City Assessed Value

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported on the preliminary assessment role.

KLW Group has wound down an 18-month citywide property appraisal project, to straighten the “inventory” and establish full-market values for all properties. Whose values are higher, lower or the same since their last appraisal is about to be revealed, as tentative assessment notices start appearing in property owners’ mailboxes today, Acting Assessor Joseph Macaluso said.

Preliminarily, the 2011-12 assessment roll will show a year-over-year $110 million increase in property values citywide.

Theoretically, according to data turned over to the Common Council on Wednesday, the increase in total value drives a more-than $2 city tax rate cut...
...Total assessed value of the city is $740 million. Last year it was $630 million...
...In the residential property class, which includes single- and multi-family homes, 46 percent of properties are assessed at lower amounts than last year...
If the value of Lockport was just able to keep up with inflation from 2000, the city would have been "worth" $817M today. 46% of residential properties were not only unable to keep up with inflation but actually lost value compared to 2000. Welcome to the world of stagnant growth where additionally owners are penalized for improving their properties while those who do not are "rewarded" with lower tax bills.

Take 2 people making 40k a year. One invests in their real estate while the other invests in things they can "take with them", i.e. TVs, cars, motorcycles etc while making no improvements to their real estate. Which one is "using the system" more? Which one is more beneficial to the neighborhood/city? Is it the same person that supposedly is "paying their fare share?" I submit it is not.

Everybody's house value could drop 20% and we'd all have the same overall tax bill. Or, everybody could raise 20% and we'd all have the same tax bill. Which is the better scenario for the health and desirability of the city?

Until people start to get rewarded for investing in their property by the city (the market itself in the city stopped rewardinga long time ago) , only the bleeding hearts looking to save a piece of history or those who can aford nothing else, will risk investing in an area with declining property values. What is the city going to do about it? If nothing the city will contiue its low slide down. No amount of budget cutting will fix it.


Paving List

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ both reported that the city has released the list of streets to be repaved this year. Click through to see if your street is a lucky winner this year.

Interesting to me was the final blurb about why the drop from 30 streets to 16.:

Fewer will be treated this year, because public works intends “try to repair problems in the roads instead of just covering them up,” Norman Allen, director of engineering and public works, said. Some streets may need partial or full rebuilding before they’re paved.
Alleluia! Hopefully we will see some milling going on. It's been discouraging to see 2 year old resurfacing work look like it was done 8 years ago due to the mess that it tried to coverup. If we can do 1/2 as many streets "right", our road network will be better in the long term.


LSD Budget 2011-12 (2)

Posted by MJ


Seems the over abundance of comments has caused Blogger to only show new comments in the RSS feed again and nothing new in the old post itself. All new updates and comments will go here. Sorry for the inconvenience.


As a commenter noted: the LSD has posted some documents concerning the budget over at their website. They are only summary documents but at least they are something. As per my question below of where did the multimillion increase come from: "Employee Benefits" up $2.9M over last year....

Continued at the first post on the budget: LSD Budget 2011-12 (1)


Proposed Ward Realignment

Posted by MJ


The Buffalo News and LUSJ both reported on the 4-2 vote to approve the new ward boundaries. Both Jack Smith and Andrew Chapman voted no questioning the representation of lower income residents.

...“We want to protect the district core,” Chapman said. “The best way to serve downtown is to have a single alderman.”

With the new redistricting, three different wards cover downtown Lockport: Wards 2, 4 and 5.

And while Smith and Chapman continued to argue that political and financial areas have been divided, First Ward Alderwoman Richelle Pasceri said “equality of representation” and to comply with the “one-man, one-vote” policy was their main goal.

“At the end of the day, everyone is represented fairly,” Mayor Mike Tucker added. “Some people are moved around, but at the end of the day everyone is represented the same.”...
The one downtown representative is interesting. Does one representative equal a 4-1 disadvantage if none of the other aldermen "care" about DT? If each had a piece would they then all care and work toward making it better? Lockport is not very big land wise and I find it a stretch to believe that an alderman could not equally represent a pie section. Any troubles north of High have a negative effect south of High due to the proximity of each. Preemtively addressing issues in the "bad" section will only add value (or retain it) in the "affluent" outer sections. An alderman responsible for a piece of each could be a bridging force.


The LUSJ reportred that Chapman has some issues with the proposed realignment:
...Drexelius proposed a redistricting that significantly alters the shape and geographic size of every ward, but manages to bring population differences to less than 1 percent.

Each ward appears to have been drawn to include the address of its current alderman, so that no two were put into the same new ward.

That irks Chapman. Covering incumbents should not be a parameter of or priority in redistricting, he said.

