 16 from Orleans who overdosed in Monroe.

In 2017, there were eight fatal overdoses in Orleans.

“We will push back the opioid epidemic,” he said. “This is the largest public crisis we’ll see.”

Sobieraski is a supervisor with the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, which includes officers from several law enforcement agencies in Monroe County. Sobieraski in that role also works with the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force and other local agencies, sharing information and assisting with searches and arrests.

He picked Holley for his campaign announcement because Sobieraski said Holley has been a destination for Rochester drug dealers to bring heroin and other narcotics. Sobieraski said stepped up law enforcement, including more vehicle and traffic stops on the gateways to the county – routes 31, 31A, 104 and 98 – would put drug dealers on notice and reduce some of the drug flow into the county.

He wants a better working relationship among all of the law enforcement agencies in the county, so they are sharing training and information. He also wants more resources for the Orleans County Major Felony Crime task Force, which has three full-time officers and works out of the District Attorney’s Office.

“I understand we’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” he said.

He has been a board member the past 17 years for Huther Doyle, which provides alcohol and drug addiction services in Rochester. The organization has a $6 million budget and 70 employees.

He said many people who overdose in Orleans County will often overdose again not long after. He wants to make mental hygiene arrests when people overdose and survive, so they can immediately receive drug treatment services, even at a hospital. He would also have peer counselors help people with addictions.

Sobieraski said the current law enforcement agencies are fragmented and need to work together more. He wants monthly meetings with the sheriff, police chiefs, and leaders of the State Police and Border Patrol in the area.

Sobieraski has worked as a police officer for 30 years. Many of the supporters with him this morning have been colleagues on task forces and a SWAT Team.

“I will re-establish the bridges that have been burnt with the regional law enforcement agencies,” he said. “We all benefit from a comprehensive, collaborative approach to law enforcement in Orleans County. “I will be a unifying figure. I won’t be a polarizing one.”

Sobieraski has extensive experience training officers in drug identification and awareness, active shooter, narcotics, stress awareness and other issues.

“I guarantee that Orleans County will be the most professional, best-trained deputies in the state,” he said.

Several local law enforcement officers attended Sobieraski’s announcement. Joe Sacco, supervising investigator with the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force, said Sobieraski has been a great resource for the local Task Force through the years.

“He’s exactly what we need,” Sacco said. “We need to work together in law enforcement and that;s not happening right now.”

Sacco said Sobieraski has assisted the Task Force with hundreds of searches and arrests in the Rochester area.

“He’s always been there for Orleans County,” Sacco said.

Corey Black, an investigator with the Task Force, has worked with Sobieraski for about 20 years.

“He’s always been very helpful to us and accommodating,” Black said. “He’s been a huge asset for us, helping us to identify drug suppliers from Rochester coming into Orleans County.”

Black said Sobieraski also has proven he cares about people, serving as a youth wrestling coach in Kendall and raising about $50,000 for charities through endurance feats, including swimming across Lake Ontario and running 50 hours straight.

“He’s very passionate,” Black said. “He’s a genuine good person.”

Roland Nenni, police chief for Albion and Holley, said he has worked with Sobieraski for many years and would welcome a county-wide training program for law enforcement and regular discussions among the agency leaders.

“I’ve known Brett for many years and he is a great man,” Nenni said. “He is probably one of the most experienced law enforcement officers I know.”

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Local state legislators say a different Albany with Democrats in total control

Photos by Tom Rivers: State Sen. Robert Ortt said it’s a new environment in the State Legislature, now that Democrats have the majority in the Senate.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2019 at 10:42 am

ALBION – Local state legislators said the state capitol is different now that Democrats have full control of the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s Office.

The Republicans were knocked out of power in the Senate after the November election. State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, now finds himself in the minority conference. He said legislation is getting passed that used to be blocked by the Senate.

He opposed the legislation to expand abortion rights and offer state aid for undocumented students to attend college.

“We’re not going to be able to stop nearly what we were able to stop in the past,” Ortt said Friday during a legislative luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn.

He expects legislation, including expanded paid family leave and other progressive proposals that would raise businesses’ cost, to have a strong chance of becoming law.

“Right now it’s a challenging time,” he said. “They are moving fast and furious.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley decried new state legislation that expands abortion rights and offers college aid for undocumented immigrants.

