News Release - Mayor’s 2009-10 Budget Lowers Spending, Taxes

City Of Rochester

News Release

(May 14, 2009) - Mayor Robert J. Duffy submitted his plan to close the City’s $35.1 million budget gap with the official presentation of the 2009-10 City of Rochester Budget to City Council today. The proposed $452,153,500 budget is $28,846,900, or 6% less than last year’s City budget. The budget also reduces homeowners’ property tax, freezes the property tax levy and proposes the elimination of 53 full-time positions.

Mayor Duffy’s budget, entitled Funding Our Priorities in the Face of Challenge, kept to his platform of prioritizing public safety, education, economic development and customer service. Freezing the tax levy, combined with an annual state-mandated adjustment known as the “tax shift” between the homestead and non-homestead, results in a 4.7% reduction in homeowners’ property tax bills that reduces the typical residents’ tax burden by $64.51.

“I have said all along that I will not raise property taxes and I am holding to that promise,” Mayor Duffy said. “The time is now to reduce spending and return money to the taxpayers. We will continue to be guided by what is best for our customers and do what is good for this city. It is our goal to make Rochester attractive and ensure that our children have the opportunity for educational excellence. To do that, we must eliminate costs and duplication of efforts.”

The tax shift also increases the non-homestead tax rate by 2.5%, thus increasing the typical business burden by $269.97 annually. The Mayor pointed out that the state-mandated Maintenance of Effort (MOE) limits the City’s ability to lower the non-homestead rate. The City School tax levy accounts for 73% of the City’s total tax levy. The City is left to fund such vital government services as police, fire, libraries, recreation centers and city infrastructure with the remaining 27% of the levy.

The Administration is looking to build on its previous efforts to reduce property taxes and make new investments to leverage increased city property values. Along with reduced spending, these efforts have led to an overall reduction of the homestead tax rate by 6.6% and the non-homestead tax rates by 6.9% since the Mayor come into office in 2006.

The Mayor’s budget highlights the City’s expansion of community input processes for employees, youth, labor and the faith community. All City after-school programs, library branches and recreation centers will continue to be funded with expanded recreation hours at selected centers. Despite state cuts, youth employment opportunities will be expanded to provide 615 City jobs.

To close the $35.1 million gap and fund its new initiatives, the City expects to save money through:
• Health care and collective bargaining agreements;
• A myriad of departmental efficiencies and reductions;
• A reduction its planned cash capital investments;
• Lower contributions to the N.Y. State retirement system;
• The sale of property; and
• Freezing management salaries and suspending its employee performance incentives.

A Labor/Management Committee has been working for months on a win-win solution to reduce the City’s health insurance costs. The Mayor said that if this effort is unsuccessful, the City will have to consider additional layoffs and other painful budget adjustments. The number of layoffs in the budget amounts to 38 full-time and 11 part-time employees. These figures are expected to go down as individuals bid for job openings and as more retirements are finalized. During Mayor Duffy’s term, the City’s total full-time workforce has declined by 4.8% (144 positions) while the authorized number of sworn police officers has increased by 5% (36 positions).

The following is a list of budget enhancements and reductions organized by the Administration’s priorities. In public safety, the City is proposing additional funding for more police cameras and the replacement of 3,219 street lights with brighter and more efficient fixtures. Cuts include a 13.6% reduction in police overtime and a 23.4% reduction in special events overtime.

It is anticipated that total police overtime spending of $3.5 million in 2009-10 will be 60% below the actual 2007-08 amount of $8.8 million. The Mayor’s budget message points out that if the City does not receive the federal funding it has requested in the amount of $1.9 million per year for three years, up to 15 police officer positions could be laid off in October, or other additional reductions would be required.

Under the administration’s economic development priority, funding is requested for:
• Major renovations to downtown’s Crossroads Parking Garage;
• Implementation of quadrant-based City staff teams;
• Increased development of market-rate and owner-occupied housing programs;
• Infrastructure development at the former Midtown Plaza site; and
• $2 million new City dollars to offset an equal amount cut by the State for demolitions.

The consolidation of the Departments of Economic Development, Community Development and Neighborhood Service Centers into the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development will go into effect on July 1, and is expected to save the City $1.4 million annually.

In education, the Mayor reiterated that the State’s MOE law was bad public policy and said that the City has yet to see the full impact of the mandate. The Mayor is proposing to use $400,000 from the 2008-09 budget for a contract with the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection Program to increase the number of children served by the program. The Mayor called for mandate relief and for consideration that the City and the City School District must look for consolidation opportunities.

Customer service budget highlights include the addition of weekend hours for code enforcement officers and the coordination of City personnel to conduct 100 vacant home demolitions in order to establish a benchmark for contractor comparisons and evaluations. In addition, parking activities will be consolidated into the City Finance Department.

The City expects to save $10.6 million from collective bargaining agreements and nearly $3 million from acquiring City street lights. $1.3 million will be saved by a freeze on management salaries and the elimination of cost of living adjustments for administrative, professional and technical class employees. The City also expects to save $900,000 by reducing overtime City-wide.

The Mayor is also recommending that there be no fee increases for water, refuse or local works charges and expects to balance the water fund with $2 million from the anticipated sale of the City’s watershed land to New York State.

The Mayor concluded, “City property values continue to rise. The number of residents living downtown has doubled. We have reigned in overtime spending. We have streamlined our neighborhood and business development efforts by consolidating three departments into one. Crime is down, taxes are down and optimism is up,” he said. “I am proud of this budget. We have closed a $35 million dollar gap. We have trimmed our spending by 6 percent and our homeowners will see a 4.7 percent reduction in their property tax bills. We have avoided service reductions. We have funded our priorities and helped position Rochester to become the best mid-sized city in America.”

News Media: For more information, contact Michael Keane 428-6064.