City of Rochester
(Friday, May 16, 2014) – Today Mayor Lovely A. Warren introduced the City of Rochester’s annual budget estimate for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The 2014-15 proposed budget is $499,950,200, which is $17,499,200 or 3.6% higher than the 2013-14 amended budget of $482,451,000. More than half of this increase ($10,761,400) results from an increase in pension expense, which the City will pay in full this year. There will be no pension amortization as there was in 2013-14. The remaining $6,737,800 represents an increase of 1.4 percent and is in line with the most recent 12-month rate of inflation.
“Every budget cycle offers an opportunity to take a fresh look at our priorities. A budget is an articulation of our vision, a roadmap – and in the case of this particular budget, we balance an investment in capital projects with investment in human and social capital – because a truly healthy city needs both; not just to survive, but to thrive,” said Mayor Warren. “The issues that Rochester faces are larger than one budget can remedy. Crafting the 2014-15 Budget has been a rigorous exercise, involving many people who have worked through an extensive process to find the right balance that allows us to deliver essential services that the citizens of Rochester rely upon, while continuing to invest in initiatives that will propel our City forward,” she continued.
This budget is framed around a set of strategic investments for this Administration – Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Children and Families, Education and Job Opportunities, Arts and Cultural Vitality, and Public Safety; in other words, an investment in people, an investment in traditional brick and mortar public works projects, an investment in business, and in safety. Below are some highlights of investments contained in the 2014-15 budget.
Investments in Neighborhood Development include:$200,000 in cash capital for design and acquisition of land in the Bull’s Head area and acceleration of the project
• $40,000 for innovative programming to be administered through Neighborhood Service Center Offices
• Additional resources to handle more tax-delinquent properties in-house and sell fewer tax liens
• The 2014-15 budget continues funding to support the Focused Investment Strategies (FIS) initiative. It includes funding for streetscape improvements in the Beechwood and Dewey/Driving Park FIS areas. To date, $14.7 million of city funds have been invested in the FIS initiative which has leveraged $56.5 million in additional outside funding.
• $1.7 million in cash capital and debt to support demolition of blighted properties
Investments in Economic Development include:
• Support for the Inner Loop East Transformation project
• $500,000 in cash capital for streetscape treatments for Midtown
• $100,000 in additional funding in the Department of Environmental Services for a Clean Commercial initiative to augment cleaning efforts on arterial streets
• Small and micro business support
• Commercial development
Investments in Children and Families include:
• Appropriate staffing for recreation centers so that citizens can utilize all the amenities offered at all sites
• Funding to study the best delivery method for recreational services and to specifically evaluate our Pathways to Peace program
• Continued support for public swimming at Durand-Eastman Beach
• $644,000 to address repairs at recreation centers and parks facilities
• Summer Camp programs in STEM Explosion, Creative Arts Workshop, Sports Center and Earth Explorer Expeditions
Investments in Education and Job Opportunities include:
• Additional staffing to implement Operation Transformation Rochester, which will realign PRIME and the Summer of Opportunity Program; and offer additional programs geared towards education, vocation, and employment
• Continued support for the Pathways to Public Safety and Police Cadet Programs
• $520,000 for Library books and materials
• Continued partnership with RCSD for Literacy Aides in branch libraries
Investments in Arts and Cultural Vitality include:
• Continued support for major events that draw regional audiences including The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, The Lilac Festival, the Rochester SummerFest, Fringe Fest and Greentopia
• Continued support for celebrations including The Clarissa Street Reunion, Carifest, the Puerto Rican Festival, Juneteenth and the Fourth of July
• Continued support for cultural arts activities including free concerts by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Image Out Film Festival and the High Falls Film Festival
• Funding to support a new program, “Art/Life,” that will bring performances and arts experiences into neighborhoods
Investments in Public Safety include:
• Funding to support the transition to a five-section policing model beginning in January 2015
• Support for recruit classes for Police and Fire, which will maintain staffing levels and increase diversity among uniformed personnel
• A firefighter dedicated to school fire safety education programs and community fire safety presentations
• $1 million to replace a ladder truck in the Fire Department
Closing the Gap and Funding Our Priorities
We closed out $37.5 million all funds gap and funded an additional $1.2 million in strategic investments through:
• $10.4 million Reduction in planned capital expenses and use of Enterprise Fund Balances to support them
• $ 7.4 million Net fringe benefits savings, including pension
• $ 6.0 million Municipal Relief from NYS
• $ 6.0 million Use of Retirement Reserve
• $ 5.8 million Tax and Fee Increases
• $ 2.6 million Use of Tax Relief Reserve
• $ 0.5 million Departmental reductions and efficiencies
“Despite the reduction in planned capital expenses and use of Enterprise Fund balances to support them, the proposed $98.6 million 2014-15 capital program represents significant investment in our City. We benefitted from savings in our Undistributed budget of $7.4 million, largely due to lower than expected pension expenses. We are grateful to New York State for the $6 million in Municipal Relief, which allows us to make many of the investments highlighted above and avoid cuts to critical services,” said Budget Director Chris Wagner.
“To close the bulk of the remaining gap, this budget proposes that the typical homeowner pay an additional $46.34 and non-homestead property owners will see a rate increase of 1.98 percent in taxes and fees. This is not a decision made lightly, but one that had to be balanced against significant cuts or a choice to further deplete reserves. It is fiscally prudent because it is within the tax cap allowed by New York State. The fact that this budget complies with the State’s tax freeze program ensures that homeowners eligible for the STAR exemption will be held harmless for the tax increase; and thus, they will receive rebate checks starting in the fall,” Wagner concluded.
The Mayor concluded the presentation with these remarks:
“Our community has significant needs, as was outlined in the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s poverty report, released last winter. In response, this Administration is stepping up to the challenge and making a fundamental shift to balance our investment in human and social capital with our investment in capital infrastructure. As our priorities shift and realign, we will continue to work aggressively to cultivate more innovative ideas, new pathways of engagement, new partnerships and opportunities to raise revenue.
“I truly appreciate my team for working tirelessly to prepare this budget. I know there were some sleepless nights – and I thank you. Your expertise, candor, insights and passion for our City is priceless.”
“Many have said that in order to live a healthy life, you have to find balance. The same can be said for a healthy city. With this budget, we bring a sensible balance – one with thoughtful consideration and one that makes fiscally prudent strategic investments.”
News media: For more information, contact Director of Communications Christine Christopher at 428-7135