Ortt said he worries about the budget priorities shifting money from distressed areas of upstate now, especially rural areas that don’t have a strong advocate in the majority conferences. The governor’s budget, for example, nears wipes out AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) for the Orleans municipalities, reducing that funding by $290,000 in Orleans County.

The State Senate, when it was in Republican control, would have blocked the AIM cuts to villages and towns, he said.

State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, said the new power structure in Albany puts more focus on New York City and urban areas.

“There has been a dramatic shift that has occurred in Albany,” Norris told about 100 people at the luncheon. “The state government is solely controlled by one party. The rural counties are not getting the attention that they deserve.”

The change comes after recent success in getting long-sought state funds to repave the Lake Ontario State Parkway from Hamlin to past the Kendall townline, and a plan for the state to fix seven canal bridges that have been either closed or had the weight limits significantly reduced.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said the state has passed “lots of unheard of things” – the expanded abortion rights and college aid for students in the country illegally. Hawley said he is concerned about the impact of the rising minimum wage and other costs, such as workmen’s compensation rates, that make the state less competitive for businesses.

The higher costs and regulations discourage businesses from growing, and are part of the reason the state’s population is declining.

“The governor says it is because of the weather,” Norris said about the shrinking population. “It’s because of our property taxes and mandates.”

Norris said there are job opportunities across the state, but businesses struggle to find employees with the right skill set. He wants the state to push more vocational training programs to help businesses meet their needs and also have residents better equipped to excel in the economy.

Hawley said there is a chance he might have to give up his position because of a ban on outside income over $18,000 annually for state legislators.

The NYS Compensation Committee on Dec. 10 recommended the ban on outside income as part of a proposal to increase legislators’ pay from a base salary of $79,500 to $130,000. The committee gave legislators a one-year grace period with the outside income limits to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The ban would effect Hawley, who owns an insurance business, and many other state legislators who works as attorneys.

“I want to continue,” said Hawley, who has been in the Assembly for 13 years. “I’m still energized. I still enjoy it.”

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Rochester PD sergeant will challenge Bower for Orleans sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2019 at 10:08 pm

Brett Sobieraski ran as undersheriff candidate with Drennan in 2015

Brett Sobieraski

KENT – Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, is running for Orleans County Sheriff against Randy Bower.

Sobieraski campaigned in 2015 as the undersheriff candidate for Tom Drennan, who lost a close election to Bower.

Sobieraski, a Kent resident, will officially announce his campaign on Sunday at 10 a.m. in Holley’s Public Square. He posted a campaign sign – “Brett Sobieraski for Orleans County Sheriff” – on his Facebook page this evening and had about 150 likes in an hour.

Sobieraski has a 30-year career in law enforcement, starting with the Lockport Police Department and then the past 26 years with the Rochester Police Department, including work as a supervising sergeant with the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Sobieraski also has been a training officer, and has raised money for charities with endurance challenges, including swimming 32 miles across Lake Ontario and running 50 straight hours last July along the Erie Canal towpath.

Sobieraski ran over 175 miles in the 50-hour run, raising $13,000 for Special Olympics, which celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Bower and Sobieraski are both reaching out to Republican Party leaders for their support in the endorsement process. The Republican Primary is unusually in September, but has been moved up to the fourth Tuesday in June as part of changes in the state’s election calendar to have all the primaries on the same day in June.

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Legalizing marijuana concerns some businesses that already struggle to find enough ‘clean’ employees

Photo by Tom Rivers: Nathan Pace, moderator for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon today, said a business leader told him he struggles to find enough skilled employees who can pass a drug test. Next to Pace include from left: State Assemblyman Michael Norris, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, State Sen. Rob Ortt, George McNerney (field director for Congressman Chris Collins), Lynne Johnson (Orleans County Legislature chairwoman) and Sarah Clark (deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand).

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2019 at 8:18 pm

ALBION – A push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to legalize recreational marijuana could add to businesses’ difficulties in finding enough workers who can pass a drug test.

That was a concern shared by officials during today’s Orleans County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon, which was attended by about 100 people at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Nathan Pace, moderator of the luncheon, said he spoke with a leader of manufacturing company in Erie County with hundreds of employees. That company does very sophisticated manufacturing and needs employees at their best.

However, Pace said the company and many others lose some employees due to failed drug tests.

“Businesses are hindered because they can’t find enough clean workers to pass drug tests,” Pace said.