“This is a 10-year plan. Why are we drawing lines around where the aldermen live, when potentially none of us will be around in 10 years?” he asked. “If (Drexelius’) goal was to not pit incumbents against each other, that’s not a proper goal. I say draw the lines rationally and let the chips fall where they may.”...

As per the Buffalo News article, I thought the incumbent restriction was a legal requirement?


The Buffalo News reported on the public meeting date for the proposed Ward realignment from the 2010 census.
...scheduled a public hearing for April 20 on a revised ward map.
...Drexelius said he used the boundaries of the new County Legislature districts as ward borders as much as he could. The map reflects a long-standing shift in population away from the western part of the city toward the south and east....
...Drexelius said, “The goal was not to have any incumbents running against each other. That is a legal goal of reapportionment."...
 The PDF of the map is here and a copy of the proposed law is here.

The county maps can be found at the Niagara County website.

A thank you to Jack Smith for getting me the documents.


LSD Budget 2011-12 (1)

Posted by MJ


Seems the over abundance of comments have casued Blogger to only show new comments in the RSS feed again and nothing new in the post itself. So a new budget post has been created here: LSD Budget 2011-12 (2)


As a commenter noted: the LSD has posted some documents concerning the budget over at their website. They are only summary documents but at least they are something. As per my question below of where did the multimillion increase come from: "Employee Benefits" up $2.9M over last year.


The  LUSJ reported on the LSD budget that passed the board with a 8-1 vote.

...Adopted 8-1 Wednesday by board members, the $79 million budget would require a $1.5 million — or 4.8 percent — increase in the tax levy...

...Despite coming with a $2.2 million increase in spending, the budget also cuts 38.5 positions. Ten of those positions are retirements that will not be replaced, meaning 28.5 positions will be laid off.

“I think this budget still does provide quality and support for students,” Superintendent Terry A. Carbone said....

...The district lost $4 million in state aid and made $3.9 million in cuts, Carbone said. Lockport would also be using $3 million from its reserves, plus $742,000 from its appropriated fund balance. That would leave about $700,000 in the fund balance. The district was able to find $33,000 in savings with administration and $331,000 with the teachers giving up their career credit program and not taking raises outside of the step increases...

1) Overall spending still increased 2.2M. The LSD lost 4M in state aid but used 3.7M of the reserves and fund balance. That 3M is most likely not going to reappear again next year and will still need to be dealt with with.

2) The administrators gave up about 33k and the teachers 330k. If there is a 10:1 ratio of teachers to administrators they will have given up an equal amount of money. That 360k saved us 0.4% of our roughly $80M overall budget.

3) The article is a little hard to understand. It says we made 3.9 million in cuts. If these offset the 4M loss in state aid why the need for 3.7M to be taken from reserves and fund balances? If overall spending is 2.2M more than last year what are these "cuts"? Are they cuts in what would have been additional new spending this year? Would there seriously have been 6.1 million in structured cost increases this year? That's an 8% increase in last year's 77M budget. That could not be considered an acceptible cost structure. Will the same mess be staring us in the face next year regardless of state aid?


The Buffalo News reported on the continuing "Executive Sessions" saga and the LUSJ reported on the proposed realignment of the grades.
Phelps said she was told, “you will be informed of that when we get into the meeting . . . and then I voted ‘no’ on going into executive session.” The other seven members present voted in favor of holding the closed meeting.

“It seems like the Lockport model is to put the budget together, and then get public input after it’s final,” she said. “I should not be having any discussions on the budget that aren’t before the people. Executive session is not a dress rehearsal.”...
...He affirmed that the justifications for an executive session are few and must be openly disclosed to the public....
It is nice to see someone is taking a stand. Nothing is better than executive sessions to discuss the budget away from the public and subsequently making the proposed budget unnecessarily hard for them to access.

and from the LUSJ:
...Lockport is looking at creating five primary schools, one intermediate and one middle school. This would be done by keeping kindergarten through fourth grade students at each of the five current elementary schools and moving the fifth- and sixth-graders into Emmet Belknap. North Park would house all of Lockport’s seventh- and eighth-graders. Emmet and North Park would house about 750 kids each, an increase from the 580 that occupy each building now.

But the reorganization plan still needs some fine tuning, Superintendent Terry A. Carbone said last week...


The Buffalo News reported on what we should expect in the LSD budget proposal next week:
City residents can expect the School Board to present them next week with a $79 million spending plan for the upcoming year that raises property taxes and calls for the restructuring of the district's elementary school buildings.
Despite spending cuts of $3.9 million, the plan represents a 2.6 percent increase in expenditures and a tax levy increase of 5.8 percent based on current assessment property values...

...The district would save $1 million in costs by re-designating the two middle schools -- Emmet Belknap for fifth and sixth grades, North Park for seventh and eighth -- and using the elementary buildings to house kindergarten through fourth grade. Class sizes at the buildings would average 25...

