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Warren proposes budget with property tax rate rise

Rochester Business Journal
May 16, 2014

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on Friday proposed a budget of nearly $500 million, up 3.6 percent from the current budget and with a property tax rate increase of nearly 2 percent.

The owner of a $70,000 home will pay $2,354.67, an additional $46.34 this fiscal year, with a tax rate increase of 1.98 percent if the proposed budget is approved by City Council next month, a budget statement shows.

The tax burden of a business assessed at $262,100 will have a non-homestead rate increase of $233.91, to $12,071.30.

The homestead tax rate will increase by 40 cents per $1,000 of property value, to $20.05. The business rate will increase by 83 cents, to $42.87.

Homeowners will see increases of 2 percent in their water, local works and garbage pickup 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,” said Christopher Wagner, director of the Office of Management and Budget, during a presentation in City Council chambers.

The budget includes a net increase of nine new positions, for total full-time employment of 2,723. As many as six employees are facing layoffs, with some or all possibly moving to different positions.

The proposed budget balances the city’s investment in capital projects with investments in human and social capital, Warren said.

“Every budget cycle offers a fresh opportunity to take a fresh look at our priorities,” she said.

The focus on human and social programs as well as economic development articulates the administration’s vision, she said.

“A truly healthy city needs both,” she said, “not just to survive but to thrive,” Warren said.

The 2014-15 budget proposal includes funding for neighborhood development, including $200,000 for design and the acquisition of land in the Bull’s Head area to accelerate that development.

It also includes $40,000 for programming through neighborhood service center offices, and $1.7 million in capital and debt to support additional demolition of blighted properties.

Some $644,000 is budgeted for repairs at creation centers and park facilities, and $520,000 is budgeted for library books and materials.

The budget also includes $500,000 for streetscape projects at the former site of Midtown Plaza, and $25 million in federal and state funding to remove the Inner Loop in the East End and realign Pitkin and Union streets as an at-grade boulevard.

It includes nearly $10.8 million to pay city pensions. That accounts for 61.5 percent of the total budget increase of nearly $17.5 million. The city amortized its pension payments of $11.2 million in 2013-14.

The city closed a $37.5 million budget shortfall by delaying some capital projects and transferring money from fund balances to support others, the budget statement states.

Savings of $7.4 million in pensions and other benefits, state funding of $6 million and another $6 million from the city’s retirement reserves, and $5.8 million from increases in taxes and fees helped also close the gap.

“With this budget, we bring a sensible balance, one with thoughtful consideration and one that makes fiscally prudent strategic investments,” Warren said.

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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