|Subj:||PROPOSED 2008-09 CITY BUDGET FEATURES STRATEGIC SHIFTS IN SERVICE DELIVER|
|Date:||5/16/2008 9:04:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time|
Mayor Robert J. Duffy today presented his proposed 2008-09 City of Rochester Budget, entitled “Funding Our Priorities.” The $477,878,500 budget will close a $24 million gap without the use of gimmicks, one-shots or the $20 million one-time state spin-up.
“This year’s $24 million budget gap forced us to do what many of our citizens have had to do -- pull the family together and have a tough talk about cutting our spending and re-focusing our resources on what is important to our future,” said Mayor Duffy. “We did just that. We conducted a scientifically valid survey and held seven public meetings to gather our citizens’ opinions about the City services and programs we value the most and those we could live without. In the end, we had to invest in our priorities of public safety, education and economic development and disinvest in areas that while deserving, we could no longer afford.”
Despite the budget shortfall, the City had some positives to build on. This year, the City completed a reassessment and homestead properties increased in value by 11%. The value of non-homestead property also grew 9.8%. This growth in the value of property is a clear indicator of a strong and stable community.
The budget proposes the consolidation of several City departments. They include the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Community Development.
The budget also proposes the elimination of more than approximately 100 positions -- 70 full-time and 33 part-time. Unfortunately, these reductions will require the layoff of 40 full-time employees and seven part-time employees. In total, this budget will see 2,893 full-time city employees. Looking back, this is the fewest since before the Truman administration and could possibly be the lowest number of City employees in modern times.
The $24 million gap was closed as follows:
• $6.6 million -- in additional increase state aid -- this is recurring aid;
• $5.8 million -- in departmental efficiencies;
• $2.1 million - in increased enterprise fund revenue, including fee increases;
• $1.5 million -- in departmental reductions;
• $0.9 million - in lower required contributions to the NYS Retirement System;
• $5.8 million -- in capturing some of the growth in city property values from the tax levy increase; and
• $1.3 million -- net of other changes.
“As you can see, closing the shortfall was no easy task. It required painful cutbacks, efficiencies and reductions,” said the Mayor. “The single largest source of revenue came from an increase in our base state revenue sharing. I want to thank our local Assembly and Senate delegations for their commitment and dedication to the City of Rochester.”
The budget focuses on the City’s priorities of public safety, education, economic development and customer service. The following are some of the priority highlights:
In the area of public safety, this budget includes a $1 million investment in police recruits. A new class of 50 this summer, a fall class of 30 and a winter 2009 class of 20. That’s 100 police recruits to ensure new officers are available as others retire. It redeploys 53 sworn personnel into the Tactical Unit to reduce violent crime. Two new mobile command posts will be deployed to areas the Police Chief identifies. These mobile command posts will be a meeting location for interdepartmental teams that will be formed to address specific immediate needs in an area.
In the area of economic development, the budget reflects a commercial tax rate decrease of 6.6% to assist economic investment. At the same time, commercial property values increased by 9.8%. The “Summer of Opportunity” program will be extended. This is a public/private cooperation that trains and provides jobs to our youth. In addition, the budget will fund $171,000 for a new employment initiative for young adults.
In the area of education, the budget includes $119.1 million in aid to the Rochester City School District. This represents 73% of the City’s total tax levy. To significantly increase graduation rates, the proposed budget maintains an annual $1 million in challenge funding initiated in 2007-08 for the Hillside Work Scholarship Program. The pilot literacy outreach initiative that began in 2007-08 is expanded. The “Safe to be Smart” youth program is expanded. Youth workers will engage our teenagers to show them how to constructively use the library and help to ensure their academic success.
In the area of customer service, the Departments Community and Economic Development and Neighborhood Service Centers will be consolidated into one department to streamline and expedite delivery of neighborhood services. The most visible change from this consolidation will come from the current six NET offices evolving into to four quadrant Neighborhood Service Centers (NSC). This is not just a cut of two NET offices, it is a philosophical and operational shift in service delivery. This is a “team-based” service delivery model - and each quadrant office will have a “quarterback” to coordinate City services to that neighborhood area. The Lake and Lyell NET offices will be consolidated at the Westside Police Station. Webster NET office staff will be consolidated into the Clinton NSC.
A number of efficiencies were achieved. The city will realize a $1.2 million savings by successfully transitioning a number of current employees from a plan offered by Excellus to a comparable lower-cost plan offered by Preferred Care. An estimated $800,000 and $629,000 in additional health insurance savings is achieved due to increased employee contributions and the planned reduction in workforce, respectively. An efficiency study conducted during 2007-08 by Center for Governmental Research identified recycling routes that could be redesigned to deliver the same service at savings of $607,000.
Throughout the budget process, the Mayor has said the raising taxes will be the last resort, and it was. “After a long and difficult process, there remained a $5.8 million gap. I propose that we use a fraction of the increased property values to close that gap. As I mentioned before, city property values grew by 11%. I plan to capture 3.9% of that growth,” said the Mayor. “We are capitalizing on our positive growth in property value without punishing the taxpayer for that growth.”
Consequently, the typical homeowner will see the tax rate go down, but will see a small increase in the tax bill. Combined with the proposed increases in water and local works charges, the increase in the typical homeowner tax bill will be $88.79 this year, or $1.71 per week.
“I believe this increase is reasonable and responsible given the challenges we face. And I only proposed this increase after making major cuts and changes in our City government,” concluded the Mayor.