The issue may be compounded if the state legalizes recreational marijuana, which Gov. Cuomo announced last month as a priority for him in 2019.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said many residents and families already are suffering from drug addiction. He doesn’t favor legalizing recreational marijuana use, believing it will only make the drug problem worse.

He asked the crowd how many support legalizing recreational marijuana. Four out of about 100 raised a hand in favor of the proposal.

Ken Pokalsky is vice president of the NYS Business Council, a group represents businesses throughout the state. He said there are concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana use, including the lack of an established standard for determining impairment. He expects the State Legislature will go along with the governor’s push.

“Recreational marijuana is coming,” Pokalsky said.

Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower said the community has stepped up efforts to assist people battling addictions. He praised GCASA for its expanded drug treatment programs, including at the County Jail.

The Orleans County Mental Health Department also is offering more assistance to residents fighting addictions.

The sheriff said the federal government has approved a grant for the jail to have a part-time rehab unit beginning on Jan. 30. That will help people fighting addiction to have a better transition out of the jail.

There also is a team of volunteers through Orleans – Recovery Hope Begins Here, a new organization that connects people struggling with drug addiction to local resources and mentors.

Bower said the mentors will be key in helping people to stave off their addiction.

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State legislator urges Orleans municipalities to protest governor’s cuts in AIM funding

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2019 at 6:49 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, speaks during the Legislative Luncheon today at Tillman’s Village Inn. About 100 people attended the event organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

ALBION – Orleans County towns and villages are urged to fight proposed cuts in the governor’s budget that would take nearly $300,000 away from the local municipalities.

State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, said the state should be increasing aid to towns and villages, especially given the big disparity in funding provided to cities.

“We need our money,” Norris told about 100 people during today’s Legislative Luncheon. “Not only do we need it restored, but we need it increased.”

The governor’s budget cuts Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) by $290,276 to Orleans County, which already receives a tiny sum compared to counties with cities.

The four villages in Orleans – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina – would all be wiped out in AIM, while eight of the 10 towns in Orleans would go to zero in AIM funding.

The governor proposed eliminating the funding unless it represented more than 2 percent of a town or village’s budget. Two towns in Orleans are just above the 2 percent threshold. So the governor proposed that Murray keeps its $44,677 and Albion, its $46,944.

The other villages and towns would lose the following in AIM funding, going from the amount listed to zero:

Villages ($108,371 total)

Albion, $38,811

Holley, $17,786

Lyndonville, $6,251

Medina, $45,523

Towns ($181,905 total)

Barre, $12,486

Carlton, $13,680

Clarendon, $11,416

Gaines, $21,323

Kendall, $21,299

Shelby, $45,007

Ridgeway, $46,273

Yates, $10,421

The governor has proposed cutting $59 million from the $715 million in AIM. The cities’ AIM is not touched, nor are villages and towns where AIM accounts for 2 percent or more of their budgets.

Norris urged the towns and villages to pass resolutions opposing the cuts and send those official stances to the governor and local state legislators.

“I encourage all of you to get on the record  right now so we can have backup to take to Albany,” said Norris whose district includes Shelby in Orleans, as well as portions of Niagara and Erie counties.

Many of the local towns and villages have protested the AIM program before, sending resolutions to the governor and state legislators about the unfairness of the aid. Cities get far more per capita than towns and villages.

For example, the Village of Albion (population 6,056 in the 2010 Census) has been getting $38,811 in AIM or $6.41 a person. The Village of Medina, population 6,065, has been receiving $45,523 or $7.51 a person.

Those villages have more people than some cities in the state. For example, Salamanca in Cattaraugus County has 5,815 people and receives $928,131 in AIM or $159.61 per person. Sherrill in Oneida County has about half the residents as Albion and Medina. Yet, the small city of 3,071 people receives $372,689 or $121.35 per capita.

The total AIM budget has been $715 million in recent years, and hasn’t been changed until the governor proposed cuts in 2019-2020.

State Sen. Robert Ortt said Republicans in the Senate could have be counted on to stop any proposed cuts in AIM. But now that they are out of the majority, Ortt said the cuts could go through.

“If the Senate were in Republican control I have no doubt that would go back,” he said about the AIM cuts.

Ortt said it’s upsetting to think the proposed AIM cuts may be part of strategy by the governor, treating the upstate town and villages as “pawns” in budget negotiations.

To see a previous Orleans Hub article on the AIM disparity, click here.

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