...Eight positions in the district would be lost through attrition and an additional 28.5 full-time equivalent positions would be cut. Last year, the district cut 38 positions...

...If residents vote the spending plan down and the budget is forced into contingency, Carbone said she would have to recommend cuts that included the elementary band program, the school resource officer and library services. Transportation is currently provided to students who live a mile or more away from their school building, but that buffer would likely have to increase as well. "None of those would be good for our district or good for the community," she said...
Maybe we can cut a 100 more positions over the next few years before we can discuss concessions?

May 4th is the public hearing and May 17th is the vote. I wonder if the district will offer PDFs for the public to review before then?


To commenter below:


The LUSJ reported on the measures to be included on the ballot this year:

1) The Sports Complex (Palace)
The complex would be a $5.9 million project, for which Lockport receives 93 percent reimbursement in state aid. Assistant Superintendent of Finance Deborah Coder said the project is contingent on Athletic Director Patrick Burke’s promise to fundraise $750,000 to help cover the unaided costs of the complex. Those would include the press box, locker rooms and concession stand.

Coder said Burke and his organization would have to raise $750,000 by June 30, 2012 to keep the complex alive.

2) Building Updates
The $18.9 million capital project would address concerns raised by the district’s recent building condition survey. Along with a number of renovations and repairs made to the schools, the project also includes classroom and cafeteria additions at Roy B. Kelley and a cafeteria addition at Anna Merritt Elementary. The additions are needed to reduce congestion in the schools, while two rooms at Roy B. Kelley would be turned into a library.
3) The Actual Budget
Board members also heard about something else on the May 17 ballot, the 2011-12 budget. Carbone shared the current version of the budget, a $78.8 million spending plan which is a $1.8 million or 2.3 percent increase from the current school year budget. It would raise the tax levy by 6.84 percent.

The budget features the reduction of 43.5 positions districtwide, including 10 retirements that will not be replaced. Carbone said the district was able to find $33,000 in savings with administration and $331,000 with the teachers giving up their career credit program. The district would also use $670,000 from its unappropriated fund balance and see a savings of $433,000 with its proposed restructuring, which would move fifth and sixth graders into one school while seventh and eighth graders would be in another. The district would have five elementary schools with kindergarten through fourth grade

The LUSJ reported on the latest BoE meeting on Wed.
The way it stands now, the 2011-12 Lockport City School District’s budget would have an 8.21 percent tax levy increase. That’s after the district has cut $3.6 million out of the spending plan.
The current form of the budget includes cutting the full time equivalent of 43.5 positions as well as a major reorganization. The district is looking at creating five primary schools, one intermediate and one middle school. This would be done by keeping kindergarten through fourth grade students at each of the five current elementary schools and moving the fifth- and sixth-graders into one of the two current middle schools. The other middle school would house all of Lockport’s seventh- and eighth-graders.

Trustee Diane Phelps didn’t like how much of the position cuts affected teachers and children in classrooms. Administration should shoulder some of the burden, Phelps said
One of the budget lines discussed included using $876,000 from the district’s capital project reserve. The money would be used to fund two projects without raising taxes if they are approved by voters on the May ballot. Those are the $18.8 million capital improvement project and the controversial high school sports complex which would be around $5.9 million.

Both are expected to be acted upon by the board at its next meeting March 23 at Charles Upson Elementary. If approved, they would be on the May ballot for district residents to decide.

The educational system is broken as a whole. In this country we spend 3x as much real dollars (adjusted for inflation) to educate our children K-12 grade: 55k in 1970 vs. 155k in 2009. In return for this investment we have the same or worse scores in reading, math and science. Any of the juggling the board is doing now is only a yearly bandaid on the real issues, most of which are on the state level with its education mandates.

We need to educate/mold our children to be proud productive citizen's here and where ever they may roam later in life. We need to send them off with life long learning habits that along the way teach tangible skills that they can use,  be proud of  and use as stepping stones to new learning opportunities. We don't need bored trivia boxes striving for only good grades for the hope of some kind of promised future.

Last year's budget posts are here: (pre-vote) and here: (post board vote) and here: (post public vote). I made an error in my comments over on the sports complex post.

Please keep the Sports Complex in it's thread since it does not really affect the 2011-12 budget and there is a good amount of conversation over there already. I will delete comments if they stray off topic in regards to this.

I'll keep adding to this post with further articles to keep the conversation in one place unlike last year with it's multiple posts.


21st Amendment

Posted by MJ

Is the apocalypse near? There is a sign for an actual business hanging on the F&M building. I guess they are no longer looking to drive the assessment any lower?

Anyone have any info on who, what or when? Anyone have any info on the last bar that was down there? It would be interesting if they could gate off part of the sidewalk/street during the concerts for outdoor enjoyment of beverages.

