Below is a very thorough letter written by John Burin, a former City of Elmira Manager and current candidate for Chemung County Legislator in the 9th District, to every sitting member of the legislature.
According to his website, Burin sent the letter on September 24, 2018, in order to provide his views about a revised sales tax allocation plan recently proposed by Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. Burin encourages voters to read the letter and contact him with comments. A copy of the letter is found here.
I am not a voter in Burin’s district, but as a candidate for legislature – and, more importantly, a resident of Chemung County – I recognize how important it is for our community to have as much information as possible about this critical issue in order to make the best decisions we can going forward.
For me, the most pressing question remains unanswered: Why does the new sales tax plan call for increasing revenue to the towns and villages by 3.4% if, according to numerous presentations by Chemung County officials, almost all of these municipalities are free from fiscal stress and possibly even too flush?
In the event the towns and villages need relief as many municipal officials claim and a review of most of their budgets seems to at least suggest, and Chemung County has additional resources due to an unexpected boost of sales tax monies in 2018, then the legislature should by all means look for ways to help out. But, if they are in fact fiscally sound as County officials continue to strenuously claim, the new plan doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.
This is an involved issue. Thankfully a lot of people across the community are asking tough questions, as this is the most effective way to discover a solution that works.
Dear Chemung County Legislators,
I am writing you to request that the proposed sales tax allocation plan be tabled until January and a new plan developed and implemented that will enhance economic development and address City issues. I also ask that after reading this letter you take the time to visit my web page www.johnburin.com and click on my radio interview with Frank Acomb on 9/11/18 and also down load the pdf every_number which can be found at the bottom of my home page. I am confident that after visiting my web site you will have a greater appreciation of why in my opinion the proposed sales tax allocation plan has significant short comings.
In late 2009, the County Executive announced that he was putting together a group of business people to examine the income and expenses of all municipalities in Chemung County. The findings of this group would then be used to establish a revised sales tax allocation plan. On December 7, 2009, as City Manager I wrote a letter to the County Executive asking if I could be an occasional guest or a regular participant of the panel. The purpose of my request was to share with the panel the unique circumstances inherent with City government and ask that the information be a part of the final recommendations. I was not allowed to be a part of the panel nor was I ever asked any questions regarding City operations.
On April 1, 2010 I wrote a letter to the County Executives’ Co-Chairman-Chemung County Task Force, Mr. Michael Hosey and Mr. Donald Quick. The purpose of this letter was a second attempt to inform the task force of government operations that should be taken into consideration with any revised sales tax allocation plan. I was never contacted by the Co-Chairman or any member of the task force regarding the information set forth in my letter. Ironically, much of what was presented in my letter remains relevant today.
We are once again looking to revise the sales tax allocation. According to the Chemung County September 4th presentation, the towns and villages have an average fund balance of 55% while the City has a $4 million deficit. The new plan will provide additional revenue to municipalities with a fund balance while the City receives no additional funds. In my opinion this concept is unrealistic and politically charged.
With the recent announcement of the medical college as well as other development projects it is imperative that any reallocation plan provide funding to the City. Remember 38% of the City’s value is exempt from property taxes leaving 62% to pay 100% of the cost of providing services. It will take several years before the new developments in Elmira will pay property taxes. Please request a copy of the PILOT programs attached to the new developments. The lack of tax revenue from new development coupled with the fact that the City must also bear the cost of housing numerous regional facilities such as the Arena, County government offices, courts, hospital, psychiatric center and numerous others suggest additional funding to the city must be a part of a new plan.
It was the City of Elmira’s Empire Zone that spurred the development of Airport Corporate Park, Sikorski Hawk Works, Vulcraft, CVS and numerous other projects outside the City. The City’s Empires Zone leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars from private developers, created or retained thousands of jobs, the wages paid and spent locally produced millions of sales tax dollars ,the new construction produced millions of dollars of new tax base for the County and the wage tax credits gave the employers funds to reinvest in their company. If not for the City’s Empire Zone, Chemung County finances would be quite different today.
The County Executive expressed concern about a plan being in place no later than October 15th, in order for him to finalize the 2019 proposed budget and budget message. Although hard and true numbers are great to have for budgeting, in reality budgets are an estimate of future revenue and expenses based on historical data. 2019 sales tax revenue and allocations can be estimated with a budget message explaining the methodology. Budgeting and budgets are a fluid process and are typically amended over time.
In order to achieve the full economic benefits of development projects and build on the future, this new sales tax allocation must be revised to address issues that are unique to our County seat.
Please take a moment to visit my web site. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
John J Burin
1270 N Hoffman Rd.
Elmira, New York 14903