21st Amendment
116 Main St Lockport, NY 14094-3702
(716) 433-0021

And to touch on an old subject, please give us more of the projecting signs. They look classier, they don't clash with the lines of the building, and they are easier to spot/read when building facades are up to the street.


Mall Down by May

Posted by MJ


The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reported that the cermonial first break had occured on the old mall. As for the olf Walmart store:

...Smith said he’s been talking to Developers Diversified Realty of Beachwood, Ohio, the landlord of the existing Walmart, about a new tenant for that store.
Smith said DDR told him it can’t line up a retailer until they have 12 months’ notice the existing Walmart will be vacant.

“We’d like to see another department store,” Smith said. Target, Kohl’s and TJ Maxx are some of the names that have been mentioned, but nothing is anywhere near firm...

The Buffalo News reported that the mall will be down by the end of April:
The demolition of the Lockport Mall to make way for a Walmart supercenter will begin the week of April 18, Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith announced Monday.
A “demolition ceremony” to mark the occasion has been scheduled for 2 p. m. April 13, Smith said.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” he said. Walmart first proposed a supercenter for Lockport in 2004....
6 years: about standard for the litigation heavy process for erecting a new Walmart.


Assessment Letters Coming...

Posted by MJ


The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported that the mailing has been delayed about a week. Also notable:

....Koszarek said the state property tax office thinks the norm is for 10 percent to 20 percent of property owners to ask for meetings. In Lockport, that would be 800 to 1,600 parcels.
“Their view is, if it’s under 10 percent you didn’t raise it enough, and if it’s more than 20 percent you raised it too much,” Koszarek said.
 Sounds like an accurate system. ;)


Buffalo News reported they are on their way.
Notices of revised property assessments may begin landing in city property owners’ mailboxes as soon as this week.

After some false starts in the past decade, this will be the city’s first complete revaluation in 10 years.
Assessor Joseph Macaluso said he has booked a conference room in Lockport Senior Citizens Center at the Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., to hold informal conferences with property owners who disagree with their new assessments.


79-81 Canal St. Sale OK'd

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reported that the sale of 79-81Canal St was OK'd with some conditions:

The Common Council approved the sale of 79 Canal Street to Hydraulic Race Corp. on a split vote Wednesday.

The motion by Council President Richelle Pasceri approves the city’s direct sale of the partly rehabilitated commercial property to the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride tour operator for $70,000.

Greater Lockport Development Corporation, which supervised remediation and repairs of three buildings on Canal Street and technically is leasing them from the city, will get the money. That’s fair, City Attorney John Ottaviano said, as the agency invested heavily in the properties and is looking for a return on the investment. The money will go into GLDC’s revolving loan fund, from which it provides low-interest loans to start-up and expanding businesses in the city.

Fourth Ward Alderman Andy Chapman and 2nd Ward Alderman Jack Smith voted against the sale.

Chapman said he objects to all of the money going to GLDC after the city also invested tax dollars in the Canal Street properties.

Smith last week said he objected to the city selling property to a business co-owned by someone who has a record of unpaid debts. County clerk’s records show Thomas Callahan, a minority shareholder in Hydraulic Race Corp., owes $2 million to a former business partner in a failed power generation venture....

This is an ideal location for Lockport Caves but it would be nice if some type of year round presence was put in. The block is sparse with buildings and losing any of them for part of the years makes any long term synergy difficult.

Hopefully it also puts on the side burner the small ticket office and bus parking they wanted to but on the property across Gooding Ave next to the canal. Reconfigured the plot could be home to so much more instead of dead land with a underutilized view of the canal.


Yahoo Looking to Expand

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that Yahoo has been awarded another megawatt of power and is looking for four more to expand their operations here in Lockport:

Yahoo intends to expand its data center in Lockport with an eye on making Western New York a hub for its East Coast operations.

The New York Power Authority today is expected to approve an allocation of one megawatt of low-cost hydropower for the Yahoo data center to help facilitate the expansion, which would shift work from India and from elsewhere in the United States.

That would add an estimated 20 jobs to the Lockport data center, which opened in August and is projected to create 125 positions when the facility fully ramps up its operation.

Yahoo already has a commitment of 15 megawatts of low-cost hydropower and is using about two-thirds of that. In addition to the extra megawatt up for a vote today, Yahoo is negotiating with the Power Authority for four more megawatts....
Anyone have a good link for a list of top incentives per job in the US? I tried a quick search and found nothing of note. Though a big debate, it is nice to see something going on here. I just wish we would get the high speed lines into the city and start marketing them, especially at a building like Harrison Place. I know of at least on company that left the town several years back because of the lack of data speed (went to Amherst.)